Give the Dog a Bone: Fact or Fiction?

We all enjoy finding projects for our dogs to enjoy and keep them busy for a period of time. Sure, dogs enjoy chewing, and this is a pastime that can provide enjoyment and expend a little excess energy. However, bones, cooked or raw, antlers and hooves are not safe for a number of reasons.

Every year, we treat a number of dogs for intestinal problems and dental injuries caused by bones and other items that are much too hard for them to chew. Dogs do not intuitively understand what is safe to consume.
The most frequent injury we find is dental and oral injuries. Fractured teeth, worn enamel and dental crowns are often found in the mouths of dogs that chew bones and antlers. Sometimes, these items splinter and puncture the gums or palate. These are all very painful injuries that can also lead to infection if not treated promptly. Broken teeth are usually extracted under general anesthesia. If you notice any changes in your dog’s eating habits such as a reluctance to eat hard food or chewing on only one side, have it checked by a veterinarian sooner than later. The same thing goes if you should notice a foul odour on your dog’s breath as this may indicate an infection.

Feeding bones can also lead to very serious and potentially lethal intestinal injuries. When shards of bone are ingested, they can cut or puncture as they move through the esophagus, stomach and intestines leading to peritonitis. Round pieces or chunks of bone can lead to life-threatening intestinal blockages. Surgical exploratory and repair are required in such situations.

Sometimes, dogs are able to break down bones into tiny pieces, and these cause a very serious and painful blockage in the bowels of the dog. This condition will appear on an x-ray. A general anesthetic is required to remove the impaction manually.

So, for all these reasons, the old adage of “give the dog a bone” is complete fiction. There are plenty of safe and healthy chew toys and treats out there that make bones completely unnecessary. None the less, all dogs should be monitored when given chewable toys that could break down and be ingested.

Please contact your veterinarian for reliable advice about safe and healthy chew toys and edible chews.

Written by: Jill Whitfield, A.H.T, Practice Manager