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What should you do if your dog eats chicken bones?

Quick Summary

Chicken bones can be very dangerous if swallowed by dogs. The bones can splinter and cause obstructions or punctures in the digestive tract. If your dog eats chicken bones, you should monitor them closely for signs of distress or injury. It is recommended to call your vet right away if your dog ate cooked chicken bones, or large quantities of raw chicken bones. Your vet may induce vomiting or give medications to help pass the bones. Surgery may be needed if an obstruction occurs. With prompt treatment, many dogs recover fully after swallowing chicken bones. Prevent this hazard by keeping cooked bones away from your dog.

What are the dangers of dogs eating chicken bones?

Chicken bones can pose a significant health hazard to dogs because they can splinter and cause obstructions or punctures in the digestive tract. Here are the main risks:

  • Choking – Bones can become lodged in the mouth, throat or esophagus.
  • Stomach or intestinal obstruction – Splintered bone pieces can get stuck in the stomach or intestines, blocking passage of food.
  • Stomach or intestinal punctures/tears – Sharp bone fragments can poke holes in the stomach or intestinal walls.
  • Rectal/anal abscesses – Bone pieces passing through the intestines can create abscesses around the rectum and anus.
  • Internal bleeding – Punctures in the stomach or intestines can lead to dangerous blood loss.
  • Peritonitis – Bacterial infection of the abdominal cavity, which can be life-threatening.

So dogs that swallow chicken bones are at risk of severe medical complications and require rapid treatment. Dog owners should be very cautious about this hazard.

Are cooked or raw chicken bones more dangerous?

Cooked chicken bones tend to splinter more easily and pose a greater impaction risk compared to raw bones.

  • Raw chicken bones – Less likely to splinter into small, sharp pieces. More flexible.
  • Cooked chicken bones – Become brittle and prone to splintering into hard, sharp fragments.

Despite being less of a hazard, raw chicken bones can still cause choking or obstructions. So both cooked and raw bones are dangerous. But cooked chicken bones are considered more likely to cause severe damage.

What should you do if your dog eats chicken bones?

If your dog accidentally eats chicken bones, here are some recommendations:

  • Remain calm – Stress can make any situation worse.
  • Monitor your dog – Watch for signs of distress, pain, vomiting, constipation, bloody stool. These can indicate obstruction, punctures or other issues.
  • Contact your vet immediately – They will advise you on next steps.
  • Induce vomiting if instructed by your vet – This may help expel the bones if done soon after ingestion.
  • Visit the vet clinic – They will examine your dog and may take x-rays to locate bones.
  • Administer medication – Such as laxatives to help pass bones through the intestines.
  • Consider surgery – If bones are obstructing intestines or caused perforations.

The quicker you act, the better the outcome for your dog. Waiting and hoping symptoms resolve on their own can allow severe complications to develop.

How long can it take for symptoms to appear in dogs that have eaten chicken bones?

Dogs that swallow chicken bones may show signs of distress within:

  • 30 minutes to 2 hours – Common time frame for symptoms to develop.
  • 2 to 5 hours – Bones may pass from stomach into intestines, causing issues.
  • 5 to 10 hours – Bones start passing through intestines, which may cause obstructions.
  • 10 to 24 hours – Bones passing through rectum can cause abscesses around anus.
  • 2 to 5 days – Delayed signs such as constipation from intestinal obstruction.

So while some dogs start vomiting or show pain rather quickly, others seem fine initially. But that doesn’t mean the bones have safely passed. Intestinal obstructions and punctures can take hours or days to become apparent.

What are the signs my dog may have an intestinal obstruction from eating chicken bones?

Watch for the following signs of a potential intestinal obstruction:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Abdominal pain or distension
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Whining or restless behavior
  • Straining to pass stool with no result

The exact signs depend on where the obstruction occurs. But acute vomiting, constipation, and abdominal pain are common.medical attention is crucial if your dog shows these signs after eating chicken bones.

How will my vet check for chicken bones in my dog’s intestines?

Veterinarians use the following methods to locate chicken bones in dogs:

  • Physical exam – Feeling the abdomen for pain, masses, foreign objects.
  • Blood work – Checks for signs of infection or internal bleeding.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) – Bones readily show up on x-ray images.
  • Ultrasound – Sound waves create images showing foreign objects.
  • Endoscopy – A tiny camera on a tube inserted into the stomach to visualize bones.
  • Exploratory surgery – Directly examining the intestines for obstructions.

Most vets will start with abdominal x-rays to pinpoint the location of bones. Endoscopy or ultrasound may also be used. But surgery is sometimes needed to fully assess and treat the problem.

Can chicken bones be removed from a dog’s stomach or intestines without surgery?

It’s often possible to remove chicken bones from a dog’s stomach or intestines without surgery in the following cases:

  • Bones only recently swallowed – Vomiting may be induced to bring up bones.
  • Bones still in stomach – Endoscopy can grasp bones and pull them back up the esophagus.
  • Bones starting intestinal passage – Laxatives and feeding soft food may help bones pass through.
  • Bones nearing end of intestines – Careful manual extraction from the rectum if visible.

However, once chicken bones have passed well into the small intestines, surgery is generally required to retrieve them. The bones can be difficult to maneuver back up, and laxatives won’t help much at that point.

When does a dog that ate chicken bones need emergency surgery?

Emergency surgery is often required when chicken bones cause the following complications:

  • Complete intestinal obstruction – Prevents passage of food and risks widespread infection.
  • Intestinal perforation – Holes in the intestinal wall need immediate repair.
  • Severe bleeding – Internal haemorrhage from punctured blood vessels.
  • Peritonitis – Rapidly spreads bacterial infection in the abdomen.
  • Sepsis – Life-threatening systemic infection entering the bloodstream.
  • Bone impaction visible on x-ray – Too far down intestines to pass naturally.

Dogs displaying acute vomiting, severe abdominal pain, bloody stool, and other urgent symptoms likely need emergency surgery once stabilized. This allows direct removal of obstructing bones and repairs to the GI tract. Prompt surgery greatly improves the chances of a good recovery.

What procedures are involved in chicken bone removal surgery?

Surgical removal of chicken bones obstructing a dog’s intestines involves:

  • Exploratory laparotomy – Incisions through the abdomen to access the intestines.
  • Gastrostomy/enterotomy – Careful incisions into the stomach or intestinal walls to locate and grasp bones.
  • Extraction of bones – Meticulous removal of all bone fragments.
  • Intestinal examination – Check for perforations, tears or dead tissue.
  • Intestinal repair – Suturing puncture sites, resection of damaged sections.
  • Peritoneal lavage – Flushing the abdomen to remove contamination.
  • Abdominal closure – Internal and external sutures to seal the incision.

Post-surgery, most dogs require 3-7 days of hospitalization for recovery and monitoring. Strict rest is needed during the healing process over the next few weeks. With successful surgery and aftercare, dogs have an excellent long-term prognosis.

What is the best way to prevent dogs from eating chicken bones at home?

Here are some tips to keep chicken bones away from dogs in your household:

  • Never feed cooked chicken bones – Only provide dog-safe chews.
  • Trash cooked chicken bones immediately – Lock lids on bins.
  • Keep raw chicken packaging out of reach – Bones can fall out.
  • Supervise dogs when eating raw chicken meat – Remove bones after.
  • Train “leave it” and “drop it” commands – Prevent swallowing found bones.
  • Use baby gates to restrict access – Limit dogs’ access to trash and counters.

With some simple precautions, chicken bones can be avoided. This removes a dangerous temptation and risk for dogs. Be vigilant when cooking poultry and disposing of leftovers.


In summary, dogs should never be allowed to eat chicken bones. Cooked chicken bones especially are prone to splintering with risks of intestinal punctures, bleeding, infection, and obstruction. If your dog accidentally swallows chicken bones, immediate veterinary care is vital. Prompt treatment greatly improves the chances of removing bone obstructions or repairing digestive tract damage before life-threatening complications develop. Surgery may be urgently needed, but many dogs can recover well if bone obstructions are resolved in time. Through preventative measures at home and quick response when incidents occur, chicken bones can be handled as safely as possible for your dog.