We’ve all heard the phrase “give a dog a bone,” but the literal action might not be as harmless as we believe. There was a time when families didn’t think twice about treating your pup to the pork chop bones left over from Sunday dinner. Today, we are much more knowledgeable about canine nutrition and realize that the watchword about dog bones is: caution.
Bones are a good source of minerals and other nutrients and help satisfy your dog’s appetite. Chewing stimulates saliva enzymes and helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth and gum disease. And a dog chewing on a bone is less inclined to excessively scratch or lick their paws.
However, many veterinarians believe it just isn’t worth the risk of serious injuries to give your dog a bone. If you are considering giving your pup a bone, here are some rules.
What to Avoid When Giving Your Dog a Bone
Don’t give your dog the wrong kind of bone. This includes poultry bones and pork bones. Rib bones, especially pork rib bones, are high in fat. Dogs aren’t built to handle this amount of saturated fat and can suffer from pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, often caused by too much fat in the diet; it can range from mild to severe, but it typically shows up as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. Severe cases can be deadly, so it’s important to seek veterinary attention right away.
Don’t give your dog cooked bones of any kind. Cooked bones splinter into shards that can cause choking and serious damage to the dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. Cooking can also remove nutrients from the bone. If your dog does ingest cooked bones, give your veterinarian a call for advice or to schedule an appointment to rule out any serious outcomes. Be careful to keep platters containing bones out of reach when you’re cooking or putting food on the table. And don’t put bones in any trashcans that your dog might be able to get into.
Don’t let your dog chew any kind of bone into small pieces. These pieces create a major choking hazard. Bone fragments can easily get lodged in your dog’s throat, blocking the airways and creating an emergency situation. Also, these chunks are typically very sharp and can puncture and cut the inside of your dog’s mouth, tongue, stomach, and intestines. Bone fragments, especially rib bones, can also lodge in the descending colon near the rectum, causing constipation-like symptoms and pain. This will require a trip to the veterinarian or emergency clinic for expensive treatment and enemas.
Don’t give your dog chunks of bone that can cause blockages. The chance of the chunks getting stuck in the intestines is fairly high. This happens when a bone fragment is too large to pass through the gut and obstructs the flow of all other digested food through the gastrointestinal tract. Obstructions are very serious and can quickly lead to severe illness and death.
Don’t give your dog a bone if they have stomach problems. A bone and its marrow can cause diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome; they might make just plain sensitive stomachs even worse.
Don’t give your dog a bone if there’s another dog visiting. Even friendly dogs can be very protective of their bones.
What to Do When Giving Your Dog a Bone
Offer raw meat bones. Many veterinarians say that raw meat bones are the best. But bones that are too hard, even raw bones, could damage your dog’s teeth. If a bone is harder than a tooth, the tooth can fracture and your dog will need an expensive dental evaluation and treatment.
Give your dog a bone after their meal. Your pup is not as likely to chew it as quickly.
Take the bone away from your dog after 10-to-15 minutes, then put it in the refrigerator. Dogs have powerful jaws, and you don’t want your dog to ingest too much bone.
Dispose of a bone after three or four days. Bacteria can grow and cause intestinal problems for your dog.
Give large breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, Bloodhounds, and Mastiffs, large bones. Bones should be larger than the length of the dog’s muzzle, so they can’t be swallowed whole. A beef shank bone is a good example of the type of bone to give to a large dog.
Supervise your dog when you give them a bone. It’s very important to check periodically on your dog when they are chewing a bone and be ready to remove it if it’s breaking apart or getting too small.
Be an educated consumer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes information about dog bone treats, which are processed and sold commercially as dog treats. The FDA received about 68 reports of pet illnesses related to “bone treats,” between Nov. 1, 2010 and Sept. 12, 2017. According to Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, “Giving your dog a bone treat might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.”
Keep in mind that experienced and knowledgeable veterinarians disagree about bone chewing. Many advise owners to play it safe and only provide commercially available chew toys and simulated dog bones that are made for dogs of all sizes. We do know that dogs love to chew, and chewing on a bone can keep them busy and happy. It can even reduce anxiety and serve as a big reward for good behavior.
Should you give your dog a bone? The choice is yours, but if you do give your dog a bone, be careful and do it wisely.
Great Choice for Bones and Chew Toys
Durable and non-toxic, this bone chew toy is a great alternative to a real bone. The toy smells like bacon and helps clean your dog’s teeth. Price: $14.99