Can Dogs Eat Chicken Bones?

Absolutely not 🦴❌

Have you ever been on a walk with your dog when suddenly she starts chewing on a chicken bone she found on the street?

If she managed to swallow it, you might be worried about the chicken bone making her sick.

Chicken bones aren’t the best (or safest) snack for your dog, so it’s always best to keep her from eating them.

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Lindsey Bullen, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Cary, North Carolina, to find out more about the risks of dogs eating chicken bones.

Are chicken bones bad for dogs?

According to Dr. Bullen, you shouldn’t give chicken bones to your dog.

“It is best that companion animals be on a complete and balanced diet, and dog bones (real or rawhide) can greatly unbalance their diet,” Dr. Bullen told The Dodo.

Nutritionally speaking, bones do contain nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, but your dog already gets all the nutrients he needs from his commercially prepared dog food — so adding bones to his diet might overdo it. “These nutrients are often critical to balancing a wild animal's diet, [but] our pets do not need the nutrients from them,” Dr. Bullen said.

Plus, eating dog bones can even cause injury to your dog that can be potentially fatal.

“Additionally, bones present a huge risk for GI obstruction, GI perforation and dental fractures,” Dr. Bullen said. “While this may not happen in all cases, these are considered medical emergencies, with the first two potentially leading to death.”

Can dogs eat raw chicken bones?

Raw chicken bones can also be risky for dogs, since they can cause a bacterial or parasitic infection.

“The risks associated with bones, in my professional opinion, vastly outweigh potential benefits,” Dr. Bullen said. “For example, raw bones have a significantly increased risk of causing bacterial and parasitic contamination (a pet does not have to be showing signs of illness to be shedding harmful bacteria in their stool).”

“Additionally, if the bones are broken down to smaller pieces, it can be a risk for GI obstruction and perforation (which is a surgical and life-threatening emergency),” Dr. Bullen said.

Can dogs eat cooked chicken bones?

Cooked chicken bones should be avoided at all costs, since it’s easier for them to break apart and cause your dog injury.

“Cooking can make bones easier to splinter and break because it starts to soften and break down the bone,” Dr. Bullen said. “This increases the risk of the bone splintering, causing GI obstruction and/or perforation.”

Splintering bones can also cause cuts in your dog’s mouth.

What to do if your dog eats chicken bones

If your dog did manage to scarf down a chicken bone, it’s important to be on stool alert to make sure the bone safely passes through her system.

You’ll also want to keep a close eye on your dog for signs of a GI obstruction or perforation.

Common signs for internal bleeding and blockages include:

  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Straining to poop
  • Bloody stool
  • Vomiting
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal behavior

If you notice any of these signs, or if the bone hasn’t passed through her stool within 72 hours, contact your vet.

What are some bone alternatives for dogs?

According to Dr. Bullen, a durable chew toy is a great (and much safer) alternative to giving your dog chicken bones to chew on.

Like this Wishbone Dog Chew Toy from Amazon for $10.99

Your dog is not a wolf

Some pet parents choose to feed their pets like their wild wolf ancestors, which means feeding their dogs a raw food diet, which includes bones. However, Dr. Bullen insists that it’s important to remember that wolves ate the way they did out of necessity, and their diet isn’t the best or safest option for our domesticated pets.

“I would no more recommend feeding my kids like their neanderthal ancient cousins than my dog being fed like a wolf,” Dr. Bullen said. “It is important to remember that good nutrition and medical care has allowed us to lengthen our beloved pets' life spans to be in the double digits while most wild animals (wolves included) usually only live to be about 5–6 (not including captivity).”

“The point being, just because a wolf eats bones doesn't mean our pets should,” Dr. Bullen said. “Wolves eat them because they have to and they have no other (safer) alternative.”So next time you’re eating chicken wings, don’t share them with your dog (no matter how cute her puppy dog eyes are).

And if your dog does get a hold of a chicken bone by accident, be sure to watch her closely and take her to the vet if you spot any signs of illness.

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