My Dog Ate Fish Bones – Should I Worry?

I’ve been a dog owner for many years, and I know the joy that comes with having a furry companion. One of the downsides to being a pet owner is when your pup gets into something they shouldn’t have.

In this blog post, you’ll find out what to do if your dog eats fish bones and how to prevent it from happening again.

Check for these Signs

Vomiting along with bloody or very dark poop is usually the biggest sign that something has gone wrong after your dog swallowed fish bones. Your dog might also make noise while they’re trying to do their business, which is a sign that they’re in pain.

Some dogs start to act really lazy or refuse to eat after they’ve swallowed a fish bone. This is usually a sign that they’ve caught some kind of an infection and is usually seen mostly in dogs who swallowed the bones of fresh water fish.

That being said, you might find these symptoms in any dog regardless of the types of bones that they might have swallowed. Dental problems and oral sores might start to appear in dogs who’ve swallowed fish bones because small fragments get lodged into their gums.

Retching should also be treated as an even more serious concern. This indicates that your dog wants to rid themselves of whatever it is that they swallowed.

When dogs swallow fish bones and other foreign matter, they might end up with a clogged stomach that has to be cleared by a veterinarian surgeon.

Potential Problems

Bones from fresh water fish are usually the most dangerous, because they’re a high-risk infection vector. However, you’ll also want to keep a look out for these problems even if your dog chewed on bones from salt water fish:

  • Choking: Fish bones can break apart and get lodged in your dog’s windpipe
  • Oral Injury: Your dog’s gums can become inflamed if they get chips in it
  • Internal Injuries: Bone fragments that get lodged in the throat or stomach can cause ulcers
  • Clogged Stomach: Larger fragments of fish bones can get stuck in the digestive track, which may require surgery to remove
  • Constipation: Fish bones that get caught in the large intestine can prevent your dog from doing their business
  • Peritonitis: Any bone your dog doesn’t pass could cause parasitic bacteria to spread in their digestive tract

If your dog experiences any of these symptoms and is also vomiting or seems tired, then that’s a sign that your dog has a serious medical problem. You’ll want to treat that as a medical emergency regardless of the type of bones that they swallowed.

What to Do

Any dog who swallows fish bones but then doesn’t show any real symptoms may be able to pass them normally. While fish bones tend to splinter far more than even poultry ones would, that doesn’t mean that bigger dogs can’t eventually work them out.

Smaller fragile breeds as well as dogs who have swallowed enough material to get clogged might start to show symptoms within a few hours. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to get your dog to an emergency vet center if at all possible.

Surgical interventions are sometimes necessary to clear blockages that result from bones getting caught in a certain area. You’ll also want to take your dog to a vet if they start to have problems defecating or they show any signs of blood in their stool.

Vomiting usually would simply be a sign of sickness that you may be able to treat yourself. However, dogs that are throwing up after having eaten any kind of bone may have an infection that needs medical attention.

Do I Need to See the Vet or Go to the Emergency Animal Hospital?

Take your dog to an emergency animal hospital if they’ve swallowed fish bones and are showing signs of any of the above symptoms. While you could take your dog to a regular vet, it’s probably better to go to an emergency hospital because there’s a chance that your dog may need a surgical intervention to remove bone material coupled with a regimen of antibiotics to reduce the risk of further infection.

Treat your dog with some extra attention and watch them if they haven’t shown any signs. If they seem perfectly fine, then give them some extra water and monitor how their stool looks.

Constipated dogs should probably be taken to a medical facility, however, because they might not be able to pass any of the bones. You may want to consider taking your dog to at least a local family vet’s office even if he or she doesn’t show symptoms because fish bones can splinter and spread fairly quickly due to their brittle nature.

Safe Alternatives to Eat

Large enough beef and lamb bones that have been properly cooked might be safe to give to bigger dogs. Some farm supply places and big box retailers actually have prepared cattle bones that you give your dog in place of finding a bone yourself.

Chew toys are probably going to be your best bet, especially if you have a smaller dog. Some of these are bone-shaped while others are in a variety of whimsical shapes.

Some pet owners have had good results with rawhide toys, but many have complained that these have the same problems that fish bones do. Rawhide has a tendency to break apart, especially when chewed by dogs that have a tendency to chew their favorite toys very enthusiastically.

Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones?

Fish bones are unsafe for dogs and shouldn’t be given to them. While it may be safe to give dogs beef or lamb bones under certain circumstances, fish bones should never be fed to a dog.

They’re far too small for dogs and splinter extremely easily. As a result, there’s a good chance that dogs could potentially end up swallowing a large number of nearly invisible fragments.

A good rule of thumb is that a dog shouldn’t ever chew on any single bone that’s smaller than the size of their muzzle. No fish bone you’re likely to find is going to fit that description.

Larger fish can have gigantic backbones, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to give those to dogs either. These will still break apart fairly easily, so you’ll want to avoid giving even these to your dog.