A picture of a black dog on a green boat at risk of eating fish bones

Can Dogs Eat Fish Bones?

Dogs should never eat fish bones. Although fish is a safe and healthy meat for dogs, the bones can cause intestinal damage or blockage. Keep reading to learn what to do when your dog eats fish bones and when to visit a veterinarian.

The Dog Tale is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you buy something through our site; this doesn’t change our recommendations.

Dogs love to eat fish. It’s a natural source of protein and fatty amino acids, and most dogs can’t help but sneak a bite of any table food you leave unattended. But this could be a problem if the fish your dog ate includes bones. Keep reading to learn what to do when your dog eats fish bones and when to visit a veterinarian.

Lemonade Pet Insurance

Lemonade Pet Insurance

  • Protect your pet in seconds
  • Accident & Illness + Optional Wellness coverage available
  • Policies start at just $9.99/mo

In this guide:

Can dogs eat fish bones?

No, it is not safe for dogs to eat fish bones. The fact that fish bones tend to be thin and small leads many to believe that they are harmless and will pass easily through a dog’s digestive system if swallowed. Technically, this could be true; it is possible for the bones to travel the entire digestive tract with absolutely no issues. But if the bones don’t pass through smoothly, the effects can be disastrous—if not lethal.

My dog ate fish bones. What should I do?

Before you do anything else, check your dog’s mouth to see if there is a bone or other foreign body that you can prevent your dog from swallowing.

If your dog ate fish bones, you should closely monitor them for any signs of distress or unusual behavior. It’s crucial you keep an eye on your dog as the situation can escalate quickly. If you notice any of the symptoms below, rush your pet to an emergency veterinary clinic right away.

Possible signs of danger:

  • Pawing at their face (This could be nothing, but they are likely to do this if they are choking or the bone is stuck in their mouth)
  • Coughing or choking
  • Sudden bad breath (a sign of a foreign object stuck in mouth)
  • Loss of appetite or refusal to drink
  • Vomiting, retching, or gagging
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea or blood in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive thirst
Want to chat with a vet?

Want to chat with a vet?

  • Unlimited consultations by video/text
  • $3,000/year emergency fund + Rx discounts
  • Cover up to 6 pets for just $24/month
  • Try it FREE for 7 days

What to do if your dog swallowed fish bones

If your dog is doing well and shows no signs of any of the health issues listed above, VMD Lauren Jones advises you to wait and observe your dog for changes or signs of unusual behavior. If your dog does begin to show any of the symptoms above, take your pet to your vet immediately.

If your dog is eating, drinking, and acting normally, feeding them a bulkier diet may help move the bones through their digestive tract without causing any blockage or damage to the internal organ walls. You can try feeding your dog bread with peanut butter, rice, pumpkin, or boiled chicken.

DO NOT induce vomiting unless advised to by your veterinarian. Vomiting sharp bones risks perforating the esophagus on the way back up.

Prevention is always best. Keep fish bones away from your dog. If there’s a chance your dog can reach them in the trash can, dispose of them elsewhere and consider purchasing a garbage bin with a lockable lid. The potential for damage to your pup is too high to take the chance.

Potential problems if your dog ate fish bones

Since fish bones are small, brittle, and have sharp edges, they can be very dangerous. These attributes allow fragments to lodge themselves easily in your dog’s mouth, esophagus, stomach, and anywhere along their intestinal tract.

Surgeries to resolve intestinal blockages can cost more than $5,000.

The AKC cautions that if the bones don’t get lodged during their digestive route, they can perforate the walls of the stomach and intestines. This intestinal tear then allows the food, bacteria, and intestinal contents to leak into the abdomen. This leakage can cause a life-threatening abdominal infection called peritonitis. Lodged fish bones are not only painful, but they can also require a costly vet visit to treat the issue.

Lemonade Pet Insurance

Lemonade Pet Insurance

  • Protect your pet in seconds
  • Accident & Illness + Optional Wellness coverage available
  • Policies start at just $9.99/mo

>> Read more: Lemonade Pet Insurance Review

Treatment

There are only two ways to get swallowed fish bones out: wait for them to pass through the entire digestive tract, or to surgically remove them. If your dog is showing some of the symptoms indicating there is a problem, you need to get them to a veterinary clinic right away.

You can expect your vet to perform a physical examination. If the condition warrants, they may use an ultrasound or radiographs to obtain an abdominal image; this will show if a foreign body is causing obstruction or gastrointestinal perforation. They may prescribe antibiotics to treat possible bacterial infection. Surgery may be required to remove the foreign body or to address significant trauma to the GI tract.

>> Read more: My Dog Ate a Cotton Ball! What Do I Do?

FAQs

Can dogs eat raw fish bones?

No, dogs should not eat raw fish bones. Any bones pose a risk to your dog, but undercooked or raw bones are potentially the most dangerous.

Can dogs eat cooked fish bones?

No, dogs should not eat cooked fish bones. The cooking process does not make the bones digestible enough to safely pass through the GI tract. Avoid feeding your dog cooked or raw fish bones.

>> Read more: Wagmo Pet Insurance Review

Can dogs digest fish bones?

No, dogs cannot digest fish bones effectively enough to be safe. Feeding your dog fish bones is risky and could be fatal. If you want to feed your dog fish, debone it or opt for canned fish. Canned tuna is a popular and safe option.

Can dogs eat fish with bones?

No, do not feed your pet any fish that still contains bones. Fish is a healthy source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, but you should completely debone it before feeding it to your dog.

Can dogs eat salmon bones?

No. Although salmon is a heathy food for dogs, you must remove all bones before feeding it to your pet.

>> Read more: Can Dogs eat Nutella?

Bottom line

Keep fish bones away from dogs, even if they love to devour the fish head or the carcass left over from your dinner. It’s simply not worth the risk of your dog suffering from perforated intestines, internal bleeding, a potentially fatal blockage, and costly vet bills.

If your dog ate fish bones and they show any of the warning signs listed above, take them to an emergency vet clinic immediately. You can chat with a vet free here.

Let's bark a little

Get our latest updates and articles right in your email.
We won't bark too much. Promise.