Can I Feed My Dog Bones?

Feeding dogs bones is a somewhat controversial issue, but the general consensus seems to be – no!

Sadly my little Bug landed up spending last week in hospital and one of her fellow patients was a Rottweiler who had a stomach obstruction. When they operated on him they found the obstruction to be pieces of bone! His owner gave the usual response – “we’ve always fed our dogs bones and never had a problem”. And yes, many people are feeding dogs bones and don’t have any problems. They’re the lucky ones, but it is a bit like playing Russian roulette with your dog’s health.

While spending time with Bug pup I got to speaking to some of the vets in the practice about this.  Bones certainly do cause a lot of  problems.  If the bone splinters while the dog is chewing it these splinters can pierce lips, gums or palates.  Swallowing the splinters can lead to even more serious damage by scratching or damaging, or even perforating the stomach or intestines.  Bug’s Rotti friend was “lucky” that in his case the bone fragments only caused a blockage.  This still required surgery to remove and any time the stomach, or particularly the bowel is cut open there is a great risk of infection or peritonitis.  That surgery, combined with a couple of days of vomiting and not eating before it, left him in a very serious and sad condition.  And his owner with a considerable vet bill!

If the bone fragments and pieces manage to travel the whole length of the GI tract with no major incident they still need to be passed by the dog.  Not always a good experience!

I’m sure you’ve also heard that not all bones are bad for your dog and some are ok.  The cooked versus raw debate.  Cooked bones of any sort are more brittle than raw ones so tend to splinter more easily.  They also have virtually no nutritional benefit at all once cooked.  Chicken and Ostrich bones tend to dry out the faeces resulting in spiky faecal balls which can easily get stuck in the colon.

Raw bones might not splinter quite so badly but can still have those risks.  They may also carry Salmonella, Campylobacter, E-coli, tapeworm or tapeworm eggs.  ”Knuckle” bones can get stuck in the small intestine.

Another argument for feeding dogs bones is that they are carnivores and descendants of wolves who eat bones as part of their regular diet.  But recent research is finding that  wild wolves don’t necessarily have a long life span.  Certainly shorter than the average well fed domestic dog.  And there are few definitive findings on causes of death in wolves.  Injuries from bone splinters could quite easily be one of them.

So why take the chance with your much loved pet who you would like to share as long a life with as possible?

Dogs do certainly enjoy the act of chewing on a bone, but there are many healthier and safer alternatives.  Try rawhide chews or hard rubber or nylon chew toys.  There are also many treats made by reputable companies designed specifically to clean dogs teeth.

It’s not a debate that’s going to be easily resolved and everyone needs to make their own, informed decision.  There is certainly a lot of info available.  This is one article I found interesting.

Fortunately there is a happy ending to this particular story.  Both patients returned home well on their way to full recovery

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