Hi Dr. Janeway,
When my family visits during the holidays, we always end up disagreeing over whether it is ok to give my Labrador named Poppy bones to chew on. Are certain bones ok? Are raw bones better than cooked bones?
Thank you for your question,
Bones are not ok to feed to your pet! Ever! But, this fact can be difficult to convince or explain to other people (been there, done that). Cooked, raw, neck, any bones have potential to cause problems in dogs. Yes, many people feed bones to their dogs without any obvious problems, but they are either lucky or unaware of the damage feeding bones may have caused their pet.
One of the problems with feeding bones is that they can splinter in the gastrointestinal tract and perforate the stomach, intestines or bowel. This leads to an infection in the abdomen called peritonitis. I am pretty sure you would only need to see this once to understand why it is essential to avoid this from happening. This is not only painful and potentially fatal to your pet, the surgery and hospital stay would be very costly.
Another possible issue that can arise when dogs are fed bones is broken or chipped teeth. A veterinarian can help detect dental problems during a routine physical exam. Many pets will not show any obvious signs of dental issues, although anyone who has broken a tooth knows how painful it is. Any chipped tooth should be examined and x-rayed under anesthesia to determine if the pulp cavity is exposed and further treatment is needed (think dollar signs).
Bones can lodge in the gastrointestinal tract requiring surgery for removal. They can get stuck in the mouth, esophagus, wind pipe or anywhere along the gi tract. Bone fragments can cause constipation or bloody diarrhea (ouch).
I hope I have convinced you to think twice before feeding your pet any bones. Bones should always be disposed of in a container your pet cannot access. If your pet likes to chew there are many types of chew toys available to help satisfy your pet’s need to gnaw without the dangerous side effects.
Dr. Robin Janeway is an owner of Brighton Greens Veterinary Hospital.
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