Why I won’t give my dog a bone!
Like most people I thought that giving a dog a bone to chew was a good thing. On the other hand it’s not something I have actually ever done! I started thinking about dogs and bones a couple of years ago when a lady, who had just added a new puppy to her family came into my shop. We were talking about dog food, as I do (!) when she told me about her previous dog who she had lost about 6 months previously.
Her dog was only 2 years old and it had been euthanized due to damage to its intestine, apparently caused directly from eating bones. The poor lady was still devastated from the loss of her dog and was suffering from real pain and guilt, “If only I hadn’t given her bones,” she said. “You would think it was natural for a dog to have bones – I didn’t think she would die as a result.”
This chance meeting made me research into the advantages and disadvantages of giving a dog a bone. It seems that dogs have a need to chew, and as common perception states, in the wild dogs would kill and eat other animals it would seem natural for a dog to eat a bone. However domesticated dogs are not in the wild! Wolves are in the wild! I found that in the USA the Department of Food and Drug Administration published a consumer update for the general public outlining why it is not safe to give your dog a bone! (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm208365.htm)
Here it is in its entirety :-
- Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
- Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets stuck in oesophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
- Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
- Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
- Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
- Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
- Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
- Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.
Wow! Some very good reasons why not to feed my dog a bone! Apparently bones can get stuck everywhere along the digestive tract of the dog! Would I take the risk with my dogs? Definitely not!
There is advice widely available about how to safely give my dog a bone and I looked at this with interest. Apparently cooked bones are NEVER appropriate and must be avoided. Raw bones, on the other hand are a subject of debate because they are softer and potentially more digestible. So here are the do’s and don’ts of giving your dog a bone:-
- Do supervise your dog closely while he’s working on a bone. That way you can react immediately if your pup happens to choke, or if you notice any blood on the bone or around your dog’s mouth from over aggressive gnawing. You’ll also know when your dog has chewed down to the hard brittle part of a knuckle bone, making splinters more likely. When the bone has been gnawed down in size throw it out. Do not allow your dog to chew it down to a small chunk he can swallow.
- Do separate dogs in a multi-dog household before feeding bones. Dogs can get quite territorial about bones and some dogs will fight over them.
- Do feed fresh raw bones in your dog’s crate, or on a towel or other surface you can clean, or outside as long as you can supervise him. Fresh raw bones become a gooey, greasy mess until your dog has gnawed them clean, so make sure to protect your flooring and furniture.
- Don’t give them to a dog that has had restorative dental work/crowns.
- Don’t give them to your dog if she has a predisposition to pancreatitis. Raw bone marrow is very rich and can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis. Instead, you can feed a “low fat” version by thawing the bone and scooping out the marrow to reduce the fat content.
- Don’t give a recreational bone to a dog that’s likely to try to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in huge chunks.
So – do I really want the worry and hassle of all that? Resounding NO from me. Do I want to sit and watch my dog to make sure he doesn’t happen to choke on a chunk of bone, watch very carefully for any signs of blood or damage to my dog’s mouth from ‘aggressively’ chewing the bone’, remember that the marrow may cause diarrhoea and clean up the gooey, greasy mess! I don’t think so!!!
My dogs love raw carrots, pig’s ears, vegetable chews and natural hide chews – all natural substances to chew on. You, on the other hand, have to make up your own mind whether or not to feed your dog a bone.
For further information on healthy dog treats and chews contact Lesley