Calls for advice on what to do when a dog has eaten chicken bones happens fairly frequently in practice. They vary from dogs hoovering up leftover chicken wing bones at barbeques, scavenging on walks to helping themselves to the whole carcass at a family dinner – whoops! Once you’ve got over the fact that all your hard work preparing the meal is lost: should you worry and what do you do now?
Each case is different and this article is not designed to be in place of advice from your vet with regard to your individual situation, but it should help guide you and answer some of your questions.
The level of concern depends, to some extent, on the size of your dog, the number of bones eaten, and whether your dog has any current or previous health concerns.
Dogs are carnivores – they are designed to digest meat and bones and in theory, they should be able to cope, but not always. More often than not the bones that our dogs get hold of have been cooked first. Cooked bones are slightly more of a concern than raw ones as they become more brittle and, if chewed, are more prone to breaking into sharp points. The main danger with chicken bones (raw or cooked) is that they have the potential to cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract (guts) or even a perforation (rip/tear). Either of these can occur anywhere from the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach) to the rectum (the tube to the outside of the body) and can be life-threatening.
What to do if you dog ate a chicken bone
If your dog ate a chicken bone, contact your vet immediately. Your vet will tell you if your dog needs to go to the clinic. Dr. Werber also recommends “feeding the dog something very bulky like bread to cover around the sharp edges, and it will begin to soften. Also, the digestive juices do a wonderful job softening the object even more, getting the bone to go through the intestines and out the other end.”
Dr. Werber advises that you shouldn’t induce vomiting if your dog ate a chicken bone. “Once a bone gets safely down the esophagus and into the stomach, we do not recommend having the dog throw it up because we don’t want to risk a sharp sliver of bone cutting the esophagus on the way up and out,” he explains.
While it’s scary to realize that your dog ate a chicken bone, it’s likely that your dog will be okay if he didn’t choke while eating the bone. “In most cases, the bone will be eliminated safely through the intestines,” Dr. Werber explains. “In the rare instance that surgery is required, it is preferable and safer to retrieve bones from within the stomach as opposed to in the esophagus. However, these surgeries are not often needed.”
Wait — Why are chicken bones bad for dogs in the first place?
Unlike the large, hard bones many of us buy for our dogs to chew “chicken bones are very soft and often leave very sharp edges when broken,” Dr. Werber says. This is what makes them especially dangerous for dogs. If your dog ate a chicken bone, he “run[s] the risk of tearing the esophagus or tearing somewhere along the intestinal tract, ” Dr. Werber says. This is why it’s so important to make sure dogs don’t have access to chicken bones.
Give Your Dog a Soft Piece of Bread
If your dog is willing to eat a soft piece of bread, it can keep the fragments from puncturing their stomach. In addition, it can protect the lining of your dogs digestive system and stimulate the digestive juices to help break down the bone faster.
According to vet experts at Urgent Pet Care Omaha, “It may be helpful to give your dog a soft piece of food, such as a piece of bread, which will provide a form of cushioning in their stomach. Soft food can serve as a way to protect the lining of your dog’s digestive system from being scratched.”
If your dog has completely swallowed the chicken bone, its vital to ensure they digest it as quickly and effectively as possible. And if theyre dehydrated, their digestion will slow down, and the bones won’t come out the other end.
Provide access to plenty of fresh water, and consider adding water or bone broth to your dogs regular meals to make digestion even easier.
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