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The Dangers of Bones

By: Alex Lieber

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You have finally succeeded in teaching your dog not to beg. Dinner is now a pleasant meal for you and your family. As a reward, you think your dog might enjoy chewing on the leftover bones. After all, his distant cousin the wolf chews bones all the time and chewing bones promotes healthy teeth and gums, right? What can it hurt?

Actually, bones are not as healthy as you may think. Some dogs may never develop a problem associated with chewing bones but some may. And, some bone related problems can be very serious. With so many alternatives and little need for chewing real bones, are the benefits worth the risks?

Potential Complications

Unfortunately, if you decide to give your pet a bone, or he finds one in the trash, he may be getting more than just a tasty treat. Bones do not break down easily. This means your pet may have to pass them through his stool. This often leads to a serious impaction and constipation, requiring a trip to the veterinarian. Bones can also be a choking hazard and can cause possible intestinal bleeding if the bone shards break off and tear the intestinal lining.

Types of Bone Problems

Thin bones, such as ribs, can get lodged in the throat or even the roof of the mouth. In one case, a Doberman suffered several days with a rib bone lodged in the roof of his mouth. By that time, the bone had cause significant tissue damage to the roof of the mouth and surrounding gums.

Round steak bones also pose a threat because they can get wedged around the lower jaw. Veterinarians often must use bolt cutters or even hacksaws to remove them, which is extremely uncomfortable for the dog and may require sedation.

Chicken and turkey bones are especially dangerous. They are more fragile and splinter easily. Splintered bones can cause perforation of the mouth, throat, intestines and colon, causing internal trauma.

What to Watch For

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Straining to go to the bathroom
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting

    Alternatives

    The safest thing to do is to only give "bones" that have been designed for dogs to chew on. This can include Nylabones© which tend to be relatively indestructible and are often flavored. Another alternative is to offer him acceptable chew toys. Rawhide toys, given in moderation, are fun to chew, for instance. Again, be careful how often you offer a rawhide toy because pieces can break off and cause constipation.

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