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What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Chicken Bones?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.

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Help! My dog ate chicken bones!

It can happen at any time. You're eating chicken when you get up a second and come back to find Rover gulping down the remains of your dinner. Or maybe you find your dog scavenging the trash bin in search of some delicacy.

The chicken bones are not necessarily a problem, if your dog chews them carefully and swallows them uneventfully. Indeed, dogs are equipped with great carnassial teeth that should be able to grind those bones well.

However, problems start when Rover decides to swallow them whole either because he has a Hoover for a mouth or because he is afraid of being caught and must quickly hide all traces of evidence.

Even though most dogs make it through just fine, there is some reason for concern if you think your dog has eaten chicken bones. Here's what to do.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Chicken Bone

If your dog did not choke on the bone, there are two main problems: The bone may scrape and puncture your dog on its way down, or it may lodge itself inside your dog and cause an intestinal blockage. Both problems are not very good news, as they can both be life-threatening if left untreated.

  1. Do not induce vomiting, since the bones may further cause damage as they are brought back up. The esophagus is more fragile and prone to laceration than the intestinal tract.
  2. Feed the dog to make a protective "pillow" of food (read suggestions below).
  3. Watch for delayed signs of distress (see list below)/

What to Feed Your Dog to Help It Pass the Bone

Experts suggest feeding 5 - 20 pound dogs something that wraps up around the bones to make "a pillow," hopefully preventing damage as they make their way out. Try using 1/2 to one slice of high fiber bread or 1/2 cup canned plain pumpkin, the type without spices (not the pie filling version.) You could also feed your dog 1/4 to 1/2 cup of brown rice.

How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of a Problem

If a bone made its way through the intestinal tract uneventfully, is the dog out of the woods? Not yet, since there is still a chance for blockage to occur.

Once ingested, the chicken bone may lodge anywhere in the stomach or the small intestine. While obstructions may occur in the colon too, dogs are more likely to expel the foreign object without much difficulty from this tract.

A wait-and-see approach will help determine if the bones are causing problems. That said, it is best to consult with a vet immediately and see if there is anything that can be done in the meantime.

Potential Signs of Problems:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble defecating

Which Types of Bones Are Bad for Dogs?

Several steak bones, rib bones, and turkey carcasses are known trouble makers. It is best to see the vet in this case and be safe rather than sorry.

Disclaimer: If your dog ate chicken bones or any other bones, see your veterinarian for advice. While home remedies may help prevent scraping in some cases, they may not work all the time.

Why Dogs and Wolves Can Eat Bones but Domestic Dogs Can't

In nature, wolves and wild canines eat bones all the time, however, raw bones are less likely to splinter. Furthermore, wolves and canines ingest fur along with the bones. The fur "cocoons" around them, making them easier to pass uneventfully. Raw bones are digested on their way through, causing white stools.

Do Cotton Balls Work?

There have been reports of owners feeding cotton balls soaked in olive oil or milk to help dogs pass small sharp items such as fish hooks and needles, however, there are also cases of dogs becoming obstructed from ingesting the cotton! For this reason, it is not recommended to give cotton balls to dogs who ate bones.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: I’m not sure if my dog ate a bone or not; I’m really worried because she ate the rest of my Kentucky Fried Chicken breast. My dog is my best friend, I don't want to lose her. Do you have any advice?

Answer: You have two options: see your vet and get some abdominal x-rays done just for peace of mind, or monitor her closely for signs of trouble. The main problem with a dog eating chicken bones is if she swallowed it in larger pieces. If she chewed up the bone, those pieces may pass with no problems. However, there are also chances with cooked chicken splintering which can puncture the digestive tract. Swallowing a large piece of bone can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. If you see your vet and get those x-rays done early, there may be chances that, if there is a bone that is large and looks troublesome and is still in the stomach, the vet can remove it with endoscopy before it becomes a bigger problem in the intestinal tract requiring surgery. Of course, seeing the vet is the best choice considering the implications of surgery should there really be a blockage.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli

Share Your Experience, Advice, or Tips

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 25, 2020:

Hi Julie,

If your dog ate the chicken bone and is acting weird, please tell your parents to take him to the vet to play it safe.

Julie on June 25, 2020:

My small dog ate a chicken bone and he started to vomit but didn’t then he’s been acting weird not as happy and I’m very scared since my parents are saying he’s going to be fine but I’m scared he’s not

Lucy on September 27, 2019:

My dog ate a chicken bone.im very worried because he did chew it up but no crumbs or anything were left behind.My family dose not care about the dog, but I love him a lot.My dad will not bring him to the vet and he is allergic to bread please send a answer I am very worried about him and again,I love him so much!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 12, 2018:

SirRayIV, not all dogs use their teeth and jaws, and will just gulp large chunks of bone without chewing; others may sometimes get puctured intestines from cooked bones which are prone to splintering. You have been fortunate, but having worked for a vet I can attest that these unfortunate things happen, maybe not very often, but they do happen.

SirRayIV on July 07, 2018:

I've fed my dogs different types of bones my entire life (42), and have never had any issues. All of the dogs that I have had throughout my lifetime have died from old age. When I see people freaking out because their dog ate a bone, I want to slap some reality back into that person. God gave dogs the teeth and jaws to handle bones. Apparently common sense nowadays is in short supply. Go ahead and feed your pups GMO Purina chow mix, which is prone to giving dogs tumors, and cancer....and I will stick to feeding my dogs something that they have been enjoying for thousands of years...The scraps from their masters table!!!

Marian Lindsey on June 18, 2018:

My room mate fed my dog one thigh chicken bone, I've told him numerous times do not give him any bones of ANY kind. I'm scared that he might throw it up & it will tear the inside of his throat, do I need to be concerned since he only ate one? He's laying on the couch asleep & seems to be fine right now. This was like an hour ago. I'm going to give him a couple slices of bread in case he throws it up

angela kinkade on March 31, 2018:

my pup passed a bone and a worm but is now throwing up blood having bloody stools drinking water but not eating just laying around what could this be?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2018:

Deal Oliver, if your dog actually chewed up the chicken bone, that is better than dogs who swallow bones whole or in large pieces. That can lower the chances for a blockage especially if your dog is large but it can still scrape and puncture the intestinal tract on its way down if there are sharp edges. We were told to tell clients to feed bread to cocoon around any possible sharp edges if the ingestion was recent and watchful waiting if they were large dogs. You already did that and that's good. It's important though to keep a watchful eye for signs of trouble. My dog once ate a chicken bone and all went well except for vomiting bone fragments in the middle of the night. Being left alone all that time though can be concerning. Maybe have a family member swing by just to make sure or hire a pet sitter for the next few days. There are also nowadays ways to remotely observe dogs at home alone with gadgets. This may be a good investment that you may keep in the future just in case.

Oliver on December 03, 2017:

My dog chewed up a chicken bone. She is 5 years old & hasn't had any problems. I fed her a slice of bread and she isn't showing any signs of discomfort or anything. Should I be worried and what should I do? My dog is alone 8 hours a day because everyone in my family has to go to work or school. Please help me, I'm really scared and everyone else in my family is just ignoring the situation because they don't know how dangerous it is.

Sara on November 21, 2017:

MY dog about 10 chicken wing bones. My son left his chicken wing bones in the trash and my dog got into them and ate the bones. They were pretty small bones, and it was just about 7 hours ago, and she hasn’t thrown up or done anything weird since then. Do you think she’ll be ok?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 15, 2017:

Doris, please see your vet if your dog seems to be uncomfortable.

Michael Scott on September 09, 2017:

All good answers, make him comfortable and feel his needs. They like to be out in cool areas facing down a slight incline, its easier on the gut.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 19, 2017:

Wendy, your dog needs to really a see a vet. What "dog medicine" are you giving? I hope it's something you discussed with your vet. I am not aware of any medications meant for treating possible blockages in dogs.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2016:

Minpinken, thank your for posting your experience using cotton balls for your dog who ingested a sharp nail. There are certain risks with this procedure and as mentioned there have been reports of owners having dogs not get better or even develop a further obstruction from all the cotton balls ingested so no vet is ever going to recommend it, if you know what I mean. It could be in your case, that the pieces of cotton ball were small enough and mixed well enough with the canned food to move along the intestinal tract and wrap around the sharp part. This may work therefore to prevent sharp edges of something from injuring the intestinal tract as it moves through. If we think about it, in the wild wolves will eat bones and fur or animals and the fur is known for forming a "cocoon" around the bones, that protects the GI tract as it moves along. However, as mentioned, it could also create more problems as I doubt that cotton balls would help something pass if it's too large to make it through as it would create more bulk than anything else. This is likely why some vets are more comfortable having people feed their dog high-fiber bread instead as they monitor their dogs closely.

MinPinKen on August 27, 2016:

I read your comments about the cotton ball, but it worked for us. Here's what we did and the results:

We helplessly watched as our 10-pound miniature pinscher swallowed a short nail lying on the floor beside a dog treat she carried over next to it, and we were beside ourselves wondering what to do. We called the vet, and they suggested that we bring her in for surgery. We didn't mind the expense, be we really didn't want to have our tiny friend cut open from stem to stern so we called our breeder to see if he had any recommendations.

Our breeder suggested that we feed our pet a whole cotton ball in small bites mixed with canned dog food. He said to tear the cotton into small pieces, wet it and mix it with a little canned food. He told us that it would wrap around anything sharp in the stomach and intestines and allow the sharp object to pass safely. He told us to check the stool for the next few days after we did that to verify that everything came out OK in the end. (Bad pun intended.) He said that would work for a strait pin, bone fragment, piece of glass, etc.

So, we took his advice and fed our dog a cotton ball. Sure enough, the next day in the stool we found the offending nail in our back yard -- safely wrapped in cotton just like the breeder said.

Wow!

We were so glad we did not have to subject our pet to surgery. Best wishes to all, and hope this is a help.

Worried dog person on July 18, 2016:

My dog ate a cooked chicken wing bone and I'm very worried because he chewed it and I'm really scared what's going to happen to him.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 23, 2016:

I am very sorry for your loss. Please don't be that harsh on yourself. It was an accident and has happened to many others. We used to see such instances of blockages often at the vet, and while some made it, sometimes some sadly didn't.

rachel f. on May 23, 2016:

I wish I had known just how dangerous it could be and how to help a pet, once they eat a cooked chicken bone. My pet ultimately paid the price, he died. It was the worst thing to witness my pet dying and nothing I did or could do would save him or bring him back. Its only been a few days since his passing, but I think about him everyday and I miss him so much. He was just 4 months old, and happened to get into the garbage and grab a chicken bone. We tried to get it from him but he swallowed part of the bone and managed to chew up the rest of the bone. Thus sentencing himself to death, as part of the bone got lodged in his throat while the other parts of the bone found there way into his stomach and intestines, where the bones reaked havoc on him and caused internal bleeding and within 3-4 days he was gone. I will probably never get over the loss and I blame myself for not being more careful and watchful of my pet. I will never eat chicken again. A word of advice, always google anything your pet experiences when it comes to eating anything that poses a threat and that may lead to death if not properly diagnosed and treated in time. Sad and Missing my Grizz!!!!!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 28, 2015:

OK, keep me posted on how things turn out~! Hopefully, it's just a minor GI upset, but better to be safe!

hannah on April 27, 2015:

Im not sure i had em on the counter walked outa the room to take care of the kids and forgot bout em till i walked by and they were gone. Both the dogs were in the house but hes usually the one who checks the counters. He had a good normal stool lastnight :) but is still eating grass and lots of water. I worked at a vet for 6 years but never had any of my dogs get chicken bones b4 so wasn't sure if it's a coincidence or not with the upset tummy you know? I told my husband (its his service dog) that i am a lil worried about him and he said we would get him to the vet. So hopefully by next week he will be seen.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 26, 2015:

Did he eat the bones chewing them or gulped them in large pieces? It's hard to say if it's the chicken bones or not. Sometimes, dogs get partial blockages and the symptoms may not be as evident and quick to show as in total blockages. On the other hand, it could be something not related. Eating grass is a sign of nausea and upset stomach. Only your vet can really tell.

hannah on April 26, 2015:

My GS ate chicken wings about a week ago and hes starting to eat lots of grass and is pooping water and grass could it be something else or have something to do with the bones? Hes been pooping fine up till today that i have seen.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 26, 2014:

Not really, unfortunately, if you are dealing with a blockage the dog needs vet care ASAP.

Worried Owner on December 26, 2014:

what if u can't afford to take ur very special friend to the vet? Is there an alternative for your four legged friend?

kingkos on January 13, 2013:

Nice Hub thanks! for the advice.

billd01603 from Worcester on July 29, 2012:

Very useful Alexadry, Voted useful and up

Marturion on March 09, 2012:

Good information to know.

April Treme from United States on March 04, 2012:

Great advice! Thanks for sharing