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What Should You Do If Your Dog Ate A Bird?

Dogs have predatory instincts just like their wild counterpart — the wolf. As such, it won’t be surprising to find them running after small animals like squirrels, rabbits, mice, or birds.

In fact, birds are among dogs’ favorite prey, but they shouldn’t be allowed to catch wild birds because if your dog eats a bird they might catch some serious diseases, although it’s not as common as you may fear.

What should you do if your dog eats a bird?

If your dog ate a bird, on top of being disgusted, you may be panicking thinking they just got poisoned or got some deadly disease. The reality is that most dogs are completely fine even after this daring ingestion and they don’t even show symptoms.

However, there is indeed a health risk that should not be underestimated and a small percentage of dogs do feel sick after eating birds, so you should keep an eye out for any abnormal behavior or symptom.

When your dog eats a bird, symptoms may be very delayed so you should be on the lookout at least for a whole week after the ingestion.

Any abnormality should be promptly reported to your veterinarian, so if the situation escalates and you need to have your dog examined, they will already know what is going on and have a clear history of the symptoms.

What should you do if your dog eats a dead bird?

Eating dead animals always carries higher risks of complications, because unless your dog killed the bird, you don’t know what killed the poor animal in the first place.

A bird that was killed by poison, disease, or other unnatural causes, could potentially bring harm to your dog as well.

If your dog ate a dead bird, first of all, it will be fundamental to remove what’s left of the bird (if anything) to prevent your dog from eating any more. Then, it would be better to call your veterinarian and explain the situation, just to be safe.

Whether your dog ate a living bird or a dead one, if they don’t show symptoms over the next few days and are eating, drinking and acting normally, they should be fine.

What could happen if a dog eats a bird?

In many cases, your dog will be fine. Dogs are originally wild predators and have ingested their fair share of raw meat with no consequences for hundreds of years, so it’s in their nature.

But let’s take into consideration the worst outcome, which is the one where your dog suffers the consequences of their short hunting trip.

Some birds carry diseases and infections and even when they don’t, they could be dangerous for other reasons.

Salmonella

Salmonella is an infection that is sometimes carried by birds in their intestines. If your dog eats a bird, they may get infected.

Salmonellosis can affect humans and other species of animals too, so if your dog catches it, people and pets who have weaker or compromised immune systems in your home may be at risk.

Your dog will absolutely need a medical examination. For as long as your dog isn’t completely clear of the infection, you should be extra careful when cleaning after them and disinfect any place where they may leave droppings.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Shock

Most dogs will only show mild symptoms like diarrhea because it’s rare for a dog to take a severe form of salmonella. Nonetheless, if you know your dog ate a bird before developing these symptoms, you should have them checked right away.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis could be a consequence of salmonellosis and it is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

This is a serious disorder that could be fatal for your dog and symptoms include blood in the vomit or stools. Your dog should be examined immediately if you suspect gastroenteritis.

Diagnosis is usually achieved through very invasive methods, but luckily dogs that are treated in time usually make a full recovery.

West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus was first found in the West Nile region of Africa in 1937 and since then has spread worldwide through bird migration. This virus is a mosquito-borne virus and its spreading process involves both mosquitos and birds.

Birds are actually the most affected species, but the virus can spread to other animals and humans as well, usually with mild symptoms.

It is rare for a dog to be affected by the West Nile virus, however, it’s not a possibility that can be ruled out completely if your dog eats a bird with a heavy amount of infected blood.

This virus is a neurologic disease and its symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Pale gums
  • Confusion
  • Spasms
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes

There is actually a vaccine for this disease, but it’s used for horses, which are way more affected by this virus than dogs and cats. It is not recommended to use the horse vaccine on your dog.

Avian flu

Dogs are not usually affected by avian flu, however, studies report that the H5N1 avian influenza can affect dogs and cats as well, with dogs being actually highly susceptible to this virus.

Dogs can take the disease from eating infected birds of any species. First symptoms usually show up a few days after ingestion and include:

  • Fever
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Conjunctivitis

Unfortunately, there is not enough information about avian flu in dogs to know exactly how the disease develops, but in some cases, dogs died shortly after developing symptoms.

Although rare, this is a possibility when dogs eat wild birds and the only way to be completely sure that your dog cannot catch this virus is to prevent them from eating wild animals.

Histoplasmosis

A dog that ate bird poop could be at risk of histoplasmosis because bird droppings sometimes carry the Histoplasma Capsulatum Fungus that gives the name to this fungal infection.

Dogs could get this infection by simply inhaling bird droppings long enough for the spores to enter their nose and infect the lungs. If ingested, it can infect the intestines as well.

Histoplasmosis is a chronic disease that can affect different species, but luckily, it is not contagious, so if you have more than one pet they won’t be affected.

Unfortunately, symptoms of histoplasmosis are non-specific and can be easily mistaken for something else.

The most common symptoms of histoplasmosis in dogs include:

  • Mild fever
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Chronic cough
  • Heavy breathing

As you can see these symptoms may be related to many other diseases. However, they’re serious enough to require a medical examination and your veterinarian will be then able to make the proper diagnosis after a series of tests.

Chlamydia psittaci

Dead birds or dried bird droppings can cause chlamydia in your dog. Walking your dog in wide areas full of birds can increase the risk of developing this disease.

The symptoms are different from human chlamydia, so it’s unlikely that you may be able to make a diagnosis without a medical examination.

Symptoms of chlamydia in dogs include:

  • Swollen red eyes with yellow/green discharge
  • Low energy levels
  • Panting
  • Pawing at their eyes due to itchiness

Don’t worry — you can’t get chlamydia from your dog.

Cats are also at risk of getting this infection, but luckily it is not serious and it is easily treated with antibiotics.

Gastrointestinal obstruction

Eating a bird can easily cause blockage in the intestines, especially in small dogs. Bones and feathers are not easily digestible and could remain stuck in the gastrointestinal apparatus.

If your dog ate a baby bird they might be luckier because the bones of newly born birds are softer and could pass through your dog without causing discomfort.

The most common symptoms of blockage in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration

Although GI obstruction is fairly common with bad ingestion in dogs, it should not be overlooked because it could lead to serious complications. In severe cases, medical surgery to remove the bird may be required.

How to prevent your dog from eating birds.

Predators or not predators, your dog should not be allowed to eat random wild animals or anything that it’s outside a well-balanced diet for that matter.

Now that you know the risks of dog eating birds, surely you understand the importance of keeping your pet away from this possible danger.

There are several ways of training your dog to avoid catching or eating birds; some of them may require some patience on your part or some professional training. If you’ve trained your dog since they were a puppy (as you should have), you’re already halfway there!

Keep them on a leash

The most obvious method is perhaps the most effective. The leash allows you to control your dog’s movements and to prevent them from getting away and eating things from the ground where you can’t see them.

This might be a challenge with big dogs, so you could also try adding a little bell to their collar: this way, birds will hear them when they approach and will have time to fly away. Your dog won’t be happy to lose their stealth, but you will gain peace of mind!

Behavioral training

Training your dog may solve a lot of problems that go beyond eating what they shouldn’t. We all love our dogs dearly and that’s why we sometimes overlook their mischiefs, but this is going to fire back at you sooner or later.

An untrained dog is a dog you will soon have no control on. This will put you, your furniture, your children, and most of all your pet at risk because you will have no means to stop them from doing stuff that could harm them.

Behavioral training can be done by pet parents if they have enough time and patience, or you can consult a professional.

If your dog is already well-behaved and you just need to solve the ‘bird problem’ you can try redirection training yourself. Dogs’ sense of smell is much stronger than humans, so they get distracted easily and you can use this to your own advantage.

For example, you could bring along their favorite snack during walks and lure your dog away from the birds. This may be more effective when you start in quiet areas where there are not many birds around and then progressively move to busier places.

Teach them useful commands

For the sake of your peaceful lifelong partnership with your dog, it will be fundamental to teach them at least a handful of commands since they’re still puppies. That way, if your dog catches a bird they’re less likely to eat it.

Commands like “leave it” or “come here” will be really useful if you spot your dog with a bird in their mouth because your dog will feel compelled to drop the prey immediately and do as you say.

Dogs can be trained when they’re adults too. It will be important to start in a place void of distractions and to reward them with treats whenever they get the command right.

Progressively, you can remove the treat and if you trained them properly, you will see that your dog will still respect the command even without the reward.

Exercise 

A dog that exercises regularly is a dog that is healthy, keeps their weight under check, won’t wake you up at night and most of all, probably won’t have enough strength to run after birds at the end of the day.

That’s not the only reason you should give your dog plenty of activity during the day. Dogs that are neglected by their owners or spend too much time resting can develop destructive behavior, depression, abandonment issues, and other nasty habits.

Can dogs eat birds?

You shouldn’t let your dog eat birds or any wild animal for that matter. Although rare, your dog could develop serious complications and diseases by eating birds, and especially by eating dead animals.

It’s not easy to stop a dog’s predatory instincts, but through proper training, you can teach your dog to respect your commands and it could save their life.

If your dog ate a bird, they will most likely be fine. However, if you see vomiting, diarrhea, or any other unusual behavior, contact your veterinarian because your dog may need to be examined.

Hopefully, it will just be an upset stomach or something as harmless, but prevention is always the best medicine.