Eating raw or undercooked chicken can make dogs sick. The main risk is salmonella or campylobacter bacterial contamination, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Dogs can develop symptoms anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 days after ingesting contaminated chicken.
What are the risks of dogs eating raw chicken?
Raw chicken, especially chicken bones, can contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter. When ingested, these bacteria can multiply and cause illness. According to the ASPCA, salmonella was the second most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in dogs in 2020.
Some potential risks of dogs eating raw chicken include:
- Salmonella infection – Causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain
- Campylobacteriosis – Also leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and fever
- Gastroenteritis – Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract
- Foreign body obstruction – Raw chicken bones can splinter and block or puncture the digestive tract
- Salmonella transmission – Dogs can spread bacteria through their feces after eating contaminated chicken
Dogs with weak immune systems such as puppies, older dogs, and dogs with other health conditions are most at risk of becoming sick from ingesting raw chicken. However, even healthy dogs can develop food poisoning or other issues.
How soon after ingestion do dogs show symptoms?
The amount of time before symptoms appear can range depending on factors like:
- The amount of contaminated chicken eaten – Eating more can lead to a higher bacterial load
- General health and age of the dog
- Strength of the dog’s stomach acid – Stomach acid can kill some bacteria
- The type of bacteria or toxin ingested
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dogs may start showing clinical signs of salmonella infection within 30 minutes to 6 hours after ingestion. Other sources state dogs typically develop symptoms between 6-12 hours after exposure. However, the incubation period can be highly variable.
With campylobacter infections, the onset of symptoms is generally around 2 to 5 days after ingestion. But signs can develop anywhere from 1 to 10 days later.
So in summary, dogs can develop GI symptoms as soon as 30 minutes after eating contaminated raw chicken. But it may take 1 to 3 days before any issues arise.
Shorter incubation periods
Some dogs start vomiting or having diarrhea within 1-3 hours of ingesting raw chicken contaminated with a high load of bacteria. The toxins produced by infectious agents like salmonella or campylobacter can irritate the GI tract and stimulate the vomiting reflex.
In other cases, the dog’s stomach and intestines may react quickly to try and expel the offending bacteria, leading to vomiting and diarrhea within the first few hours.
Longer incubation periods
It can take 12 hours or more for salmonella or campylobacter bacteria to pass through the stomach, replicate in the intestines, and start to produce toxins that cause inflammation and diarrhea. Some dogs don’t show symptoms until a day or more after exposure.
Additionally, the symptoms can wax and wane over a period of days. Dogs may seem to improve and then relapse with another bout of diarrhea or vomiting.
So while some dogs get sick soon after ingesting contaminated chicken, others can take 72 hours or more to develop noticeable gastrointestinal issues.
What are the symptoms of illness?
Common symptoms dogs may develop after eating raw chicken include:
- Vomiting – Usually the first symptom; may be intermittent over several days
- Diarrhea – May be watery, bloody, or mucus-filled
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or tenderness
In severe cases, dogs may develop sepsis or endotoxic shock if bacteria enter the bloodstream. This can be life-threatening and requires intensive veterinary treatment.
Duration of symptoms
In uncomplicated cases of food poisoning, dogs typically recover within 2 to 3 days after symptoms start, according to WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The diarrhea and vomiting usually last about 24 to 48 hours.
However, some bacterial infections like campylobacteriosis can persist and cause intermittent diarrhea for 10 to 14 days if left untreated with antibiotics. Dogs should be seen by a vet if symptoms last more than 2 days.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing food poisoning in dogs usually involves:
- Complete medical history – Important to know if the dog ate raw chicken
- Physical exam checking for a fever, dehydration, abdominal pain
- Fecal tests to identify salmonella, campylobacter, etc.
- Bloodwork to look for signs of infection
In uncomplicated cases, treatment involves:
- Discontinuing food for 12-24 hours to rest the GI tract
- Providing IV fluids to prevent dehydration
- Prescribing bland foods as the dog recovers
- Treating symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Antibiotics if needed for bacterial infection
Some key points about treating dogs sick from raw chicken:
- Severe dehydration, bloody diarrhea, vomiting for over 24 hours all warrant veterinary care
- Antibiotics not always needed if symptoms are mild
- Finish entire course of antibiotics to fully eliminate infection
- Withhold chicken and bones from diet until fully recovered
Most dogs make a full recovery within a few days. But salmonella or campylobacter can occasionally lead to much more serious conditions like sepsis, HUS, and neurologic disorders, especially in high risk dogs.
How to prevent dogs from getting sick
To help prevent food poisoning, follow these tips:
- Avoid feeding raw chicken to dogs
- Cook chicken thoroughly to kill bacteria – at least 165°F internal temperature
- Wash hands and disinfect surfaces after handling raw chicken
- Keep dogs away from countertops and raw meat packages
- Refrigerate chicken promptly; don’t thaw at room temperature
- Keep dog’s vaccinations up to date to boost immune function
While many raw feeding advocates believe raw chicken is safe and provides health benefits, the risks from bacteria contamination make it better to cook chicken served to dogs.
When to call the vet
Contact your vet if your dog shows any of the following after eating raw chicken:
- Repeated vomiting or diarrhea lasting over 24 hours
- Lethargy, weakness, or loss of appetite
- Signs of dehydration – dry gums, weakness, rapid heart rate
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Fever over 103°F
- Abdominal pain, enlarged abdomen, or bloating
Emergency veterinary treatment is needed if your dog has:
- Nonstop repeated vomiting
- Bloody or black tarry stool
- Very high fever over 104°F
- Collapsing, seizures, or unconsciousness
- Difficulty breathing
Severe vomiting and diarrhea can progress rapidly to dehydration or septic shock, which can be fatal without swift treatment. Don’t hesitate to get emergency help if your dog seems very ill.
Dogs can develop gastrointestinal illness anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 days after eating raw chicken contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter bacteria. Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and loss of appetite. While most dogs recover fully with treatment, raw chicken poses risks for dogs. Cooking chicken thoroughly and practicing good food handling hygiene can help keep your dog healthy.