The iconic image of a happy dog with a bone in his mouth is one with which we are all very familiar. While a meaty bone from your dinner plate may seem like the perfect treat for man’s best friend, there are some things to take into consideration before letting your pet indulge. Dogs and real bones aren’t always a match made in heaven, and Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital wants you to be privy to why that’s the case.
When Dogs and Real Bones Don’t Mix
Throwing your dog a bone may have some legit benefits. Chewing on a bone can provide some relief from boredom, be a source of valuable minerals, and support dental health. There are some serious risks associated with the practice, though, that should be taken into consideration.
Choking — Bones are not always easy to chew, and a large piece can become lodged in the back of the throat or in the esophagus. Supervision while chewing is essential for safety, allowing you to intervene in the case of emergency.
Gastrointestinal trauma — Bones, especially small poultry bones or cooked bones of any kind, frequently splinter. While this may aid in swallowing, it also can create sharp points that can puncture the intestines on the way through. Chewed up compacted bone or large pieces of bone may also become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, creating an obstruction.
Dental fractures — While chewing a bone may help to physically remove plaque and tartar and stimulate healthy saliva production, it can also crack teeth. It is not uncommon for bone-chewers to break their major chewing teeth, opening them up to pain and infection.
Constipation — Many times compacted bits of bone accumulate and may result in a painful or difficult bowel movement.
If you do choose to give your dog bones, it is safest to offer uncooked bones for only short periods of time. Be sure to be cognizant of foodborne illness concerns such as E. coli and Salmonella for both you and your pets. Refrigerate the bone in between chewing sessions and discard it after a few days.
Alternatives for a Happy Pooch
While feeding raw bones may work for some pets, in general it is safest to steer your dog toward other options. In order to most effectively support dental health, check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products.
Vitamins and minerals are important, but if you are feeding a well-balanced dog food, it is often not necessary to supplement additionally. Benefits such as glucosamine and chondroitin found in cartilage can be added as a vitamin supplement easily. Your pet might also enjoy a bit of bone broth as a nutritious treat.
If you have an avid chewer on your hands, you may have a bit of experimenting to do. Not all chewing options work for all dogs, and you might have to use a little effort to find a good solution for your pet. Try:
- Rawhide chews (should always be supervised, should not be able to entirely fit in your pet’s mouth)
- Rubber toys like Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, spray cheese, etc.
- Edible starch-based chews
- Nylon chews (these do pose a tooth fracture risk, however)
- Braided rope toys
- Rubber chew holders to increase the difficulty of chewing another treat
- Bully sticks (keep in mind these are high in calories)
- Treat-dispensing puzzle toys
Most chewing toys are best used with supervision, as almost anything can be a choking hazard and result in a pet emergency. Be sure to keep close tabs on your pet’s chew toys and discard them if your dog is getting small pieces off or breaks the toy.
While some pet owners feel strongly that dogs and real bones go together, we have found that often the risks outweigh the benefits. Don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have questions or need help finding a solution that works for your dog. We’ll be sure to throw you a bone!