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.
Risk of Tearing the GI Tract
Chicken bones splinter easily, and when they are swallowed, they can cause perforation of the esophagus or the intestinal tract.
Particularly if the chicken is uncooked, your dog is at risk of exposure to bacteria like salmonella.
Is It Bad for Dogs to Eat Chicken Bones?
Dogs have been eating bones for thousands of years, and most of the time, they process them just fine.
Typically, chicken bones will dissolve once they hit the stomach—before they have a chance to become dangerous. Most times, dogs are able to pass chicken bones uneventfully. Other bones, such as beef and pork bones, can cause significantly more distress and disease.
However, there are some potential hazards for dogs that are tempted to eat chicken bones.
Cooked bones tend to be slightly softer than raw bones, but some (such as the thigh bone) can be quite large relative to the size of the dog.
If a dog swallows—or tries to swallow—a chicken bone, and it does not go all the way down, it can become lodged in the esophagus. This can cause a lot of gagging, drooling and retching.
In other dogs, the bone can become stuck in the upper part of the airway—either the back of the throat (the pharynx) or the start of the airway itself. This is an immediate emergency in which the dog will show significant signs of distress and might cough heavily or have trouble breathing.
I’m Not Sure When They Ate It – What Do I Do?
The advice is the same as above. Monitor closely for any problems and contact your vet immediately if you have any concerns.
How long after eating chicken bones would a dog get sick?
Can dogs digest cooked chicken wing bones?