Help! My Boxer Ate Chicken Bones

Sooner or later your Boxer is likely to have a “dietary indiscretion” like raiding the trash or stealing a spicy chicken wing — it happens to the most careful owners.

What to do if your Boxer eats something she shouldn’t depends on exactly what has been swallowed: eating a small cooked chicken bone may carry a different level of risk to a poisoned rat… which is different again to swallowing a wholly indigestible object like a tennis ball or sock.

In some cases it may be necessary to induce vomiting, or administer something to try to protect the digestive tract …whereas other circumstances may call for a wait and see approach.

I am not a vet. This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer here.

Foreign Bodies In Boxers

There is almost no end to the hazardous things that dogs including Boxers have been known to swallow, including leftovers from human meals and a wide variety of non-food items.

The list includes:

  • Cooked bones (Note: Raw bones are digestible and fine)
  • Corn cobs
  • Mango seeds
  • Chew toys
  • Sticks
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons, sanitary pads
  • Diapers, baby wipes
  • Balls, ropes, stuffed animals and other toys (dog’s, cat’s and children’s)
  • Magnets
  • Wood items e.g. skewers, ice cream sticks, wooden crate along with staples
  • Solidified industrial-strength wood glue
  • Disposable plastic ear buds
  • Latex teats
  • Glass ornaments, holiday decorations
  • Styrofoam particles contained in bean bags
  • Metal objects
  • Rocks, garden pebbles
  • Medicine dispensers
  • Wall hooks
  • Carpet
  • Aluminium foil
  • Clothing including underwear and socks
  • Plastic items
  • Towels
  • Cloth
  • Thread
  • String
  • Soap
  • Velcro
  • TV remotes
  • Ketchup sachets

Other things that can be dangerous for your Boxer include:

Some foods and drinks consumed regularly by pet Boxers can be unexpectedly unhealthy such as:

And then there are things often feared but which actually pose little threat, including:

  • Poop
  • Raw beef
  • Banana peel (Very fibrous and will come through undigested, but a small amount can usually pass)

Definitely toxic things your Boxer should never have access to include;

  • Rat poison, or baited rodents
  • Fox baits
  • Drugs (human or veterinary)
  • Plants, especially house plants, known to be toxic to dogs

Symptoms Of Intestinal Obstruction In Boxers

Vomiting is often the hallmark of a gastric foreign body.

However, symptoms will vary according to factors like where the object has lodged and whether it’s caused a complete or partial blockage.

If the swallowed article was small, dogs may show no sign of feeling unwell, remaining active and eating, drinking and pooping as normal.

Acute or complete obstructions often present as:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Vomiting (More common with upper GI obstructions, full blockages will mean a dog is unable to keep anything down, including fluids)
  • Abdominal pain, swollen or tender belly
  • Dehydration due to vomiting and not drinking

Chronic or partial obstructions, especially in the lower gastrointestinal tract, can produce all of the above symptoms, plus:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea

How Serious Is It If A Boxer Ate Something She Shouldn’t?

While it doesn’t always end well, swallowing something she shouldn’t isn’t an automatic disaster for a Boxer.

A worst case scenario involves a bowel obstruction which may or may not be accompanied by a perforation of the intestinal wall.

Indigestible objects can get stuck anywhere from the oesophagus (food pipe) to the intestines.

When a foreign body becomes lodged in the digestive tract, it stops the normal flow of gastrointestinal contents through the gut, which can trigger a cascade of effects including:

  • Loss of blood supply at the site of the obstruction
  • Disruption to fluid and electrolyte balance and intestinal motility (stomach contractions)
  • The intestine above the obstruction to enlarge and swell with secretions and swallowed air, leading to vomiting
  • Dehydration from vomiting, edema (trapped tissue fluids) of the bowel wall, loss of absorptive ability of the gut
  • Metabolic alkalosis (opposite of acidosis) if vomiting results in loss of gastric chloride, potassium and hydrogen ions
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the static intestinal tract
  • Ischemia (restricted blood flow)
  • Necrosis (tissue death) of the intestinal wall, which is extremely painful and releases toxic enzymes into the blood stream, causing the dog to go into shock
  • Perforation of the intestinal wall, allowing leakage of the acidic and bacteria-laden stomach contents into the abdomen)
  • Peritonitis (infection of the abdominal space)
  • Sepsis or bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream)

Dogs can also suffer:

  • Systemic illness due to break down and absorption of foreign material

Surgery to remove blockages and repair the internal damage isn’t always successful and dogs can die.

(More on surgery later.)

The good news is that a Boxer dog’s stomach is actually able to cope with most things, including things that shouldn’t be there.

The body often knows what to do and in many cases, the offending item will be promptly vomited back up, no harm done.

Quite miraculously, things like tampons have passed through dogs’ guts and come out the other end without causing any ill effects.

Mango pits, too, have been thrown up without intervention.

Some owners report dogs vomiting foreign bodies like socks and parts of tennis balls as long as several weeks after they were consumed — even months later in some cases.

If you know your Boxer has downed something potentially dangerous, you will want to weigh up whether, and how, to intervene.

How To Decide What To Do If Your Boxer Ate Something Hazardous

Questions to ask when considering how to respond to your Boxer swallowing something unfortunate include:

  • What size was the object? (Smaller objects may pass on their own)
  • How long ago was it swallowed? (More recent means it’s more likely to still be in the stomach, as opposed to lower down in the digestive tract)
  • Was the object digestible or indigestible? e.g. a tennis ball vs. a banana peel
  • Was the item sharp? — if so, inducing vomiting may be more complicated because it could cause more damage coming back up the oesophagus
  • What shape was the object? Long and thin “linear” articles like ribbon or string can be more difficult than “discrete” objects — digestive contractions can cause the string to bunch up the intestines like a concertina

If in doubt, always consult a veterinarian — if only by phone.

Quick action can make the difference between a good outcome and a poor one.

What To Do If Your Boxer Ate Chicken Bones

A classic scenario is the dog getting into the trash or snatching fast food leftovers off the counter or from the ground during a walk.

If your Boxer dog ate:

  • Rotisserie chicken (Roast chicken)
  • Chicken carcass
  • Chicken wing bones
  • Chicken thigh bone
  • Chicken bones in general

.. she will probably be alright.

Note that raw chicken bones are readily digestible and completely fine to feed your Boxer.

In fact, raw chicken frames (carcasses) have a major place in a Boxer’s ideal raw diet.

On the other hand, cooked bones of any kind should never be fed to Boxers, as cooking makes bones brittle and prone to splintering.

A splintered bone can pierce the digestive tract.

Luckily, it’s not uncommon for a Boxer to wolf the chicken bones down whole, without crunching them.

If the bones made it to the stomach without lodging in the throat or piercing the esophagus, the next problem is that cooked bones are indigestible compared to raw meaty bones.

Nevertheless, a small cooked chicken bone may still make it through the digestive tract without causing a blockage or injury.

In most cases, where a Boxer has swallowed cooked chicken bones:

  • The usual recommendation is to monitor your dog closely and seek medical attention immediately if she develops any signs of an obstruction (symptoms outlined earlier)
  • You may wish to give your Boxer several slices of plain white bread — the theory is it helps to sweep the digestive tract free of any sharp fragments (This can also work for chicken bone stuck in the throat, causing coughing or hacking)
  • It’s generally not advised to induce vomiting in the case of swallowed chicken bones, as the bones may puncture the esophagus or lodge in the throat.
  • Your dog may well throw the bones up herself, a few days later
  • It can take several days for the signs to show up though, so keep a close eye on your Boxer until you’re confident the danger has passed
  • Diarrhea is often par for course with any kind of digestive upset, even a minor one
  • Watch the poop for signs of the bones passing, but also for any blood — Bright red blood typically comes from bleeding in the lower GI tract. More worrying is black and tarry stool which can indicate internal bleeding in the upper digestive tract. While blood can come from an irritated gut, and isn’t necessarily a sign of a major problem, it can be

Home Remedies When A Boxer Swallows Something

There are a variety of home remedies for swallowed chicken bones and other dietary mishaps.

These methods may or may not be appropriate for your Boxer’s circumstances.

Feeding Bread

Feeding some slices of white bread is perhaps your safest option in case of swallowed chicken bones, glass or other sharp objects.

Perhaps your Boxer knocked a glass dish off the counter and ate the contents, along with some shards of glass.

As discussed above, white bread may coat sharp objects with something soft, to ease their passage through the digestive tract.

Soaked Cotton Balls

Another alternative that some owners say has worked is feeding cotton balls soaked in milk, cream or half-and-half coffee cream.

The dosage is reportedly five to seven balls for dogs the size of a typical adult Boxer.

If you’re going to do this make certain the cotton balls are 100 per cent actual cotton, not the cosmetic puffs made from synthetic fibers.

Hopefully, within 24 hours, the swallowed object will be accounted for — either thrown up or excreted, safely encased in the cotton.

Inducing Vomiting

This can be done with hydrogen peroxide in an emergency, but is best done in consultation with a vet.

This may be appropriate for potential life and death situations involving poison or drug overdoses, and as an initial response when there is no vet nearby.

Some owners report using salt to induce vomiting: a few teaspoonfuls on the tongue, repeated after five minutes if the object doesn’t come up at first.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is sometimes used to absorb toxins in the gut.

Here again, veterinary advice is best.

How To Prevent Your Boxer Eating Dangerous Things

  • Boxer-proof your house for a new puppy or rescue, with self-closing bins, baby gates and closed doors to carefully control your pup’s access to areas that may contain hazards —e.g. bathrooms and kids’ bedrooms with objects strewn across the floor
  • Supervise — Boxers can be unpredictable, even if they have never shown any tendency to swallow inappropriate objects, stay vigilant and don’t give them the opportunity
  • Be especially careful if your Boxer is ever medicated — drugs like prednisone can mess with a dog’s personality, make them ravenous and prone to eating anything they can fit in their mouth
  • Be aware that conditions like acid reflux can cause dogs to act out of character and swallow non-food items they would normally have no interest in, in an effort to soothe the burning sensation
  • When first changing the diet from kibble to fresh, raw food or when fasting your dog, it can sometimes cause a change in eating habits which may include an interest in eating things like bark and banana peels
  • Always pick up anything that could pose a hazard to your Boxer, and keep tempting dangerous items out of reach
  • Don’t leave half-eaten meals on coffee tables and promptly clear the table of scraps after dinner — be careful around the holidays when there are guests and people are distracted
  • Make sure all family members and household guests understand the dog is not to be fed “treats”
  • Push cooked meats containing bones to the back of the bench and teach your Boxer not to counter surf (Wifi cameras can be useful in monitoring your pup)
  • Be alert for rubbish your Boxer may consider edible when out walking
  • Teach your Boxer not to eat random things off the ground without your permission
  • Train a strong “Leave it” command

A special note about soiled nappies, tampons, sani-pads and other feminine hygiene products: these articles can be particularly appealing to dogs.

Be exceedingly careful with bathroom bins and even underwear in laundry hampers or on the bathroom floor.

Dogs have been known to extract and eat pads put by owners into makeshift diapers worn during a Boxer’s heat cycle.

There are specially designed, absorbent dog diapers for this purpose, known as bitch’s britches.

It may not be wise to let a dog wear these items when unsupervised.

Surgery For Intestinal Obstruction In Boxers

Surgery to remove non-food items from the guts of dogs (and cats) is common, constituting tens of millions of dollars worth of claims each year to pet insurance companies.

If your Boxer is suspected of ingesting a foreign body, your vet will:

  • Palpate the abdomen
  • Probably draw blood
  • Perform abdominal scans to either rule out an obstruction or confirm it and locate the object

Note that ultrasounds have been shown to be much more effective than traditional radiographs in identifying GI foreign bodies.

If the item is still in the stomach, vomiting may be used to eject it.

If an object has made it to the colon, it will often manage to successfully pass without intervention.

Foreign bodies can be extracted either by:

  • Endoscopy (inserting a long flexible tube down the throat into the stomach— for some discrete foreign bodies)
  • Gastrotomy (surgical incision into the stomach — usually needed for linear foreign bodies that have resulted in symptoms)

Depending on how long the obstruction has been present and how far the dog’s condition has deteriorated, she may be too weak for immediate surgery.

It’s sometimes necessary to first stabilize her condition with IV fluids, pain meds and perhaps antibiotics.

Boxers are not among the breeds overrepresented in surgeries to remove foreign bodies.

The breeds most commonly affected include:

  • English Bull Terriers
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Border Collies

Younger dogs are thought to be more prone to swallowing non-food items.

Remember, anesthetic protocols for Boxers must not include the sedative acepromazine, which can cause dangerously low blood pressure and fatal heart arrhythmias in the breed.

Prognosis For Dogs Operated On For Foreign Bodies

According to a 2009 study, the procedure has a high survival rate of 80 to 94 per cent.

Increased mortality after surgery is associated with:

  • Delays in treatment (More than three days before treatment has been associated with an increase in complications)
  • Long and thin swallowed objects e.g. string or ribbon (known as a linear foreign body or LFB) as opposed to “discrete” foreign bodies which are easier to extract
  • Plastic or fabric linear foreign bodies
  • Multiple intestinal procedures

Factors that had no significant bearing on the success of the surgery include:

  • Whether obstruction partial or complete
  • Location of the blockage in the alimentary canal

Healing can take weeks or months, with the first three to five days critical.

Delicate cases may need several days of intensive care after surgery.

Possible post-operative complications include:

  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Systemic inflammatory response
  • Septic peritonitis

Conclusion

If your Boxer has eaten something hazardous, don’t beat yourself up about it as accidents happen.

Stay calm and assess the risk before choosing the best course of action.

Monitor your dog’s condition closely.

Don’t hesitate to consult a vet early — perhaps an emergency center — as they have access to additional tools like scans and can better manage interventions like induced vomiting.

Outcomes for the removal of obstructions via endoscopy or surgery tend to be better the sooner dogs receive help.

For the future, decide on what changes you can make to avoid a repeat.

References

Brock, Sandy, Cotton Ball Remedy For Ingested Sharp Objects, Irish Wolfhounds.org, Retrieved from website August 2021

Cornell, Karen and Koenig, Amy, Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies, Small Animal Surgical Emergencies, Wiley, 2015

Hayes, G, Gastrointestinal foreign bodies in dogs and cats: a retrospective study of 208 cases, Journal of Small Animal Practice, 2009

Horstman, Christopher L et al, Gastric outflow obstruction after ingestion of wood glue in a dog, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 2003

Pyka, Ingrid, Foreign Body Ingestion Threatens Pets: Understanding The Dangers from A Veterinarian’s Perspective, Nationwide Pet Health Zone, Retrieved from website August 2021

Rawlinson, Stan, Superb Collection Of Tips For Dogs And Cats, Romeoville Humane Society, Retrieved from website August 2021

U din Dar, Mehraj, Gastric Foreign Bodies in Dogs — A Report of Five Cases, Intas Polivet, 2010