I've always been told not to let dogs eat cooked chicken bones since they can easily splinter/fracture and cause problems for the dog but I've never seen any satisfactory evidence of this and I am afraid that I am denying my dog some tasty snacks based only on superstition and hearsay.

I have a German Shepherd myself and, besides all the feathers, I can't imagine her having much trouble eating a raw chicken in the wild if she were hungry and managed to catch one. She also regularly splinters beef/pork rib bones and other similar prepared treats.

The best answer I can find on the internet among anecdotal evidence, arguments from authority and other noise is that the difference between raw and cooked chicken bones is what presents the major problem.

I am certain there are stories of dogs choking on cooked chicken bones just like there are stories of dogs choking on other bones, tennis balls and treats they commonly chew on. What I am really interested in knowing is if the rumors of digestive problems such as intestinal perforation have any evidence behind them.

  • 3
    Ha! I remember asking this same question in 1994 on alt.folklore.urban! I got back two anecdotes: one claiming to be a vet's assistant who had never heard of any such injuries in x years of work, and another claiming to be a dog owner still clutching the vet's bill for the operation on her dog's throat.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 13:54
  • Oh, and the legend I heard was specific to cooked bones, which were considered more likely to split and form sharp pieces that could pierce.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 13:55
  • I've spent quite a bit of time in Indonesia and there they let the dogs eat anything, which a lot of the time is left over chicken bones! I sometimes wonder whether here in the west we've gone a bit soft. However, different breed of dog over there and possibly more robust so I'd say it would depend on the (breed of) dog.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 14:16
  • I was always told the problem was they splinter and the splinters can poke holes in their throat or stommach or elsewhere in the path and cause them to bleed and get infected and all the other problems that go along with that type of trama to tissues of the digestive systems.
    – Chad
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 17:23
  • I can easily say that bones of industrial farm grown chickens are quite harmless. The calcium content is very low and so the bone is soft, yielding and doesn't form sharp splinters. OTOH, chickens grown in small, "organic" outdoor farms have bones that are much harder and their splinters can be dangerous.
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


Partial Answer

There was a study in 2010 which was one of several that looked at techniques for removing foreign bodies from the oesophagus (throats) of dogs.

Oesophageal foreign bodies in dogs: factors affecting success of endoscopic retrieval, Florence Juvet, Manuel Pinilla, Robert E Shiel, and Carmel T Mooney, Ir Vet J. 2010; 63(3): 163–168. doi:10.1186/2046-0481-63-3-163

Thirty nine (86.6%) foreign bodies were bones, including 23 chops/vertebrae (12 lamb, 6 pork and 5 unidentified species), 2 chicken bones, 1 turkey bone, 1 beef bone and 12 other bone types for which species was not reported. There was one each of the following: commercial dried pig ear, piece of cooked chicken breast, potato, piece of silicone, and stick.

This shows that having bones of various types, including (but not limited to) chicken, is common enough to be able to try different methods of removal.

However, it doesn't give a good answer to the question "how likely is a dog to get injured, each time it eats a chicken with bones?" It doesn't address the risk factors of cooked versus raw. It doesn't address other injuries. It also suggests that innocuous foods are also a risk (a potato? a cooked chicken breast? a stick!) making it difficult to guarantee a dog's safety.

  • How often is kind of irrelevant if it is not extremely rare. It only has to happen one time to your pet.
    – Chad
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 17:21
  • 3
    @Chad: One time in a million meals, say, is probably often enough to be able to study but not often enough to bother avoiding. Compare to crossing the street: dangerous enough to cause hundreds of deaths per year but not dangerous enough to stop people from doing it.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 1:24
  • I would say it is not often enough to warrent a law prohibiting it but enough of a risk that I will not feed my dogs chicken bones. I will say that they have gotten them out of the trash before and I have never lost a pet to it. Though again I do not feed them chicken bones regularly. Supposedly my father (lived on a farm had lots of outdoor dogs as a kid) had one of their farm dogs die from it but I think it is more myth than fact but still not worth taking the risk to me.
    – Chad
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 14:24
  • 1
    Just a thought, but could it be that dogs who are used to tinned food are more likely to be caught out by bones and other "you need to chew it, stupid" artefacts?
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 8:43
  • Looks like lamb chops cause problems more often than chicken, so maybe the claim is wrong.
    – algiogia
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 14:37

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