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Dogs love to chew on bones. It’s in their nature. This is why many pet shops offer bones for dogs. But what about fish bones? Can dogs eat fish bones? What do you do if your dog eats fish bones?
To find out, I reached out to our veterinary consultant, Dr. Littlejohn.
Pliable and soft bones from raw fish are generally okay for dogs to eat. However, cooked fish bones are dangerous due to how brittle they become. They can easily splinter and cause damage to your dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive system. So, dogs can eat raw fish bones but should avoid cooked ones.
If your dog does eat fish bones, there’s no need to panic. Most of the time, they will pass through your dog’s digestive system without problems. However, there are some risks and symptoms you need to be aware of to keep your pup safe should any bones get stuck or damage their digestive tract.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about dogs eating fish bones and what vets recommend if your dog gets into some.
Let’s dive in.
Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones?
After consulting with our veterinary consultant, it depends on the size and type of fish bones. But, generally speaking, since there will always be an inherent risk for a dog to eat fish bones, it’s best not to feed your dog them.
Cooked fish bones can become very brittle and easily splinter. This can cause damage to your dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive system if they eat them.
On the other hand, raw fish bones are pliable and soft. These bones are less risky for a dog to eat and help minimize the risk of your dog being injured by them.
So if you decide to feed your dog fish bones, raw fish bones are the best choice.
With that being said, if a dog accidentally eats some fish bones, it’s important to be aware of the associated risks and symptoms to keep your pup safe.
More on these risks and symptoms are below.
Can Dogs Eat Cooked Fish Bones
No, dogs should not eat cooked fish bones. This is because when fish bones are cooked, they become very soft and can easily break.
When this happens, it increases the risk of your dog being injured by them. They could damage your dog’s mouth, throat, and digestive system if they eat them.
So it’s best to avoid feeding dogs cooked fish bones.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Fish Bones
Yes, dogs can eat raw fish bones, but it’s still not recommended. This is because raw fish bones are pliable and soft, which makes them less likely to break and cause injury to your dog.
However, there is still a risk. Even though the raw fish bones are more pliable and soft, they can still cause damage or become a choking hazard.
Further Readings: Can Dogs Eat Fish Heads? Dangers & Benefits (We Asked A Vet)
Are Fish Bones Bad For Dogs?
There are four significant dangers when you feed a dog fish bones.
#1 Internal Damage
The first is that the fish bones can puncture or tear your dog’s digestive tract. This can cause several serious health problems, including:
- Internal blockages
- Pain and discomfort
Another danger is that the fish bones can cause intestinal blockage. This is a severe condition that can lead to:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain and bloating
Intestinal blockages can be life-threatening, so you must get your dog to the vet immediately if you think they may have one.
Peritonitis is another serious health concern if fish bones puncture your dog’s digestive tract. This condition occurs when the contents of the stomach or intestines leak into the abdomen and cause inflammation.
Symptoms of Peritonitis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Low blood pressure
- Excessive thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Pale gums
- Low body temperature
Peritonitis is life-threatening, with 50 – 70% mortality in dogs. So it’s vital to get your dog to the vet immediately if you think they may have it.
The fourth and final danger is that fish bones can become lodged in your dog’s throat or digestive tract and cause them to choke. This is a severe condition that can lead to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you think your dog is choking, it’s essential to get them to the vet immediately. However, in some cases, you may not have time.
So you have a two options.
First is to open their mouth to see if you can get hold of the bone causing them to choke. You might need long tweezers to grab hold of the object. BE VERY CARFUL not to push the thing further down their throat.
The last thing you can try to do is perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog. This may require someone else to help you as you will need to wrap your arms around their belly from behind and give a quick squeeze. For more detail, check out petMD’s guide on the Heimlich maneuver on dogs.
Now you might think that inducing vomiting is a good idea. However, this poses a risk depending on where the object is. It might do more damage by pushing it back up.
The AKC has a great guide to inducing vomiting if you think it’s necessary. Still, I recommend you contact a vet immediately to determine if they think it’s a good idea based on the situation.
My Dog Ate Fish Bones What Do I Do?
Now that we know the big dangers of dogs eating fish bones, what do you do if your dog ate some fish bones?
If your dog got their paws into some fish bones, here is what I learned from Dr. Littlejohn.
Vets will usually ask the following things (in order):
- How long ago did they eat the fish bones?
- How much did they eat?
- How big were the bones?
- Was it cooked or raw bones?
- How big is the dog?
- Have you noticed any changes in your dog’s behaviors?
- Are they drinking water?
- Any signs of physical pain or discomfort? Vomit? Diarrhea? Blood?
- What’s the color of your dog’s gums?
These questions help the vet examine the situation to determine the level of risk. For example, If you have a tiny dog that ate large cooked fish bones, they are at a much greater risk than if large dogs ate them.
Knowing the common questions a vet will ask can help you understand what you need to look for. Since each scenario will be unique depending on the size and preparation of the fish bones, how much was eaten, and how big your dog is, there’s no one size fits all answer.
The only thing you can do when a dog eats fish bones is to wait and see if they start showing any symptoms of discomfort. Avoid trying to induce vomiting. This can cause more harm than good and could seriously damage your dog if the fish bones have already started to break down in their stomach.
Suppose your dog does start to show symptoms (listed in the section below). In that case, it’s best to contact your veterinarian right away.
You can also use online services to speak directly with a vet for immediate help.
*Important note: small dogs are at the greatest risk since they have tiny digestive tracts! This means fish bones can do much more damage, and it takes less of them.*
Symptoms Of Bone Stuck In A Dog’s Stomach
After a dog eats fish bones they may experience issues right away, a few moments after, or hours later. It all depends on where the fish bones are causing issues inside your dog’s body.
Many dogs eat fish bones and have no issues digesting them. However, you still need to keep a close eye on a dog that’s eaten fish bones.
You should monitor their behavior, check their stool, and look for any symptoms. As a rule of thumb, if your dog does not seem like themselves, is not eating or drinking, or shows any severe symptoms, it’s best to contact your vet immediately.
Here are some symptoms you should be looking for:
A fever is a sign of a possible infection. This can happen from raw fish bones containing bacteria or because they are developing a form of Peritonitis.
A fever will present itself as a warm nose and/or warm to the touch body temperature above 103°F (39.44°C). If your dog has a fever, it’s best to contact a vet for further instructions.
You need a digital or rectal thermometer to check a dog’s temperature. A digital thermometer goes in a dog’s ear canal, and a rectal thermometer goes up their rectum.
Blood in a dog’s stool is never normal and always warrants a call or visit to the vet. This can be from several different things, but it’s often an indication of Peritonitis (inflammation of the stomach lining).
If you see blood in your dog’s stool, a fish bone could have caused a tear or hole in their intestines. If you see blood, it’s best to contact your vet right away, as this is a serious condition.
Other causes of blood in stool are anal fissures, Rectal prolapse, or something more serious like Parvovirus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), or Cancer.
Pale gums are a sign that your dog is not getting enough oxygen in their blood. This can be from a blockage in the intestines or stomach, heart disease, or anemia.
If you notice your dog’s gums are pale, The fish bone may be blocking their intestines or causing an infection. It’s best to take them to see a vet right away as this is a serious condition.
Other causes of pale gums are dehydration, heat stroke, or blood loss.
Not Eating Or Drinking
If your dog is not eating or drinking water, this can be a sign of dehydration. Dehydration can happen for many reasons, but it’s often the first sign that something is wrong.
Other possible causes for not eating or drinking are pain, nausea, lack of appetite, and more. If your dog hasn’t eaten or had any water in 12-24 hours, you must take them to a vet.
Vomiting is a common symptom in dogs that have eaten fish bones. It can be caused by an obstruction, gastritis, or other digestive issues.
In addition, if there is any blood in the vomit, it indicates a more serious condition, and you should take your dog to see a vet immediately.
Abdominal Pain Or Swelling
Abdominal pain or swelling can signify several things, but it’s often an indication of something serious. For example, it can be caused by an obstruction, Gastritis, Peritonitis, or other digestive issues.
To check for abdominal pain, you will want to gently palpate (feel) their stomach. If they yelp, cry out in pain, or try to bite you, there is a good chance they are in pain. As for the swelling, you can usually tell by looking at their belly. Just don’t mistake swelling for a full belly of food.
If you are unsure but suspect something is off, always play it safe and contact your vet.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dogs Eat Whole Fish With Bones?
It’s best to avoid giving your dog a whole cooked fish with bones. The small bones can easily break into pieces and get stuck in their throat or cause an obstruction. So it’s always best to remove the bones before giving your dog any fish.
If it’s a whole raw fish, some dogs can eat the entire fish without any issues. Just be sure to avoid fish high in mercury or fish with large bones. Also, make sure it’s not fresh out of the water; you want to ensure you rid the fish of bacteria and parasites before feeding it to your dog.
Dogs are much safer eating whole raw fish since the bones are soft and pliable.
Do You Have To Debone Fish For Dogs?
If the fish is cooked, Yes. You should always debone the fish before giving it to your dog as cooked bones can easily splinter and cause an obstruction or puncture their intestines.
If the fish is raw, you have a few options. You can either remove the bones or leave them in. If you decide to leave the bones in, make sure it’s a small fish with soft bones. You also want to ensure the fish is not full of bacteria or parasites.
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