My Dog Ate a Chicken Bone — What Do I Do?

Eek! Your dog ate a chicken bone! What do you do next? Find out how to handle a dog who ate a chicken bone and why most bones are bad for dogs in the first place.

dog eating chicken bone
The best thing you can do when your dog eats a chicken bone is to remove the bone before they chomp down or swallow. Photo: simonmayer/Getty Images

Dogs and bones go together, right? Unfortunately, not always! Since my partner and I are vegetarians, my dogs don’t come in contact with a lot of bones at home. But living in NYC means coming across discarded chicken bones on sidewalks. One of the first things I teach any dog entering my life is “leave it” and “drop it.” But what happens if training fails and your dog eats a chicken bone? I spoke with Emmy-award winning veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber about the dangers of chicken bones and what to do if your dog ate a chicken bone.

What to do if your dog ate a chicken bone

If your dog ate a chicken bone, contact your vet immediately. Your vet will tell you if your dog needs to go to the clinic. Dr. Werber also recommends “feeding the dog something very bulky like bread to cover around the sharp edges, and it will begin to soften. Also, the digestive juices do a wonderful job softening the object even more, getting the bone to go through the intestines and out the other end.”

Dr. Werber advises that you shouldn’t induce vomiting if your dog ate a chicken bone. “Once a bone gets safely down the esophagus and into the stomach, we do not recommend having the dog throw it up because we don’t want to risk a sharp sliver of bone cutting the esophagus on the way up and out,” he explains.

While it’s scary to realize that your dog ate a chicken bone, it’s likely that your dog will be okay if he didn’t choke while eating the bone. “In most cases, the bone will be eliminated safely through the intestines,” Dr. Werber explains. “In the rare instance that surgery is required, it is preferable and safer to retrieve bones from within the stomach as opposed to in the esophagus. However, these surgeries are not often needed.”

Why are chicken bones bad for dogs in the first place?

Unlike the large, hard bones many of us buy for our dogs to chew “chicken bones are very soft and often leave very sharp edges when broken,” Dr. Werber says. This is what makes them especially dangerous for dogs. If your dog ate a chicken bone, he “run[s] the risk of tearing the esophagus or tearing somewhere along the intestinal tract, ” Dr. Werber says. This is why it’s so important to make sure dogs don’t have access to chicken bones. 

The difference between safe and unsafe bones for dogs

Most bones are actually fairly risky for dogs. Although frequently marketed to dog parents, even beef bones aren’t always safe. “[They] tend to be a bit safer than chicken bones in the sense [that] they usually can’t break them down to create a sharp edge,” Dr. Werber advises. “However, if one gets small enough to be swallowed, it becomes a choking hazard.”

Beyond the risk of choking, Dr. Werber also warns that “the bone marrow has high fat content, so dogs love it, but too much of it can create the risk for pancreatitis.”

There is also a risk of dogs becoming injured on bones. “Knuckle bones, that have a hollow center like a donut, can wrap around the lower jaw and get stuck,” Dr. Werber explains. “Also, rib bones can often get stuck on the roof of the mouth between the molar teeth”

So, Dr. Werber advises that dogs stay away from all-natural bones. “The best kinds of bones to give a dog are the ones manufactured for dogs to be eaten, such as Dreambones or Smartbones,” he says. “These bones are made of chicken and vegetables and are fully digestible, so you don’t have to worry about the hazards.”

First Aid: How to help a choking dog

Let’s say your dog ate a chicken bone … and he begins to choke on it. In this situation, it could be up to you to save your dog’s life. “Choking dogs are treated very similarly to humans who are choking,” Dr. Werber says.

Here are his step-by-step instructions for how to help a choking dog:

  1. “You want to first check the airway. You will need to open the mouth, cup your index finger (for smaller dogs, use your pinky) and go to the back of the throat to feel if there might be something obstructing the airway.”
  2. “If that fails and the pet is still struggling to breathe, you need to perform the Heimlich maneuver. The goal is to give a sharp burst of pressure onto the chest wall to dislodge anything blocking the airway. In checking for obstructions, you may feel little bones in the throat area. [These] are normal and known as cartilage bones; don’t pull those out. You can get behind the dog, wrap your arms around the dog’s chest, like a bear hug from behind, and bring your hands together at the xiphoid process (the point just below the end of the sternum) and then, give a really quick pull toward you through the dog. The technique is similar to performing the Heimlich maneuver on a human.”
  3. “As you are doing this, it is important to continually check the mouth because you may be getting something out from the trachea and it’s important to remove what’s coming up.”

Other tips on first aid for dogs:

Whether you are a pet professional or a pet parent, you can take classes in pet first aid and CPR from Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore. Sign up for classes at Pet First Aid 4 U.

Learn how to put together your own dog first aid kit to keep at home or take on the go when you’re on the move with your dog.

Originally published in 2018. 

Top photograph: simonmayer/Getty Images

42 thoughts on “My Dog Ate a Chicken Bone — What Do I Do?”

  1. The emphasis here should be on cooked bones, which are sadly the case in urban areas like New York (it's bad enough here in Sydney with all the KFC's around and littering kids!).

    Raw chicken bones on the other hand can be very beneficial for dogs as part of the diet, preferably supervised. I've worked in pet food marketing for many years and a great deal of effort is put in to "teaching" consumers (and vets for that matter) that raw meats and bones are bad for dogs, but it's quite the opposite. I work with some vets in Australia, such as Dr Tom Londsdale (of who track issues in relation to commercial dog foods, and also the sometimes astounding turnaround in pet health after a transition to raw meat, organs, and raw bones!

  2. I only give raw bones to my dog. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Also, read this article:

  3. For everyone commenting that I feed my dog chicken bones and it’s fine You’re all f****** retarded it says cooked chicken bones right in the title learn to read shut the f****** go to bed

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  8. News Flash. Dogs have been eating chickens since the beginning of time. There is a very small taco bell dog that comes over daily to get whatever is left over from the previous day’s meals. The leftovers are frequently chicken since I raise chickens for eggs and meat.
    The dog still lives (go figure, capitalists will warn us of all sorts of things when it’s profitable).

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  13. What’s funny to me about EVERY site on this topic is they all say “call a vet” to push the liability off on anyone but themselves… so there’s no vet authors? No one can literally write what to do. But what’s a vet going to do? They’ll ask

    1) hows the dog behaving? Is it lethargic etc?

    2) is it eating?

    3) is it drinking?

    4) has it gone to the bathroom?

    And then they’ll charge you $400 for the emergency visit and tell you to monitor the animal

    My take on it is monitor the animal and when it has a problem take it to the vet. They can’t reverse time and get the chicken bone back and they’re not going to do exploratory surgery on day 1 if the animal has no issues.

      1. ….dogs getting to chicken bones. If this happens and becomes a serious issue during monitoring, well, I am inclined to think you may have to euthanize the animal (in the utmost greater extreme circumstances). Then, and how can I say this lightly… the owner of said dog should maybe be euthanized for being reckless/careless and neglectful enough to have the aforementioned situation come to fruition, as to make sure that this offense never has the chance to rear its ugly head again, with any particular owner.

        Food for thought! 😉

        1. Sounds like you are blessed with being a perfect human being who always pays attention to details and is vigilant about every aspect of your pet’s life, continually monitoring it’s actions and never overlooking or forgetting anything. It must be nice for you to have such feelings of superiority/perfection…..but is not so nice and actually mean and hurtful for the rest of us.

          All I can say is….”Judge not, lest ye be judged!!”
          And if you MUST judge… keep your opinions to yourself. You are not helping anything and are just hurting someone who is already afraid and in pain over such a situation.

          Maybe you should take a moment to critique your own behaviour — a little self inventory….

        2. Your arrogant, my dog got a piece of chicken bone that fell of the plate that was scraped into the trash. It went um-noticed until I heard the dog eating something in the kitchen. Accidents do happen.

        3. Wow. What a waste of time reading this “helpful post”. I believe the topic was advice for a dog owner who’s pet got ahold of a chicken bone. NOT about your critical and totally irrelevant opinion on euthanasia of an animal and a HUMAN BEING? I would imagine you spend a lot of time sending smart mouth comments to people who are reaching out for some serious advise. Nice job, you should be so proud.

          1. So I shouldn’t euthanize my 10 year old that just let my dog eat a chicken bone? Just need clarity because Vbbopp said I should. She seems like she knows her stuff!

        4. stop please just stop, we didn’t need to know your an idiot, and we are not idiots here, most people are deeply conserned, they don’t need to be told that they should be killed

  14. Chicken bones are dangerous my dog accidentally ate one and was rushed to vet now waiting surgery because we had a dead chicken that was found in the hedrow while my dog was outside playing and he is in serious condition so people please keep your dogs safe and yes I was out there with him he was not alone. Accident happen and I love my dog more then you will ever know

  15. My 70lb Standard Bull Terrier (target dog, for those that dont know) just swallowed a cooked chicken neck bone, he did not even chew it. I am worried it may splinter going down . Is there any advice on what I can feed him to prevent that from happening.

    He would have better off eating it raw because it would be softer. But since it was boiled it may splinter.
    I may call my vet.

    thanks Donna

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Donna,

      We are sorry to hear this happened to your dog. We suggest contacting your vet about what further steps to take.

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  17. Thank you Ann Gregory for being a special kind of stupid. If you choose to feed your dogs bones have fun and I hope that they never have issues. I agree with Portia, to comment on kibble and kickbacks that is beyond unnecessary.

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  20. Portia Deverioux

    Disagree completely, Anne Gregory. Chicken bones – never! Wing bones are almost as bad as drumsticks in splintering. If you think that small dogs can eat small chicken bones, be prepared for an emergency.

    I’ve had large breed dogs all my life. Labradors seem to do fine with beef bones. Rottweilers tend to have a personality change (for the worse) with beef bones. Having a dog that size growl at you from across the room is enough to never give another bone to him. What they don’t know won’t hurt them and they’ll probably live longer without.

    This article offers information on saving a dog’s life if they happen to get their mouths around the wrong bones. Commenting with a contradiction is not a great idea here. What works in your household is your business.

    As to “kibble” and your “kick back” comment…why go there? Some people will go the way of a raw diet and some people will never be able to afford that. To each their own! The common thread is that we all love our dogs and want to keep them safe!

    1. Dogs are canids and, though domesticated, share certain traits with their wild cousins. That means that a raw diet complete with bones is not only good for them but safe. Raw wing bones, btw, don’t splinter, they bend.

      Until the 50’s, dogs shared their owners’ food or got raw food, especially if they were on a farm. Dogs’ physiology hasn’t changed since the 50’s, only the understanding of vets, who are trained to prescribe where no prescription is necessary.

      BTW, I had a wolf cross, and after training him, I could take a bone right out of his mouth. If your rottweiler doesn’t respect you as the head of the pack, he needs better training.

      1. Joy, you are 100% correct. Our GS is about 70 lbs and has been eating raw chicken bones daily since he was four months old (some turkey raw bones seem to be too hard, so I'm picky/careful about giving him those). He would eat an entire small raw chicken per day (btw, much cheaper and healthier than some "best dog food" crap that is regularly recalled from the stores). Moreover, remember folks that raw bones contain bone marrow — which is a superfood for dogs, per our breeder who has been working with dogs over 60 years and knows more than some vets nowadays.

    2. My sister’s chihuahua has eaten so many cooked wings and not once has anything bad happened in the last 5 years so.. (X) doubt

  21. Dogs should eat bones and I believe you are totally incorrect when saying dogs shouldnt eat bones.
    They are suppose to eat bones. The rule of thumb is the bone must be RAW
    and the right size bone for the size of the dog.
    Small dogs eat chicken necks or wings. I cut the wings in 3 and remove the skin as sometimes the skin will get caught on the eye tooth and the dog will try to swallow the bone but cant because the skin is wrapped around the tooth. Eating real raw bones is enjoyable for all dogs and provides the very best dental health. I suppose you recommend feeding kibble.
    Which means your getting kick backs from Royal Canin or any Hills products. Guaranteed to have the dog return to the vet with cancer, diabetes and allergies.

    1. Totally agree with you not meaning to be rude but think of all the money the vets can make when claiming that dogs can’t eat bones – go and get a quote on what it costs to get teeth cleaned, bone alternatives and the fancy dried food products – I follow the BARF diet recommended and designed by the one and only Dr I Billinghuest????

    2. Totally agree with you not meaning to be rude but think of all the money the vets can make when claiming that dogs can’t eat bones – go and get a quote on what it costs to get teeth cleaned, bone alternatives and the fancy dried food products – I follow the BARF diet recommended and designed by the one and only Dr I Billinghuest????

    3. Raw bones are healthy for dogs! Not cooked bones. Don’t give your dogs cooked bones. The article was showing what to do if your dog ate a cooked chicken bone.

    4. Don’t feed your dog any kind of bone.. Chicken, Beef,or Pork are bad for your dog. My neighbor threw some chicken bones out and my dog ate one. Now she is screaming in pain and I will have to take her to the Emergency Vet. DO NOT GIVE YOUR DOG CHICKEN BONES.
      DR Charlie Davis

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