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Health & Wellness

Can dogs eat chicken bones?

No, keep them away from pets!

As much as your dog begs, drools and paws for the chicken bones leftover from your dinner, do not by any means hand them over. Chicken bones easily break and splinter, which makes them very dangerous choking hazards for your pup — and that’s only one way they can harm your pet. 

Are chicken bones good for dogs? 

No, chicken bones are very dangerous for dogs. 

“Chicken bones are not good for dogs because they can easily break and splinter, causing gastrointestinal injury,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff vet, tells The Dig. 

In addition to gastrointestinal injury, including trauma to the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines, Dr. McCullough says that ingesting a chicken bone can cause your dog several other health issues, like: 

  • Choking
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Blockages in the intestine
  • Peritonitis, or the inflammation of the tissue that lines the belly

Don’t swap a chicken bone for a beef or pork bone, either. “Bones, in general, are not recommended because they can damage teeth, cause gastrointestinal upset and lead to intestinal obstruction,” Dr. McCullough explains. 

Here’s what to do if your dog swallowed a chicken bone

Whether they’re choking or not, take your pet to the vet right away if you think your dog swallowed a chicken bone. Depending on your pet’s condition, they may need to spend at least one night in the hospital to have fluids monitored and take medications. 

If your dog is choking, it’s essential to act fast. “Pet parents should contact their veterinarian if they observe or suspect their dog has eaten a chicken bone,” Dr. McCullough says. “If their dog is actively choking, perform the Heimlich maneuver to remove the bone from their pet’s airway and immediately go to a veterinary emergency hospital.” 

Here are some signs that your dog is choking on a chicken bone: 

  • Acting distressed
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Salivating
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Rubbing their face
  • Turning blue

If your dog swallowed the chicken bone without choking, it’s still very important to take your pet to the vet in case it’s stuck in their gastrointestinal tract. Your pup’s prognosis will vary depending on the severity of the chicken-bone obstruction — but know that the outcome often worsens the longer the chicken bone is stuck in the gastrointestinal tract, so it’s important to act fast.

According to Dr. McCullough, swallowed chicken bones can be easy to diagnose — especially when they appear on an X-ray. However, your veterinarian may rely on other methods, like an abdominal ultrasound or exploratory laparotomy surgery (abdominal surgery where vets examine the internal organs, take biopsy samples and remove foreign bodies).

Ask your vet to check for potential incomplete obstructions, aka linear foreign bodies like a piece of a chicken bone or a cooking string that doesn’t completely block the intestine. Usually, pets who have an incomplete obstruction will show subtle signs like a lack of appetite and occasional vomiting until they suddenly become very ill. 

How to prevent your dog from eating chicken bones

The best way to keep your dog from eating chicken bones is by keeping them out of your pup’s reach. 

“This may mean using child-proofing materials to secure cabinets and trash cans,” Dr. McCullough says. “Discourage counter-surfing and teach training commands such as ‘drop it’ and ‘leave it,’ and some dogs may need to wear a basket muzzle to prevent them from eating harmful items.”

Safe human foods to give dogs

If you’ve ever Googled to see what people foods are safe for your dog, you’re not alone. Look no further than our “Can dogs eat … ?” list, where we break down what’s safe and unsafe for your pup.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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