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My Cat Ate a Chicken Bone! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

vet approved graphicFor most cats, a chicken bone is a temptation that’s hard to resist! But whether it is raw or cooked, there are some serious potential risks associated with your cat eating bones. Read on to find out what you should do if your cat has eaten a chicken bone.

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Dangers of eating chicken bones

chicken bone_achirathep, Pixabay
Image Credit: achirathep, Pixabay

Cats are carnivores so in theory, they should be able to digest bones, right? Well, that isn’t always the case and if they don’t, the consequences of a cat eating a chicken bone can be life-threatening.

Blockages or tears in the gut

The biggest risk to your cat from eating a chicken bone is that he gets a blockage or a tear in his gastrointestinal tract (gut). Either of these would require your cat to have major surgery and this can be very risky.

A cooked bone is more dangerous for your cat than a raw bone. This is because the heating process causes them to become brittle which in turn makes them more likely to splinter into sharp shards if your cat decides to munch on one. Not only could this cause a tear in your cat’s guts, but it also has the potential to damage your cat’s other internal organs by causing a puncture.

It is important to be aware that raw chicken bones still have the potential to cause a gastrointestinal blockage or tear, even if the risk is lower.

Choking

cat is choking
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

There is always the risk that your cat could choke on a bone as he tries to eat it. If a bone accidentally becomes lodged in his airway, this could result in him struggling to breathe and he could even suffocate.

Smaller bones can also become stuck across the roof of your cat’s mouth which they are then unable to remove. This is at best uncomfortable for your cat and at worse can cause an injury to the soft tissues in your cat’s mouth. If this happens, your cat may be unable to fully close his mouth or shake his head violently in an attempt to dislodge the bone. Call your veterinarian if you suspect this has happened.

Bacteria and illness

Raw chicken bones can carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter which could cause your cat to become unwell. In addition, these bacteria are known as ‘zoonoses’, which means they are transmittable to humans from animals.

Once your cat is infected, these food poisoning bacteria could then be shed in his saliva and feces for many months afterward, posing a risk to any humans he comes into contact with. Children, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed are the most vulnerable but salmonella and campylobacter can cause serious illness even in a young otherwise healthy adult.

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My cat ate a chicken bone – what do I do?

cat eats a piece of chicken_Irina Kozorog_shutterstock
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

The most important thing to do is make your veterinarian aware that your cat has eaten a chicken bone and follow their advice. The advice they give you will be tailored to your cat and his specific circumstances. However, there are a few general advice points to follow:

  • Check your cat is breathing – Ensure that your cat has actually swallowed the bone and that he hasn’t inhaled it by accident. Make sure that your cat is breathing normally and seems well in himself. Sometimes bones can become stuck in your cat’s mouth or at the back of his throat.
  • Prevent your cat from eating any more chicken bones – Put your cat somewhere safe where the chicken bones are out of reach. Make sure he can’t escape; in case you need to take him to the vet
  • Call your veterinarian – If you are able, tell them how many chicken bones you think your cat has eaten, whether they were cooked or raw, and how long ago they ate them. Be sure to tell them if your cat has any signs of illness.

Never attempt to make your cat sick if he does eat a chicken bone. This is because a bone could get stuck somewhere as he brings it back up which could either cause him to choke or cause a life-threatening tear in his stomach or esophagus (food pipe).

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What happens if a cat eats a chicken bone?

Cat vomiting_Nils Jacobi_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

If he is lucky, your cat will digest the chicken bone without any problems. Even if he digests the bone, he might still get an upset tummy resulting in diarrhea.

If he doesn’t digest the bone properly then it could become stuck somewhere in his gut, either causing a blockage or a tear, or both. Always contact your veterinarian for tailored advice as soon as you become aware that your cat has swallowed a chicken bone.

In particular, contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat has eaten a chicken bone and is showing any of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Seeming uncomfortable or painful for example, sitting hunched up or growling when you touch his tummy
  • Not passing feces
  • A bloated tummy
  • Not eating and/or drinking
  • Seeming lethargic (having less energy than he normally would)

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How do you treat a cat that ate a chicken bone?

cat and vet. _Maria Sbytova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

If your cat has eaten a chicken bone then your veterinarian might suggest further tests to check where the bone is, the size of it and whether or not it is likely to cause problems. This will probably involve x-rays of your cat’s abdomen (tummy).

It might be that your veterinarian decides your cat just needs monitoring. If he is showing signs of illness then he might need monitoring in hospital but if he seems ok then you can usually monitor him at home. Always follow your veterinarian’s advice and make sure you understand any signs to watch out for.

Assuming your vet says it’s ok, some general advice for home monitoring of a cat that has eaten a chicken bone would be to:

  • Feed a bland food (for example, a canned gastrointestinal diet from your vet) little and often. This will help to encourage your cat to digest the bone and may also help cushion any sharp edges that the bone has as it passes through your cat’s gut.
  • Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water to prevent them from becoming dehydrated.
  • Monitor your cat’s stools carefully to check for any bone fragments and ensure that they continue to pass feces. If they stop producing feces or produce less feces than they normally would then this can be one of the symptoms of a blockage.

If your veterinarian suspects a blockage or a tear in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, your cat will require major surgery to remove the blockage and repair the damage if necessary. He will then require intensive hospitalization for a few days afterward and may not fully recover for a few weeks. In the worst cases, recovery after a cat has eaten a chicken bone is not always possible.

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How much is cat chicken bone surgery?

cat with medical supplies
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

This will vary hugely depending on the extent of surgery your cat needs, how long he needs to stay in hospital, and what type of medications he requires, as well as other factors. The cost of surgery could range anywhere from $800-$7,000. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a more precise estimate depending on your cat’s individual circumstances.

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Will my cat be ok if he ate a chicken bone?

Some cats might be lucky and digest the bone without any side effects, or they might have a mild tummy upset for a few days. If the chicken bone causes a blockage or a tear in your cat’s guts then your cat is likely to require a big surgery and even then, there is a chance that your cat may not survive. The earlier the blockage is treated, the better your cat’s prognosis. Always inform your veterinarian immediately If your cat has eaten a chicken bone so that they can give you the best advice.

Cats that are very old or very young, or cats that are receiving medication to lower the amount of stomach acid they produce, are likely to be more prone to complications, your veterinarian will be able to advise you further on this.

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Can a cat die from eating a chicken bone?

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Yes, there is a chance that a cat could die from eating a chicken bone. There are several major risks associated with your cat eating a chicken bone. The bone could either become lodged in the throat and cause your cat to choke, or it could cause irreversible damage to your cat’s intestines, or puncture his other internal organs.

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How do I stop my cat from eating chicken bones?

The best way to prevent your cat from eating chicken bones is to prevent them from having access to them in the first place! It is particularly important to make sure any cooked chicken bones are disposed of straight away in a secure bin, as not only do these pose the biggest risk, but they are also likely to be the most appealing to your cat!

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Conclusion

If you suspect that your cat has eaten a chicken bone then by far the best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian for advice. The sooner that your cat receives appropriate treatment, the more likely he is to recover and get back to his usual mischief!

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Featured Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock