My Dog Ate Raw Chicken! Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

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You’re prepping for a barbeque. The pièce de résistance? ‘Beer can’ chicken, of course! You turn around to reach for the seasoning and even before you seat the bird on its aluminum throne, your pooch jumps up on the counter and swipes the whole bird. Looks like you’ll have to skip the barbeque this weekend and, even worse, you are now concerned with the fact that your dog ate raw chicken. Luckily, our vets are on hand to tell you what to do next.Divider 8

“Fowl” bacteria

Everyone knows how much care must be taken when handling raw poultry in the kitchen. Using separate cutting boards and washing all in-contact surfaces with hot, soapy water is recommended. Chicken should be cooked until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of at least 165⁰F.

Numerous sources state the dangers of bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella, which are found abundantly on the surface of raw chicken carcasses and undercooked chicken. These microbes are known to cause food poisoning in people and can also cause our dogs to get sick. Worse, even if our dogs cope well, they can ‘shed’ the bacteria in their feces and pass the diseases back onto us.

Can raw chicken make dogs sick?

Thankfully, illness caused by raw chicken bacteria is uncommon in our canine friends. Studies have shown that dogs will often remain in good clinical health even when these bugs are present in their intestines. Still, because getting sick is not impossible, it’s a good idea to monitor your dog more closely over the 48 hours following raw chicken ingestion. Look out for signs of gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in appetite. If you see these or notice any other sudden changes in behavior, it’s best to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a check-up.Divider 1

My Dog ate raw chicken – What should I do?

If your dog is acting normally, you don’t need to call the vet – yet. Watch your dog closely for signs of abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. You’ll need to be alert for signs of illness for 48 hours. If at any point you’re concerned that your dog is showing symptoms, it’s time to call the veterinarian. They’ll need to check your dog over and make sure that there’s nothing stuck.

In the meantime, you’ll need to be careful around your dog, as their saliva and feces could be contaminated with salmonella – and this could make you and your family ill. Do not let the dog lick you and wash your hands after touching them. Young children, pregnant women, and elderly individuals should avoid contact with the dog for at least 48 hours.

Golden Retriever eats a chicken_phil stev_shutterstock
Credit: Phil Stev, Shutterstock

Make no bones about it – chicken bones pose a risk

So, your furry pal is probably off the hook in terms of bacterial infection but are chicken bones safe for dogs to eat? Unfortunately, not – the wings, drumstick, and neck portions of the chicken contain bones that have the potential to cause dangerous blockages in the guts of dogs.

My dog swallowed a chicken bone. What should I do?

If you notice your dog salivating excessively or coughing repeatedly right after eating a bony chicken part, it is likely that it got stuck somewhere in the mouth or esophagus (the gullet). This is an emergency and you should see your veterinarian immediately! They will be able to determine the best way to proceed to remove any obstruction.

Even if no immediate trips to the vet are required, continue to monitor for signs of blockages lower down in the gastrointestinal tract. This can manifest as vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite, or abdominal pain. If you find that your dog is defecating normally at 48 hours after a bone-nabbing incident, the bone has probably been able to pass safely with no sudden veterinary trips necessary.

Are raw chicken bones safe for dogs to eat?

It’s true that cooking chicken bones makes them more prone to splintering than raw bones. A splintered bone is more likely to cause intestinal perforation, a deadly condition where the bone pierces the gut. However, there is always a risk of obstruction if your dog is eating something which is not entirely digestible, like bones. If you are looking to give your dog something to chew, there are plenty of commercial toys and treats available that are sturdy enough to withstand chewing or are readily digested when chewed and swallowed.

Feeding your dog raw chicken…on purpose?

Some dogs are fed a diet that includes raw chicken. Other than the danger of making your dog ill with bacteria or causing a blockage, feeding raw poultry on a regular basis comes with an additional set of risks that should be taken into account.

When feeding raw chicken to your dog, there are risks for other people in the house. Not only will your prep area be in need of a good wash-down, your dog’s bowl can also be a source of potential infection. Combined with the fact that dogs tend to be messy eaters, you will also have to consider giving the floor around the food bowl a deep clean after every meal.

And what about your furry pal, himself? Be aware that those doggie kisses can come with a side of salmonella! Those raw poultry bacteria are also more likely to be present in your dog’s feces, on the fur around their bottom, and even on your sofa. Because of this, feeding a raw diet is generally discouraged – especially if there are children, elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised individuals sharing the home, as they’re at the greatest risk of becoming ill with salmonella or campylobacter.

My dog loves his raw chicken so much, though! What can I feed him instead?

Chances are your dog will be just as enthusiastic if he receives his chicken as a cooked treat, instead – just remember to remove all the bones. If not, there are plenty of other safe treats that can be absolutely irresistible to dogs. Some foods to try include apples, carrots, watermelon, bananas, and peas. It can be fun to experiment with different ingredients and see what works best for your pal. Just remember that treats in the diet should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. If you do want to feed fresh foods in a higher proportion, it is best to consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who can help you create a balanced menu.Divider 4

Other questions about raw chicken in dogs

My pregnant dog ate raw chicken! Will the puppies be at risk?

Bacteria typically found on the surface of raw chicken is unlikely to cause abortion or other problems in unborn puppies, especially if there are no signs of ill-health in the mother. Still, rare cases of abortion have been reported in dogs with exposure to salmonella and campylobacter, so it is best to monitor the mother-to-be for signs of the pregnancy going awry. These include unusual discharge, lethargy, and signs of abdominal discomfort.

Don’t hesitate to plan a trip to your veterinarian if you have any doubts about the health of the mother and her future pups! Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your home is proofed to ensure there aren’t any further dietary indiscretion accidents. Puppies in-utero are sensitive to any stresses or infections experienced by their carrying mother.

Can dogs eat rotten raw chicken?

All moldy and out-of-date food should be avoided for dogs, just as for people. Dogs can get sick from eating old meat, and the risks of them getting ill are much higher if the food is going off. Mold can cause tremors and seizures, and even be fatal, whilst the higher bacteria count in out-of-date food means the salmonella and campylobacter can overwhelm your dog’s intestines.Divider 5

Conclusion

There are many things to take into account if your dog has eaten raw chicken. Whether you are worried about food poisoning, chicken bone hazards, or bacterial contamination, two things are for sure: it’s best to keep the raw chicken for the cooker and keep your pooch out of the kitchen when cooking!


Featured image credit: Dvorakova Veronika, Shutterstock