“Oh, no! My dog ate a (fake) feather! What should I do?”, you say in disbelief.
While some dogs are fans of playing with feathers, there are others who are repelled by them. And then, there are those who eat them.
In this read, I’ll cover all of these scenarios and give you solutions.
By the end of this article you’ll learn:
- Why you shouldn’t induce feather-vomiting in your dog.
- How to effectively help your dog if they’ve swallowed a feather.
- When to call the vet: 10 signs your dog’s in danger after they ate a feather.
- What’s the one thing about feathers that scares dogs the most (check out #4).
- And a lot more to discover…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs like feathers?
- People also ask:
- 5 reasons why dogs like or hate feathers
- 5 tips on what you should do if your dog ate a feather
- 5 real-life experiences of dog parents
Why do dogs like feathers?
Dogs like feathers for a variety of reasons such as playing with them, nibbling on them, being reminded of their hunting instincts. Or getting your attention when they have one in their mouth and you’re trying to take it out. Your dog would then enjoy you chasing them. They’ll perceive it as a game.
People also ask:
5 reasons why dogs like or hate feathers
#1: Nutritional deficiency
If this is the first time your dog eats a feather or feathers, it might have to do with the pooch’s nutrition.
When dogs don’t get the nutrients they need, they might rever to behaviors such as licking the wall. Or eating things like feathers to compensate for the minerals or vitamins they lack in their food.
This happens to dogs who had insufficient nutrition while their mom was pregnant with them. Or while their mom was taking care of them.
Nutritional deficiency is also often seen in dogs who were previously taken by animal hoarders. That’s because hoarders take as many animals as possible but fail to properly take care of them.
An article published in Psychiatric Times explains:
“Large numbers of animals, often sick, dying, or dead, are crammed into living areas of the hoarder’s home.”
Another study ran by Elisa Arrieti Ferreira on animal hoarders suggests that animal hoarding can be a disorder of its own.
The study examined 33 hoarders. The average number of animals a hoarder had accounted for 41. Although hoarding affects men and women, 73% of the hoarders in the research were women.
So with this in mind, it’s no surprise that the nutrition of the dog(s) is not a priority in a hoarder’s home.
#2: Your dog associates feathers with something bad
Your dog’s “hate” to or unapproval of feathers may be due to trauma. Traumatic experiences during puppyhood can form a strong perception of an object.
It could be that your dog was attacked by a chicken when they were still a tiny pup. Or that they got scared by you telling them off for nibbling on the cat’s toy.
Another possibility is that one of the family kids chased the dog with a dry fly hackle.
There are endless scenarios. But you get my point.
#3: It’s in the genes
Some dogs are prone to develop phobias. Especially if they had experienced malnutrition during puppyhood.
The phobic responses could emerge at a later stage of a dog’s life.
#4: Feathers are unpredictable to your dog
Imagine a flying feather. Making spiral movements in the air as the wind blows it gently. It’s like a beautiful dance.
But to you. Not to your dog.
Your dog looks up but not in awe. They look and try to comprehend what that is. And more importantly, if it’s dangerous…
One moment the feather moves in a sort of predictable trajectory. But before you know it, the wind blows it away. Close to your dog’s face. And your dog goes bananas!
They start woofing as if their life depends on it.
The next moment the feather is on the ground. And although things are seemingly peaceful, your dog can’t relax yet. As they don’t know what to expect next.
And for a good reason. Because before they emit another growl, the feather goes off the ground.
“What sorcery is this?”, your dog would ask if they could. But instead, they just react to the unknown.
I mean, just look at all of these pooches trying to handle the feather “situation”:
#5: Feathers are a source of fun
Dogs have a coping mechanism whenever they feel bored. They won’t just sit around and wait for you to come home.
Whether your dog is the only pooch at home, or not, there’s one fun activity that never gets old. It’s… wait for it…
And what’s so comfortable to chew in your home? Preferably something soft.
Like a pillow stuffed with geese or duck feathers. What happens after your pooch tears the pillow apart?
An explosion of flying feathers! Exciting (for your dog at least).
Just look at this real-life example:
5 tips on what you should do if your dog ate a feather
#1: Help your dog poo it out
Another thing you could do is to give several pieces of bread at one time. Then, repeat after a few hours.
Give small quantities of food several times a day, two days in a row.
The aim of this action is to help the feather pass through the intestines.
For example, you could split the daily amount of food you give into 4 smaller portions. And give these 4 instead of the usual two. This way what’s in the gut will keep moving.
You could also give your dog canned spinach. This can help pass the feather through the digestive system.
#2: If your dog exhibits these symptoms, call your vet asap
Not every situation requires emergency vet care. Even if it looks scary at first.
It’s like that when your dog has eaten a small feather or two. But you need to be cautious with big feathers. For example goose or duck ones.
But in some cases, it’s best to rush to the vet and have your dog checked.
Indications of danger after your dog has swallowed a feather include:
- Pooping blood.
- Acting sluggish.
- Inability to swallow.
- Having no interest in eating.
- Mucus or bloody nasal discharge.
- Showing signs of abdominal pain.
#3: Do not induce vomiting yourself
With some things your dog eats accidentally, it’s okay to induce vomiting yourself. For example, when your pooch swallows parts of a corn cob.
Then, several minutes after your dog has done that, you can pour Peroxide in their mouth. Or immediately after, if you have it in your purse.
But that’s usually for people whose dogs are prone to eating every second thing they find on the ground. And only after they’ve gotten the green light from their vet. Plus suggestions on the amount of Peroxide according to the dog’s weight.
Veterinarians advise that you shouldn’t apply this vomiting technique if your dog has eaten a feather. Because it can backfire.
By that, I mean causing damage to your dog’s esophagus. This can happen due to the sharp edges of the feather (if it was chewed) on the way back. It is not worth the risk.
The same goes for other sharp items your dog could swallow. Such as beaks, claws, bones.
#4: Here’s what you can do at home if your dog vomits
Step #1: Stop food & give water
In case your dog feels unwell and vomits, stop giving them food for a period of 24 hours.
This will give the intestines a time-out. It’s necessary for them to be able to recover.
While your dog is fasting, she can drink fluids. Meaning, water.
Warning: Do not give your dog any water until 4 hours have passed since their last vomit. You should give water in small amounts frequently.
Step #2: Get your dog on a rice diet
After 24 hours have passed, start giving your dog cooked white rice. It should be 75% of the meal. And the other #25 should consist of low protein fat.
To ensure your dog gets the needed amount of protein, boil some chicken breasts.
Like you did with water, give small portions of food at a time. With a slot of 3-4 hours in between.
Step #3: Go back to regular dog food
You should stick to the special diet for a day or two. After that, you can start slowly getting back your dog to their regular food.
After 1 or 2 days have passed, you could start giving bigger rice portions. And reducing their number. Introduce them in a bigger timeframe.
On the fourth day, start mixing some of the normal dog food in these.
Small (but important) tip: Keep your dog unexcited
It sounds weird. But you want to prevent strong emotions and rapid movements.
Just take your dog out so they can relieve themselves.
In addition, some dogs who ate a feather or more would try to eat grass. A dog would do that if their stomach feels irritated. Keep an eye on your dog and don’t allow them to.
The biggest danger of eating grass, in this case, is, that it can cause obstruction.
#5: Teach your dog that feathers are off-limits
If you’re afraid your dog might eat a feather again, better take some measures.
One is to discourage your dog from chewing or licking any feathers that they might find. Regardless if the feathers are from poultry or fake plastic ones.
This is what some pet parents do. Especially if they not only have dogs but also parrots in the house.
Here’s one useful command to help you along the way:
This can prevent your dog from swallowing a feather. Before they have started to chew it, or even attempted to swallow it without chewing.
You can teach this command by using positive reinforcement. The trick is to work with your dog when they have something in their mouth.
So, don’t wait until it happens. Just hand them a toy. It can be the rope with which you play tug of war.
After they bite on it and hold it, release it from your end. And say “Drop it”.
Note: Do not say “Drop it” while you’re still holding the toy. If you’re trying to pull it out of your dog’s mouth, they might perceive it as play. Which will make them less likely to let go.
As soon as your dog drops the toy, reward them with a treat. I mean it-it’s important that you do not wait. Otherwise, the dog won’t get the signal that dropping the toy is what you want of them.
Once you have success, celebrate it with your dog. It’s a must to give a treat. You can also add praise and petting. 🙂
And last but not least, practice, practice, practice! The more you do this, the more often and faster your dog will start dropping the toy. Or a tricky item such as a feather.
BONUS: Determine whether a deficiency causes feather eating
One way to rule out deficiency is to start giving your dog vitamins for dogs. And watch if the behavior continues.
Some vets recommend getting Pet Tabs and giving them per instructions.
Note: It’s best to consult with your vet prior to that. According to your dog’s overall health, they can determine which vitamins are best for your pooch.
5 real-life experiences of dog parents
#1: The dog who ate a feather from a cat toy
A mini pincher ate the feather that was attached to the cat toy. This raised questions in the dog parent’s mind. Such as:
“Is it harmful to him?”
“Should I plan a trip to the vet?”
The dog was acting as he’d normally go on about his routine. Eating and drinking, then relieving himself.
But the dog parent couldn’t find any traces of the feather in the stool.
The advice they received was to watch the dog. And bear in mind that some dogs often kill and eat ground birds. And eating a few feathers in the meantime is inevitable.
#2: The puppy who ate several feathers of a pen
One dog parent shared that their puppy ate the feathers from a pen.
This is common in households with handmade crafts that include feathers. But also when there are pillows stuffed with feathers. What I’m saying is, it happens.
My own dog Lissa (a Chihuahua Mini Spitz mix), used to eat rubber particles from dog toys when she was a pup. The first time I saw this, I panicked.
I remember I called the lady who let me adopt Lissa. “Will she be alright?” I cried over the phone.
The lady, who had more experience with puppies back at the time, said, “Don’t worry. Puppies tend to eat a lot of items they shouldn’t. But they have a fast metabolism. So she’ll poo it out. Monitor her until then.”
And so I did. And to my relief, Lissa poed the pink rubber particle I saw her gulp.
But back to the concerned pet parent. The best thing to do is monitor how the puppy acts. And if there’s any disturbance in eating, drinking, and pooping. Plus, to keep an eye on the stool and if the feathers will appear there.
#3: The dog who ate a dead pigeon
Remember how I mentioned dogs eating birds in the previous example?
This is what I meant. Regardless if dead or alive.
Some people would say this is the ultimate BARF diet. Which is an abbreviation for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”. And “Bones and Raw Food”. The idea is that dogs eat what they’d in the wild – fresh uncooked meats and greens.
We have no idea how “fresh” this pigeon was, though.
But one thing is for sure – fresh or not, the dog parent was disgusted at the sight of this.
They found reassuring the story of another dog parent with a similar experience. She shared her Jack Russel ate a cockatiel. And that the bird had a ring on the leg.
And although that seemed scary for the dog’s health, the bitch was fine in the short and long term. And the ring was never to be seen again.
#4: The dog who ate a bird’s head
Dogs, even though domesticated, still answer their wild instincts. Such as going after and catching birds. And eating them. Or parts of them.
Like the bird’s head, in this case.
When a Rottweiler dog parent saw her Rottie with a bird in the mouth, she made the dog drop it asap. Then the dog mum went to dispose of the bird, but to her surprise, the head was missing.
And where do you think she found it?
The Rottie had thrown it up in the house. I know… it’s gross. But the important thing is everything went fine.
#5: The dog who ate feathers from a down comforter
For those of you who might not be familiar with the term, it means “a bed covering stuffed with down feathers.” It’s a duvet.
The results of eating feathers from the down comforter were:
- Loose stools.
This lasted for 3 to 4 weeks after the incident.
After speaking to a vet, the dog parent was advised to have the dog’s feces examined. The aim was to determine whether some kind of bacteria isn’t causing this. Some examples include coccidia, giardia, or intestinal parasites.
The vet reassured the dog parent that the feather didn’t put any bacteria in the dog’s body to cause this. But he said that some food the dog has eaten could have irritated the intestinal tract and the bacteria that’s already there.
A fecal analysis could show an exact issue that needs to be treated.