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My Dog Ate Chicken Bones, Now What?!

Since dogs are carnivores, it seems like they’d be able to eat bones without any issues, right? After all, isn’t that what their ancestors did?

Wrong! Despite their ancestry, feeding your dog bones, particularly chicken bones, is especially dangerous to their health. If your dog has eaten chicken bones, it requires an immediate phone call to your vet. But why are chicken bones dangerous for dogs? What do you do if your dog has eaten them? Is it always considered a medical emergency?

Why are chicken bones dangerous for Dogs?

When bones are cooked, they take on a completely different form than when they’re raw. An uncooked bone is pliable whereas a cooked bone becomes brittle and fragile. When a dog chews on a raw bone, it flakes, but cooked bones break into tiny, sharp shards that can cause significant damage to their esophagus and intestines. Have you ever snapped a cooked bone in half? It’s like breaking glass.

If these shards puncture your dog’s intestines as they’re passing, they will develop a very serious infection called sepsis that swiftly leads to death. These shards can also get lodged in the esophagus. They may not fully block the airway, but they will severely damage the delicate lining of the esophagus, and they may need to be removed by a veterinarian if larger pieces remain stubbornly stuck in the throat.

What should I do if my dog eats chicken bones?

Call your veterinarian. As soon as you realize your dog has consumed chicken bones, phone your vet or an emergency hospital. They’ll be able to advise you on what to do based on your specific situation, but this is something your vet will probably want to see your dog for. Even if they’ve successfully swallowed the bones and it’s been a few hours, your vet might want to take an x-ray to see how many bones your dog has consumed.

This is definitely a more pressing matter if your dog is very small. Larger dogs typically manage to pass these bones without an issue, but smaller dogs have smaller passageways, and items tend to get lodged just because there’s less room for them to pass.

Another concern is something called “garbage gut”. It’s likely your dog got the bones from the trashcan, and if they’ve been in there for a few days, it’s possible your dog has eaten more than just bones. Dogs may like to eat gross things, but that doesn’t mean they won’t suffer the effects of eating rotting food. Garbage gut can make your dog very, very sick, and in some cases, it can even lead to neurological problems like seizures.

How can I prevent my dog from eating chicken bones?

The only thing you can do is throw bones away where your dog can’t get them. If your pup is a long-time dumpster diver, don’t throw the bones away in the house trashcan. Access to outside trash bins should be kept to a minimum; try not to store your trash cans in the backyard where dogs have access to them. Prevention really is key, and a few extra minutes can end up saving you a lot of money in vet bills! Remember this during the holiday season when you’re throwing away turkey carcasses!

Chicken bones aren’t necessarily a death sentence, but they can lead to some serious–and expensive–medical problems for dogs. If your dog has decided to snack on some chicken bones, call your vet immediately. You’ll get accurate information from your veterinarian on whether or not they should be seen. Whatever you do, don’t just “wait and see” for something like this. The longer you wait, the more you increase the chances of your dog suffering.

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