Beware of Chicken Bones When Walking Your Dog

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rob

“Dear PoPville,

I’d like to take a moment to share a warning with you that I thought perhaps you could pass on to the Shaw pet owner community. I regularly walk my dog down 7th street, and usually, it is without incident. However, Friday night my dog unfortunately came upon a chicken bone that had been discarded on the sidewalk (between P and O) and managed to swallow it before I had the chance to pry it from him. Although dogs are often depicted happily gnawing on bones, cooked bones can easily splinter and cause internal bleeding or gastrointestinal distress if it causes a blockage. These chicken wing ones in particular are distressing because they can generally be swallowed but may be too large to pass. If you’re lucky, your dog will be able to digest it and escape the experience without harm. At the other end, your dog could potentially die from internal injuries or even choke on the bone as he tries to swallow it.

In my case, it was dark outside, so I didn’t notice the bone before my dog picked it up, and on top of that I wasn’t aware that I should be on the lookout for this life-threatening item on the sidewalk – especially since there was a trashcan 4 steps away. I have seen the bones before, but the last time was several months ago, so it wasn’t fresh on my mind. And my dog almost paid the ultimate price for that. Which is why I am reaching out to you – I thought my fellow Shaw residents should be aware so that they can be on the lookout themselves and avoid the panic and potential harm to their fur baby. My dog has been throwing up all morning and extremely lethargic as a result of this incident. I’ve been on the phone with the emergency vet several times and was just about to take him in when he at last threw up the piece of bone he had eaten the night before. Someone else might not be so lucky.

Just wanted to share.”

70 Comment

  • ah

    More obnoxious product to discard on street:

    chicken bones or cigarette butts?

  • This completely drives me crazy. I have two dogs in Shaw and frequently see chicken bones on the street. I don’t understand how people can just throw chicken bones on the ground – it is SO dangerous and so hard (no matter how vigilant you are) to stop your dog picking it up. GRRRRR.

  • This is a problem all over DC. I live in Columbia Heights and in the past few weeks I’ve had to pry chicken bones from by dog’s mouth a number of times. I missed it once, but she luckily chewed it thoroughly. City dog problems.

  • Have noticed the problem has gotten a bit better in Brightwood Park/Petworth which is a considerable feet with the popeyes right down the street from my house. It’s not 100% fixed, but not nearly as bad as when I moved in a few years ago.

    • I have noticed this too. I live a block away from the Popeye’s, and when we moved in in 2012, we were constantly finding chicken bones thrown not just in the street, but in our yard. People actually took the time to throw their food waste into our yard. We haven’t found any bones in our yard in quite a while, and we find considerably less ones on walks with the dog. I’m not sure what the catalyst for the change as been, especially since it seems that others are still having major problems with this further south in the neighborhood (as evidenced on this thread).

      • I unfortunately think this decline in chicken bones can be contributed (at least in part) to my dog – we moved to Brightwood Park about 2 years ago. No matter how hard I try, there are a few that he is able to eat before I can stop him. It is easier to stop him from chasing squirrels than it is to stop him from eating a chicken bone. Scientists need to figure out how to harness his chicken-bone radar and apply it to military weapons or the search for extraterrestrial life.

        As a point of comparison, we used to live in Annapolis, and the chicken bone problem was just as bad there as it is in DC. Perhaps its not a “city” problem, but a problem with Americans in general.

  • I live on the Unit Block of Rhode Island NW. NEVER WALK YOUR PETS ON THE MEDIAN!!!! When people are leaving the city after work they get some chicken or wings to eat while they are stuck in traffic. When they get stuck next to the medians they throw their bones in the median.

    My dogs had a feeding frenzy when I walked them there….never again.

  • yup, happened all the time when I lived in Georgetown.

  • This is a huge problem in my neighborhood with two grocery stores and a wing shop within a few block radius of one another. Some helpful information I heard from my vet when my dog had not yet passed a chicken wing was that dogs on a high protein diet (high quality dog food) are able to pass them more easily and they can actually disintegrate and pass with everything else.

  • A couple years ago I took my car into the shop for something and the mechanic found a handful of chicken bones on top of the engine. Presumably a rat had rounded them up from greater Park View and enjoyed the ambience of that covered, heated dining room.

  • My partner will read my comment, and know what I am going to say immediately as she starts reading this…I do not understand the littering- there are trashcans EVERYWHERE. I also dont know why people insist on tossing their chicken bones on the street, its disgusting. Probably one of the most distressing things I have seen in recent months was a morbidly obese parking enforcement officer dump her bag full of mcdonalds trash out the window of her District Parking Enforcement car, get out and crumble up the bag and throw it over into the Loitering area at 7th and T. Awesome display of behavior. Also keep a lookout for all of the synthetic weed that gets spilled up by the planters at the Howard Theater.

  • Its not just Shaw, its everywhere in this city. Up in Petworth I fish chicken bones out of my dog’s mouth several times a week. As some of you may know, Yellow Labs eat every damn thing – so constant vigilance is required when walking down the street. I find the most treacherous zone is around the Safeway at GA and Randolph. There are chicken bones everywhere.

    When my dog gets a hols of one – I have to wrestle him, pry his mouth open, stick my hand in and yank it out. This is not only annoying for me, scary for him and I suspect passers by think I’m some crazy person.

    Full disclosure: I too love chicken wings – I just use trash cans. I know, its shocking.

  • Chicken bones have been a problem in Columbia Heights for all of the 9 years we’ve lived here and had a dog. Luckily, ours has never gotten sick from them. Especially since I stopped trying to pry them out of her mouth about 7 years ago when I reached in, expecting a chicken bone, and instead pulled out a handful of shit. I still choose not to think too hard about where/what that came from…

    • OMG, that is horrible!

    • Ahh, I’ve been there with my dog. That’s when I made the sad realization that my dog likes to eat cat poop. And with all the alley cats in the neighborhood, you can only imagine. I keep her away from all grassy or mulchy areas on stretches where the alley cats live. My vet explained to me that dogs LOVE cat poop. It’s like the best treat in the world to them and fortunately it’s not harmful. Its pretty disgusting though. So as a result, I have to hear a cracking noise before I reach in her mouth.

    • emvee

      I once pulled a dead mouse out of my dog’s throat. It was traumatic.

  • This is a huge problem for me in NoMa as well. My Labradoodle has received treatment at the vet twice from chicken bones (caused intentional issues), and last week I had to rush my Bichon to the emergency vet when she had one lodged in her throat. My vet suggested I muzzle them while walking them, so I have started doing so. They hate it, but it’s for their safety and health.

    • Good idea on muzzling (even if it’s a bummer for the dogs).

    • Used to live in Noma and walked my dog regularly on the MBT – especially on a weekend morning, we mostly kept him to the middle of the path to avoid the bones that were EVERYWHERE.

  • Why are there so many Chinese carry-outs named some variation of “YUM”???? The Full Yum? What the hell is that?

    • There are also several named “danny’s”. Different variations of the name, but “Dannies” on upshur in Petworth and believe it or not, there is both a “Danny’s” and a “Good Dannys” on H NE. I believe there is a fourth somewhere in the city, but can’t remember where… maybe just north of Brookland?? In case you’re wondering, “Good Dannys” is the best of the bunch. I once ordered 2 lobsters tails and totinos pizza rolls in the same meal. The next day the sign for ” two lobster tails $20″ had promptly been taken down.

  • The main problem is that people are stupid. And there is no shortage and rarely a cure for stupid people. The only possible solution would be to have these chicken wing establishments post a sign that warns that discarding chicken bones on the street endangers dogs. Other than that, we have to be vigilant. And Lord knowns that stupid people love some Howard China.

    • I’d say “selfish,” “uncaring,” and “unmannered” rank above – or at least at the same level as – “stupid.”

  • bfinpetworth

    Not just DC. I now live in Fort Myers Beach and in the past week had to pry leg bones out of my Rottweiler’s mouth twice (and that ain’t easy!), once in my neighborhood and once walking on the beach. There are thoughtless people everywhere, although it is definitely worse in parts of DC than many places. I used to always be on alert but now that I live on an island, I had begun to relax about that hazard. But no more.

  • Sparta

    Very sorry to hear about your dog’s distress, but thank you for raising the topic. Calls to end litter seem to start and stop at dog poop, but chicken bones are almost never brought up. Tough fines should be imposed on both forms of litter–both are unhygienic and draw rats and other vermin–and chicken bones go above and beyond by their potential to literally kill a dog.

  • It’s a terrible problem by the 7-11 and around the Takoma metro where I walk my dog. I pry chicken bones out of her mouth multiple times each week.

  • I live up the 16th Street Corridor but usually walk my dogs after dark on Connecticut Avenue — sometimes in the Cleveland Park stretch near the Uptown theater, sometimes up near Politics and Prose. And very often one of the other of my basset hounds find chicken bones during the course of our walk. Such a bizarre phenomenon. I can only suppose that people who just throw them on the street or into “grassy” area believe that doing so causes no harm given that the bones are “natural” and biodegradable. They are wrong as those bone bring bugs and rodents — and, indeed, can very much arm a walking dog who believes that he/she has found a treat “freebie.” Shame!

  • No one wants to hear this, but there is another option. Train your dog to not eat things it finds. I have a 10 year old dog that I trained from a puppy to never eat things he finds on walks. He walks right past chicken bones all the time and ignores them. I can’t control what the population of DC will do with their chicken bones, but I can control how my dog reacts when he finds them. If you train your dog, it won’t matter if it’s dark out, or you weren’t paying attention, or you didn’t see the bones, or…
    Owning a dog comes with responsibilities. If you live in a city, the dog will come across dangerous things like chicken bones, rat poison, etc. It will also be in dangerous situations, like when a squirrel runs across the road and the dog wants to chase it. It’s your job, as the human, to train it to not react to these situations.

    • + 1. Dog owners (I am one) need to take responsibility. Looking out for chicken bones is no different than looking for other hazards on the sidewalk, cleaning up after your dog, walking your dog on a leash, paying attention while at a dog park, keeping your dog on the sidewalk at intersections until you can safely cross. It’s all part of being a responsible and engaged dog owner.

    • You’re not wrong. Owners should train their dogs to ignore all sorts of city phenomena. The problem is, it takes time and meanwhile, tasty-smelling chicken bones are everywhere, tempting puppies and dogs-in-training who don’t know any better yet.
      My dog is about 80% there with chicken bones, 95% with squirrels, and 100% with cats. (He will probably always dodge away from delivery men with handtrucks though.) Still, he’s learning. I keep him on a short leash while we’re walking, I’m alert to whatever he’s watching, but the fact is, he has a sharper nose than I do and he’s closer to the ground. He’s always going to find the chicken bone before I do. He is so much better than he was when I adopted him a year ago, when fishing a bone out of his mouth was a weekly occurrence. But the fact is, the bones shouldn’t be there in the first place. Humans should know better than to throw their garbage on the ground.

  • UGH! This is literally everywhere in the city. And what sucks about it is that if I see one, I can’t get close enough to them with my dogs in tow to either pick them up and throw them out, or at the very least kick them into the street, a little more out of the way of dogs reach. I have to just stay as far from them as I can.

    Also, it’s not just that they can get lodged – chicken bones splinter in a way that can do a ton of damage once they get into your dog’s stomach. Ugh – I just don’t get it – there are like 5 trashcans (not to mention tons of personal ones that just stay on the sidewalk) in the one block radius of my house and there’s always all kinds of garbage on the street. I just don’t get why people can’t hold onto their trash for 10 feet…

  • No doubt that there are litterers out there, but aren’t rats also to blame. Sure you can use the trash can, but won’t the rats dig it out?

    • Rats generally don’t go more than 100 feet from their burrows. The street trash cans in my neighborhood are emptied on a daily basis. I would bet that 99% of chicken bones on the street were put there by litterers, not rats.
      I don’t think rats do a whole lot of dragging of trash — I think they generally consume food on the premises, as it were — but people should also do a better job of securing their trash bins in their back (or front) yards. About a month after I bought my house, I had an experience where I opened the trash bin and a rat leapt up from inside and bounced off my arm before scurrying away. Ever since then, I’ve put bricks on top of my trash and recycling bins.

    • There are plenty of public trash cans in MtP that are <100 feet from prime rat real estate, and I see the critters scurrying back and forth nearly every night when I'm out walking the dog.

      • Fair enough. In my neighborhood they don’t have to go as far, since people make the trashcans in the alley so inviting to them. 😉
        I still think it’s implausible that rats are removing properly-disposed-of chicken bones from public trash cans and leaving them on/near sidewalks for hapless dogs to encounter.

  • This is one of the nastiest f***ing habits of stupid people in DC. It also is just baffling to me why you would want to eat a bunch of wings while walking around the neighborhood instead of stopping and sitting down to eat your own food??!! Such a stupid DC habit. Don’t even get me started on people actually disposing of their garbage in a trash can after that…. I have lived in other cities and have never seen the chicken bone problem as bad as DC.

    Our dog has swallowed part of a chicken bone once while walking her through the neighborhood in part again by some careless idiot. And of course she swallowed it before I could get it out of her mouth. This in turn ended up puncturing the bottom of her stomach a day later and resulted in a very costly surgery of thousands of dollars. Fortunately she survived the surgery, but I am always wary when she is smelling the ground for things.

    Please people, if you have a friend doing this please encourage them to just put the chicken wings in the trash and save everybody the headache. Otherwise I think the best way to deal with this is to have neighborhood cleanup days. It definitely gets more pronounced during the warmer months.

    • “Don’t even get me started on people actually disposing of their garbage in a trash can after that
. I have lived in other cities and have never seen the chicken bone problem as bad as DC.”
      I’ve got to agree – this is a very DC problem. I’ve lived in major cities on the West coast and in NYC, neither of which have this issue. Chicken bones are literally EVERYWHERE. It’s bizarre. In my 4 years of living in DC, I see someone at least monthly sucking on chicken wings in public (usually at a bus stop) and tossing the bone onto the sidewalk or street.
      As for a solution, I think every takeout box from a wing shop should have a reminder on it “PLEASE THROW YOUR CHICKEN BONES IN THE TRASH.”

      • I seriously disagree with this being labeled a “DC problem” or “DC habit”. Over the course of the past fourteen years, my dog and I have lived in Brooklyn (Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy), Columbus, OH and Atlanta, GA. We have visited even more cities along the East Coast and taken very long walks in all of them. Bones were located in all places. Though I will admit the amount of bones found sharply increased in the larger cities – – – NYC and DC. But I attribute that to an overall litter increase in these larger cities.

    • “why you would want to eat a bunch of wings while walking around the neighborhood instead of stopping and sitting down to eat your own food??!!”

      Because people are so cheap, they don’t want to sit down and have to leave a tip.

      There’s also the whole passive aggressive thing. The more it peeves people, the more they do it. Kinda like peeing on the rim at a snooty restaurant out of spite.

      • “There’s also the whole passive aggressive thing. The more it peeves people, the more they do it.”
        Chicken bone eaters have a lot in common with a sizable segment of Republicans! Who would’ve thunk?!?

      • I’m talking about just even sitting down on a curb and eating them! Or a bench. Not even eating them in the wing place, but just sitting down outside somewhere to eat it. What’s the rush in eating them while walking around? Such a weird habit especially with chicken wings which are usually pretty messy to begin with.

  • It’s a lot better in petworth since sweet mango closed.

  • I too am not a fan of the bones on the street. I admit that my walks in Petworth, Columbia Heights, and 14th Street Heights have greatly improved over the years, however, let’s just be realistic.

    The problem is NOT going to go away because:

    1) People litter. They are lazy and nasty.
    2) That person who doesn’t care about the environment surely doesn’t care about your dog or mine.
    3) All those bones in the street or alley are not necessarily the result of human litter. Cats, rats and raccoons go through trash and may drop a treat or two for your dog to find.
    4) Public trash cans are NOT everywhere in DC, especially in the some of the mainly residential neighborhoods. I often walk four – five blocks or more on some streets in Petworth without seeing one trash can because they are usually near bus stops or on busy thoroughfares.
    5) Bones (of any type) on the ground is not limited to city living or proximity to fast food places selling wings. Nasty people who litter do it everywhere.

    None of the above doesn’t excuse littering of any type, but we all need to have realistic expectations. And this is reality not just for big city living, but anywhere. Because my dog has found bones in grassy stretches at southeaster gas stations along I-95. On trails in Rock Creek Park. In small towns in GA. Shoot, we found a HUGE turkey bone while in Brooklyn while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. Expect anything and you won’t be surprised.

  • the areas in front of any of the establishments pictured are known as BONE ZONES.

  • I’m looking at you Hong Kong Carry Out on East Cap. Bones in all directions from that place.

  • I love how everyone forgets that DC is still largely a Southern city. I think I’ve heard about this problem in basically every Southern city I’ve either visited or read about.

  • My dog is a Hoover. She just inhales bones and other random nastiness from the streets before I can grab them from her mouth.

    If you’re dog is vomiting, but otherwise drinking and eating and not lethargic, I highly recommend purchasing good, old fashioned, white Wonder Bread and some tube-based cat laxatives for hairballs. Make a sandwich for your pup with a line of cat stuff on a slice of bread, and that usually helps grease things up enough to pass a chicken bone, at least for larger dogs (for reference, I have a Lab/Shepherd mix). That combo has saved my lady’s digestive system several times over the last 6 years. She’s a piggy and a Hoover.

    As always, check with your vet.

    **Note: Corn cobs are NOT digestible by dogs. Just something to be aware of during BBQ season.**

  • This is a HUGE problem in Petworth and along upper 14th St. I don’t know what is wrong with people. What makes its ok to throw trash and refuse on the ground? Where is the pride in neighborhood?
    I’ve seen first hand how these bones can kill dogs. The splinter and create sharp ends that puncture the intestine. If the pet can be saved, it’s a very expensive and intense surgery. Feel sorry for her pups.
    As a PSA, if you think your dog ate a chicken bone and it leads to abnormal slobbering, vomiting or diareaha; it’s a warning sign. If your dog quits seating or can’t have a bowel movement, get him or her in ASAP. Most vets say that if you think your dog ate a sharp object, feed him extra food that day. It can help “cake” the sharp object and help it pass with less risk of puncture.
    This is part of the reason I am opposed to two new 7-Elevens going in within blocks of the existing one on Georgia Ave & Shepherd.

  • It’s a disgusting problem in many neighborhoods. Along with littering in general. I’m glad we’re all in agreement on that. But how to fix it? What would make people more likely to put their bones and refuse in trash cans? The first and most obvious is to raise kids to understand that throwing trash in the ground is polluting, also rude and lazy. For those who made it to adulthood with a Fuck It attitude, I recommend shaming. Calling them out on it. Not in a dangerous or antagonistic way, put just speak to them, say “you dropped something” or “please throw your trash away”. We should be able to say that to a litterbug out of fear of verbal or physical assault. Let ’em know you saw them do it.

    • Asking someone to be accountable? Not a chance that you will walk away without injury…

  • meant “We should be able to say that to a litterbug WITHOUT of fear of verbal or physical assault”.

    • if only that would work. Unfortunately I think we’re just as likely to see PoPville’s next headline “man stabbed in chicken bone shaming incident”.

  • I’ve started letting my dog hold her ball and frisbee in her mouth while we go on walks. She loves to carry her favorite toys around and it keeps her from trying to eat crap like chicken bones off of the ground. If she does see something she wants to eat, she has to drop the ball first, which serves as a warning to me to pull her away.

  • found some crab shells on the ground in hill east the other day. those suckers were far from home.

  • SouthWoo10

    I refer to this as “city chicken” and it’s a big problem in Mount Vernon Triangle near the Safeway. Nothing like walking your dog in the morning and have to stick your hand in their mouth to pull out a nasty chicken bone. Not sure how they can stop this though.

  • yes – so disgusting. one thing i do not miss about 5 years in petworth is prying chicken bones out of my dogs mouth. my dog walks in mt. pleasant’s residential areas are so much less stressful (and gross). also, you could not have chosen a better picture for this post. props to the photographer for making this collage!

  • This isn’t just a DC problem — my dog and I lived in Houston for a summer, and it was much worse there (at least downtown).

    My vet recommended feeding my dog slices of bread if he manages to swallow a chicken bone (as the OP noted, it’s hard in the dark, and your dog knows it). They act to cushion the bone a bit, and we’ve had success with that method.

  • I don’t think we can solve the chicken bone (or other garbage on the street) and highly food motivated dogs make them awesome to train in a controlled environment-but horrible scroungers on the city sidewalks. I highly recommend a gentle leader for dogs that are extremely food motivated and live in the city. It is the same concept as a halter for horses-you have control over their head, but the dog can still sniff etc. when you allow it but it is not as restrictive as a muzzle. Now, the dog may not particularly love it but it will give you more control over your dog from eating unsavory things as well as protect their health and your wallet from huge vet bills. Believe me-I speak from experience!

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