A lot of pet parents find themselves asking this when they catch their furry friend gobbling up a feathered creature.
It can be a puzzling moment especially if you have never seen your pup do such a thing. You feed him a good diet but he still went for the wild bird. To understand your dog’s behavior, you have to understand his instincts.
Dogs are born hunters
In ancient times, dogs were bred to hunt or assist in hunting birds. Dogs like the Golden retriever, labrador retriever, and poodles were initially bred to hunt fowl in large water catchments and other hard to reach areas. While most of these dogs have been domesticated since then, they did not lose this primal instinct to hunt small prey.
So you understand why Bingo looked puzzled when you shrieked at him nibbling on wildfowl bones. He does not understand the potential danger of eating something that is not marked as pet-friendly.
What happens if a dog eats a bird?
All dogs will react differently when they consume bird meat. Also, your dog’s well-being depends on whether the bird was in good health or not.
So if your dog ate a bird, first check for any side effects. When no serious symptoms show, then your dog is fine. Nonetheless, it still pays to get him checked by a professional vet to ensure all his vitals are healthy.
Some dogs will have an immediate negative reaction from consuming birds. Common symptoms of bird meat poisoning include;
Vomiting and diarrhea
When some of these symptoms show up, rush your dog to a vet immediately. If the bird was infected by a disease or parasite, chances are your dog has contracted the same illness.
If your dog ate a bird that is infected, he may likely be suffering from any of the following;
West Nile Virus
Salmonella is a bacterium that is passed through contaminated water. Wild birds and poultry are the largest carriers of this bacteria. If your dog ate a bird infected with Salmonella, they will contract the bacteria which infects the dog’s digestive system.
It takes 12 to 72 hours for the symptoms of salmonella poisoning to show. Common symptoms include;
Fever and swollen lymph nodes
Dehydration and lethargy
Diarrhea and mucus in stool
Your dog will also experience a fast heart rate as the blood tries to pump more leukocytes into the infected area. If the bacterium gets into the bloodstream, it can lead to septicemia. This is a septic fever caused by blood poisoning. These toxins can travel through the blood to the rest of the body and cause more damage to other body organs.
West Nile virus
West Nile virus is a rare disease transmitted by mosquitoes. This disease can also be spread through birds that are infected by the virus. When your dog eats a sickly bird, the virus passes into their body and travels through the bloodstream.
A dog infected by the West Nile virus will start experiencing symptoms such as;
Severe brain inflammation
Depression and lack of coordination
Fever and muscle weakness
Seizures and body paralysis
Loss of appetite
West Nile virus can also cause symptoms that mimic histoplasmosis infection.
Gastroenteritis or Garbage gut disease is a dog’s version of food poisoning. It is caused by eating contaminated food in garbage or consuming a dead bird. Gastroenteritis can cause;
Diarrhea and vomiting
Pain and swelling of the abdomen
Lethargy and muscle weakness
Loss of appetite
Gastroenteritis may also trigger Avian flu symptoms.
What should I do if my dog ate a bird and is sick?
If your pup shows any of the above symptoms after eating a wild bird, alert your vet right away. The vet will carry a quick diagnosis to determine the type of infection your affecting your dog. If your dog is vomiting and diarrhea a lot, IV fluid is provided to rehydrate him.
Antibiotics can also help clear bacterial infections from Gastroenteritis and Salmonella. There is no current cure for the West Nile virus. But some medications can alleviate the symptoms until they finally clear. Your dog’s immune system will then develop a resistance to the virus hence keep it at bay.
What should I do if my dog ate a bird and I want to stop him?
Observe your dog see if they will exhibit any severe symptoms. If they are totally fine after consuming the bird, then you have nothing to worry about.
It is important to prevent your dog from killing and eating birds. Once they develop a taste for the meat, it can be hard to convince them to go back to their old diet. Fortunately, there are ways to redirect your dog’s behavior.
1. Keep your dog leashed
Always keep your dog leashed whenever you go out. This should give you control of your dog and prevent him from running after birds. A leash also lets your dog know you are in control and they should obey everything you tell them.
2. Feed the dog before going out
Feed your dog going out for walks or exercise. If your dog is well-fed they are less likely to chase and kill birds for food. It is also easier to control a properly fed dog.
3. Redirect their instinct to chase birds
It may be hard to control your dog’s instinct to hunt especially for dogs like the Basset hound and Golden retriever. Carry dog treats with you whenever you are out for strolls. When you spot your dog showing interest in a bird, pull out a treat and toss it their way. This should distract them from the bird.
4. Add a bell to your dog’s collar
Adding a bell to your dog’s collar helps alert birds and other animals of the danger lurking. It can give the birds enough time to run before the dog gets to them. A bell also keeps you alert on your dog’s whereabouts at all times.
5. Exercise your dog
Exercise your dog before going out. This helps release any pent up energy and ensures the dog is too exhausted to chase after anything. Even when the birds show up, your dog will only want to get home and fall right asleep.
6. Teach obedience commands
Teaching your dog obedience commands such as ‘come’ or ‘stay’ will come in handy when restraining him. When he tries to lunge or bolt after a bird, shouting the command come/stay should redirect their attention back to you. Teach this command in a secluded place where you will have your dog’s full concentration. Reward your dog with treats so they know something good awaits them whenever they obey you.