can dogs eat bird bones

It’s the oldest cliché in the book: Dogs love to chew on bones. But the FDA is warning that this time-honored tradition could be dangerous—and even deadly—for dogs.

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Dr. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

The FDA doesn’t make clear whether their warning extends to all bones or just cooked bones, so I’ll assume for purposes of the information I’m about to give you they’re discussing only bones from food that has been cooked.

The cooking process makes bones more brittle, increasing the likelihood they might splinter and cause internal injury to your dog. Cooking can also remove the nutrition contained in bones. In their April 20, 2010 Consumer Update, the FDA lists the following risks associated with giving your dog a cooked bone to chew:

Raw bones can be both safe and healthy providing you follow some guidelines which I’ll discuss shortly. You’re probably aware your dog’s ancestors and counterparts in the wild have been eating bones forever. Canines in their natural habitat eat prey, including the meat, bones and stomach contents. In fact, your pup has a biological requirement for the nutrients found in bone marrow and the bones themselves.

Dogs love to chew raw bones for the yummy taste, the mental stimulation, and also because all that gnawing is great exercise for the muscles of the jaw.

At my clinic, Natural Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend to all our dog parents that they separate bones into two categories:

Edible bones are the hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, do not contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder. These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which can be an essential part of your pup’s balanced raw food diet.

Recreational bones – big chunks of beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow — don’t supply significant dietary nutrition for your dog (they are not designed to be chewed up and swallowed, only gnawed on), but they do provide mental stimulation and are great for your pup’s oral health.

When your dog chews on a raw recreational bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, his teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease. Dogs in the wild have beautiful teeth and healthy gums. This is because the prey they eat requires a lot of chewing, and the sinewy composition helps to clean each entire tooth.

The health risks listed above for cooked bones can also apply to recreational raw bones if your dog has unrestricted, unsupervised access to them. The following are do’s and don’ts for feeding recreational raw bones (and yes, they have to be raw, not steamed, boiled or baked):

Do supervise your dog closely while he’s working on a bone. That way you can react immediately if your pup happens to choke, or if you notice any blood on the bone or around your dog’s mouth from over aggressive gnawing.

You’ll also know when your dog has chewed down to the hard brittle part of a knuckle bone, making splinters more likely. When the bone has been gnawed down in size throw it out. Do not allow your dog to chew it down to a small chunk he can swallow.

Do separate dogs in a multi-dog household before feeding bones. Dogs can get quite territorial about bones and some dogs will fight over them.

Do feed fresh raw bones in your dog’s crate, or on a towel or other surface you can clean, or outside as long as you can supervise him. Fresh raw bones become a gooey, greasy mess until your dog has gnawed them clean, so make sure to protect your flooring and furniture.

Don’t give them to your dog if she has a predisposition to pancreatitis. Raw bone marrow is very rich and can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis. Instead, you can feed a “low fat” version by thawing the bone and scooping out the marrow to reduce the fat content.

Don’t give a recreational bone to a dog that’s likely to try to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in huge chunks.

My pit bulls tried to do this the first time I fed them recreational raw bones – they bit them in two and tried to eat both halves whole. So I got knuckle bones the approximate size of their heads, and they couldn’t open their jaws wide enough to bite down and crack off big chunks of the bones. Over time, I trained them to chew smaller femur bones less aggressively.

You should be able to find raw knuckle bones at your local butcher shop or the meat counter of your supermarket (labeled as ‘soup bones’). When you get the bones home, store them in the freezer and thaw one at a time before feeding to your pup. I also recommend giving your dog a bone to chew after she’s full from a meal. Hungry dogs are more tempted to swallow a bone whole or break it apart and swallow large chunks. This increases the risk of an obstruction in the digestive tract.

If one of the above conditions prevents you from offering raw bones to your dog, consider a softer alternative: a high quality, edible dental bone. A fully digestible, high quality dental dog chew provides mechanical abrasion to help control plaque and tartar, and is similar to the effect of eating whole, raw food in the wild.

Many popular chew bones cannot be broken down, and if your pup swallows one whole, or a large enough portion of one, there’s always a risk of intestinal blockage. In addition, most traditional dog chews contain unhealthy ingredients like gelatin, artificial sweeteners, and other additives and preservatives that are potentially cancer causing.

I highly recommend a high quality dog dental bone, that is 100 percent natural and contain absolutely no corn, soy, gluten, extra fat or sugar, or animal byproducts.

Whether you go with raw bones, a high quality dog dental bone, or a combination, the important thing to remember is your canine family member is designed to chew. She needs your help to insure she gets regular opportunities to brush and floss as nature intended, and to exercise those jaw muscles.

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Are Bones Safe for Dogs?

Many people wonder, “Can dogs eat bones?” as they enjoy a nice dinner and notice their dog eyeing the bones that were left behind. As is often the case, the answer depends on the specifics.

Cooked bones should always be off-limits. They become brittle and easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Never feed your dog cooked bones. This includes those that originate in your kitchen and those that can be purchased. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that between Nov. 1, 2010 and Sept. 12, 2017, it received accounts of 90 dogs who became sick after eating commercially-available smoked or baked bone treats. Fifteen of the dogs died.

Raw bones are generally safer than cooked, but again, the devil is in the details. If you want to give your dog a bone because chewing provides mental stimulation and can help keep the teeth clean, Dr. Karen Becker recommends picking a raw bone that is approximately the size of your dog’s head. Bones of this size will allow your dog to gnaw while helping to reduce the chances that your dog will break off and swallow a chunk of bone that can cause health problems.

But Dr. Even now, Becker advises that dogs who are chewing on bones should always be watched. Why? Because uncontrolled access to bones—even raw bones—can have terrible consequences. These are just a few instances where eating raw bones has caused extremely serious harm to dogs.

Below are X-rays of a case presented to Dr. Ray Goodroad. The owner discovered this roughly 75-pound hound munching on a dead deer carcass. The dog was dehydrated, had become extremely lethargic, and had made futile attempts to vomit and pass stool. Sharp bone fragments are clearly visible.

Now take a look at these two X-rays. These show a dog that the veterinarian saw was weak and dehydrated, and that was straining to pass stool. The dog, Dr. Goodroad would discover that he had a past of robbing the neighbor’s trash cans.

These two dogs needed therapy, antibiotics, extra X-rays, anesthesia and sedation, repeated enemas, intravenous fluid, and four days in the hospital. If this course of treatment hadn’t worked, the dogs would have needed extensive surgery to survive.

It’s also critical to understand that big, “round” bones are not infallible. Gnawing on these bones can lead to abscesses, tooth root infections, broken teeth, and other health issues. Additionally, raw bones can spread food-borne pathogens like Salmonella throughout your home, especially if they are left out for a long time. This can be particularly risky if any members of the household—human or animal—have impaired immune systems as a result of diseases or prescription drugs. Consult your veterinarian to determine if providing your dog with bones to chew on will result in more advantages than disadvantages.

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Are There Options to Feeding Bones to Dogs?

Don’t worry if you’ve decided that feeding your dog bones is not for you after learning about the possible risks. You still have options. There are numerous approaches to satiate your dog’s chewing craving. Toys composed of dense rubber or twisted rope fibers are excellent options. Brushing your dog’s teeth once a day or giving them dental diets, treats, and chews will help keep their teeth healthy. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved products have been proven safe and effective by science. Additionally, respectable companies’ commercial diets offer dogs the comprehensive and well-rounded nourishment they require to maintain their health.


What happens if a dog eats a bird bone?

Dogs have been eating bones for thousands of years, and most of the time, they process them just fine. Typically, chicken bones will dissolve once they hit the stomach—before they have a chance to become dangerous. Most times, dogs are able to pass chicken bones uneventfully.

Can a dog eat a bird whole?

Yes, dogs can eat birds. They can eat the whole bird. No need to worry about that. Meat and bones make them a healthy dog.

Can dogs eat bird carcass?

Toxins — Birds and small mammal carcasses may carry clostridium botulinum (i.e., botulism), a neurotoxin that makes pets extremely sick and causes rapid-onset paralysis. Bacterial infection — Some wild animals can be hosts for leptospirosis, salmonella, and other harmful bacteria.