While a dog contentedly chewing on a bone makes for a pretty picture, a lot of dog owners are surprised to learn that dogs and bones don’t make an automatic good match. Pet stores sell bones by the barrel, and there are so many different kinds, it’s hard to see what could possibly go wrong. Manufacturers sell them in stores, right? So they must be safe? That’s where a lot of dog owners go wrong and unintentionally put their dogs at risk. There are certain types of bones that are great for certain types of dogs, but you have to think it through.
Unfortunately, giving your dog a bone isn’t as simple as you’d hope. Here we’ll break down everything you need to know.
Why Bones Can Be Dangerous
It’s true that your dog could chew on all kinds of bones for their entire life and never experience a problem. Other dogs, however, will suffer from a serious medical problem the first time they start chewing. My rescue dog, Bailey, has two broken teeth that were no doubt damaged by chewing on bones. It’s impossible to predict if and when giving your dog a bone will end poorly. It depends on your dog’s size, their chewing style, and the type of bone you give them.
No matter what, it’s important to be aware of the possible health problems that can be caused by giving your dog a bone.
- Chipped and Broken Teeth: This happened to Bailey, and it also happens to countless other dogs. Bones are hard enough to cause serious damage to dog teeth. A minor chip won’t need veterinary attention, but a serious fracture (like what happened with Bailey) will require serious dental intervention or possibly a tooth extraction.
- Other Mouth Injuries: Besides the teeth, bones can harm your dog’s tongue, gums, or mucus membranes. They can also get stuck between teeth or in the jaw and cause injury.
- Choking: Many dogs have choked on bones as fragments get lodged in the airway.
- GI Tract Blockages and Injuries: If a bone fragment doesn’t get stuck in the airway, it makes its way to the GI tract. If the fragment is large enough or pointy enough, it can easily turn into a blockage in the stomach, intestines, or esophagus. It can break through the lining of digestive organs and cause serious internal injury. On a minor scale, it can cause digestive upset including diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.
Considering all the things that can go wrong, giving your a dog a bone is a risk worth serious second thoughts. Most of the internal injuries on this list require surgery to save the dog’s life, and vet bills are always expensive. Dogs love chewing on bones, but it’s your job to decide if those few minutes of satisfaction are worth the risk.
How To Safely Give Your Dog a Bone
Knowing Bailey’s tendency to chip her teeth with hard objects, I don’t give her bones. She satisfies her need to chew in other ways. But depending on your situation, there are ways to safely give your dog a bone. Here’s what you need to know.
The Type of Bone Matters
It’s so important to know that not all bones are the same. Even bones that you find for sale in the store might not be safe for your dog. When choosing a bone, make sure of the following:
- Raw, Not Cooked: Cooked bones splinter, and those shards will rip apart your dog’s digestive system. This is why you should never give your dog bones leftover from your dinner. Be careful what you put in the trash and keep cooked bones away from the edge of the table. Raw bones, on the other hand, have a lot of nutrients that are good for your dog. They are tougher and harder to break apart, which reduces the risk of choking and obstruction. The best raw bones are usually found at a butcher shop.
- The Right Size: If you have a big dog, they need a big bone to stop them from swallowing it. You also need to make sure they don’t chew the bone into smaller pieces that can turn into choking hazards.
- Stay Away from Rawhide!: Rawhide treats can seem like an attractive alternative to messy natural bones, but rawhide is made with toxic chemicals and often causes digestive blockages.
As tempting as it is to give your anxious dog a bone when you leave the house, it’s a bad idea. You should always supervise your dog when they’re chewing on a bone. You need to know if they manage to break a piece off, if they injure themselves, or if they start choking.
Don’t Keep the Bone Forever
One of the advantages of giving your dog a bone is that it can provide hours’, and even days’, worth of entertainment. But after a few days, bacteria can grow on the bone surface and cause intestinal upset. It’s best to discard bones after about a week. Putting them in the refrigerator between chew sessions can help them last longer.
Beware of Aggression and Guarding Behavior
Bones are a hot commodity in the eyes of your dog. They’re so special, an otherwise friendly dog could get defensive or even aggressive in order to keep their prize. It’s never a good idea to give a dog a bone when there’s another dog around.
The most important thing to do before you give your dog a bone is talk to your vet. Ask them what types of bones they recommend, and make sure your dog’s chompers are up for the task. If they already have broken, missing, or sensitive teeth, a hard bone is probably not a good idea. Your vet can advise you on other ways to satisfy your dog’s urge to chew. Also, remember that every dog is different. Just because your sister’s dog gets a bone everyday and has never had any issues, that doesn’t mean it will be the same for your dog. It’s your job to do what’s best for your individual dog.