What to Do if Your Dog Eats a Dead Bird

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"My dog ate a dead bird. Should I be worried?" While this may sound like a strange question, veterinarians hear it more often than you might think, and chances are that if you're reading this article, you've had the same question. What strikes you as gross and sad — a dead bird lying on the sidewalk — looks and smells like a surprise treat to your pooch, and before you realize what's happening, they've gobbled it up. But could this be dangerous? Here's what you need to know.

My Dog Ate a Dead Bird. Should I Be Worried?

Mutt dog lying on ground in a field licking lips next to a dead bird.While dogs are known to eat anything and everything and seem to have stomachs made of steel, eating any sort of dead animal can pose a health risk. Dead animals may carry bacteria, parasites or toxins that could make your dog seriously ill.

Here are the main dangers of eating a dead bird:

  • Botulism: Waterfowl such as gulls and ducks can contract a disease called botulism if they eat infected fish, says BeautyOfBirds. Your dog could contract this disease if they eat a bird that had the illness.
  • Exposure to toxins: If your dog ate a dead bird that had ingested poison, pesticides, environmental toxins or a poisoned animal or insect, the bird could still have active toxins in its digestive system that could get passed on to your dog. The effect of these substances on your dog depends on how much poison was still in the bird's system, the type of toxin and your dog's size.

What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Dead Bird

Brown and white hunting dog carrying a dead water fowl across a field.If you see your dog eat a dead bird, take note, if possible, of the type of bird, how long you think it'd been dead — did it look fresh or had it begun to decay? — and how much your dog ingested. Call your vet and let them know what happened. They might have specific advice for your dog based on what they know about your dog's age, size, etc.

If you didn't see your dog eat the bird, keep a close eye on your dog for signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, appetite loss, dehydration and lethargy or weakness. Let your vet know if you notice any of these signs; they may tell you to bring your pup in right away, or they might ask you to continue to monitor the situation for the next day or so. Your vet may also advise you to stop feeding your dog their regular food and switch to a therapeutic dog food that can be easier on their digestive system. If your dog doesn't show signs of improvement within 24 to 48 hours, you should take them to the vet.

Using Dogs to Fetch Game

While your dog is likely trained not to eat the bird, if you take your dog hunting with you and have them bring back bird game such as pheasants, geese or ducks, make sure to keep an eye on your dog. While it's more likely to contract bacteria through digestion, simply caring a wild bird in their mouths does pose some small risks. If you notice your dog acting differently after a hunt, make sure to contact your veterinarian to get them in for a check-up.

While eating a dead bird rarely causes dogs serious health issues, it's always best not to take a chance with your beloved pup's health. If your dog ate a bird, monitor them and keep in touch with your vet.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her backyard while drinking her morning coffee.