Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones (Raw or Cooked)?

Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones

There are certain human foods that dogs just love. One of them is fish! A staple part of the average dog diet, fish is loaded with nutrients and minerals that are critical to his overall quality of life. However, fish bones are a different story. In fact, just the opposite is true.

A dog should never eat fish bones, whether they’re raw or cooked. Since fish bones are brittle and fragile, they can easily break apart and act as shrapnel in your dog, from his mouth to his tush, and anywhere in between! Organ perforation, throat lodging, and or intestinal blockages are the main issues that may arise; hence most dog experts will not recommend you to allow your dog to eat fish bones.

What problems can fish bones cause for my dog?

Simply, there are lots of problems that can come up from your dog eating fish bones, no matter how harmless they may look, or how good your dog’s puppy dog pout might be! Some of the main culprits could be:

Organ perforation

Also known as causing a hole in an organ, the actual organ that gets potentially damaged differs from dog to dog and, of course, from fish bone to fish bone! Since the bones break and scatter, they can perforate the esophagus, the stomach, and anything else it feels like, causing no end of pain and injury to your poor dog. 

Throat lodging

Another common issue that your dog could have is that the bones get lodged in his throat. It could be speared into the esophagus (ouch), it could be horizontal, blocking his passageway for food and breath. You might be able to see the bone that’s lodged, or you may not, depending. More on that in a bit!

Intestinal blockages 

This is especially likely if your dog has splintered the bones into tiny scraps. As they work through his digestive system and start to move through the digestive tract itself, space gets smaller. The bones, often pointy and sharp, will start to draaaaaaag along the intestinal walls and either cause perforation and/or get stuck, leaving a traffic back-up behind for the food to follow. Can you say ouch?!

Then there are the smaller ouchies such as the bleeding gums or tongue as your dog chomps down on his tasty fish treat (be it a part of a fish, a small fish itself, or a fish head). No matter how you look at it, fish bones equal pain for most dogs unless you get very lucky!

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Are there any fish bones that my dog can eat safely?

Some loving pet parents may be scoffing right about now. Perhaps you’ve fed your dog fish bones for years and never had a problem. If that’s the case, then we are very happy to hear that! The larger the dog, the smaller the risk of complications, of course. But, the above statement is the correct one: you’ve gotten very lucky.

Whether cooked or raw, fish bones can both pose a huge threat to dogs. Since they are smaller and much more brittle than chicken or beef bones, the only safe way that you can feed your dog fish bones is by pulverizing them up into tiny, teeny little pieces. And even then, you should be careful because they still might be sharp.

Technically speaking, the only safe fish bones that dogs can eat would be sardines (which is much the same as humans). However, you should make sure that you remove the backbone of the sardine since it can sometimes cause a problem.

Can fish bones kill my dog?

Yes, eating fish bones, no matter how harmless they seem to us, can kill your dog. From a choking hazard to internal bleeding, to serious intestinal blockages, there are many, many risks waiting for your dog from a fish bone. One of them can include death, and it does happen for some unlucky dogs. So, is one fish really worth the risk?

There are many ways that you can include fish in your dog’s diet without putting him at risk, so there is no excuse to give him a fish bone simply for its nutritional purposes!

What should I do if my dog ate a fish bone?

Did your dog accidentally get a fish bone? Or was there one that you didn’t realize was still in the fish? Here are the general things to help you protect him as much as possible.

  • Check his mouth and airway for any visual blockages or bones. If they’re there, “fish” them out!
  • Feed him some bread to cushion the bones and push them down into his stomach
  • Give him plenty of access to water
  • Keep a close eye on him

Dogs are pretty resilient creatures, but following these steps above can help you watch for any serious signs of a blockage or internal bleeding, and it also helps you make sure that your dog’s discomfort is to a minimum, too.

If you follow these steps and he seems fine (no coughing), and he poops out his fishy remains several hours later with no visible upset, he is most likely fine. If he starts to seem uncomfortable, you’ll definitely want to whisk him off to the vet just to be safe!

How do I know if my dog has a fish bone stuck?

There are a few signs to watch for that your dog has a fish bone stuck in his throat or somewhere in his system. These include:

  • He will be restless and won’t settle
  • He has no appetite and seems to be drinking a lot
  • He is panting
  • He is coughing or hacking
  • He is constipated

If you see any or all of these signs, it’s a good idea to call your vet and let them know. They will either recommend that you bring him in to get checked out, or give you further detail on signs to watch for.

How to remove a fish bone from your dog’s mouth or throat

Do you think your dog has a blockage from a fish bone? If so, the best thing to do is definitely take him to the vet as soon as possible. They’ll be able to use the right tools and techniques to get them out.

Can’t wait that long and worried that he can’t breathe? Here are some emergency things that you can do to help keep your dog safe until you can get him to the professionals.

Firstly, keep calm. If you are panicked and yelling, your dog will panic, too, and may run off to hide or even act aggressively. Stay calm and soothing to keep him calm, too.

First, open his mouth and see if you can see the blockage. If so, carefully poked it out. Be careful, and get someone else in the house to help you if possible. Again, stay calm and in control. If it’s jammed tight, don’t force it.

If you can’t see it, feed him some bread. This can help surround the fish bone and push it down to his stomach, giving him more of a chance of pushing it out without hurting himself. Think of it like bubble wrap for the bone.

Turn him upside down

Depending on how big your dog is, either pick him up and hold him upside down or lift his legs up and force his head down (sorta like a wheelbarrow). Gravity can sometimes help him to push it out and free him from the obstacle, though if it’s really stuck, it may not be effective.

Fish bones, no matter which way you look at them, are dangerous and can cause serious harm to your dog. Even if you have been feeding your dog for years, use this as the perfect excuse to swap it out for a fishier food instead! Your dog will be just as healthy and you won’t ever have to learn how to turn your dog into a wheelbarrow!

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Dog Advisory Council

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