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Dog Bone Safety: Can dogs eat bones?

We may think dogs can chew on any bone they find, but did you know that isn't exactly true? Today, our Memphis emergency vets discuss the safety surrounding dogs eating bones and which bones are safe for your furry companion.

Can dogs safely eat bones?

Did you know that bones can be an important part of your dog's diet, allowing them to ingest several crucial minerals? Not only that, chewing stimulates saliva enzymes, which aid in preventing plaque buildup and gum disease, helping keep your pup's mouth healthy. Chewing on bones can also help your dog avoid unwanted behaviors as long as they have the stimulation of chewing. Nonetheless, many veterinarians warn that allowing your dog to chew on bones comes with some serious risks for your dog's health.

So, can you give a dog a bone? Are bones good for dogs? Are cooked bones bad for dogs? Here, we go over the advantages and disadvantages of dogs having bones and anything else you may need to know.

The Benefits of Chewing on Bones

Chewing is a natural method of stimulation for dogs. This can help them to maintain their oral health and curb unwanted behaviors. 

Dental Health - Your dog's oral health may be one of the leading reasons to allow your dog to chew on bones. Gnawing on bones can help remove plaque and tartar buildup, preventing gum disease and promoting healthier teeth. The abrasive action of chewing on bones can act as a natural toothbrush for your dog.

Mental Stimulation - Bone chewing becomes a stimulant for dogs, helping them avoid boredom and chewing on something they shouldn't. It can be a natural and instinctive activity that keeps them occupied and entertained. Bones can be a great way to alleviate anxiety or redirect destructive chewing behaviors.

Nutritional Value - Bones can be a source of essential nutrients, especially if they are raw bones. They contain marrow, are rich in fat and can provide dogs with additional calories. Bones also contain calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals that contribute to nutrition.

The Dangers of Chewing on Bones

Some bones are great for your dog's health, and others are not a good idea and could result in serious repercussions.

Dental Injuries -Chewing on bones may increase your dog's risk of certain health factors. Dogs may crack or fracture their teeth, leading to pain, infection, and the need for dental procedures. Hard bones, like weight-bearing bones from large animals, are particularly risky.

Choking & Obstruction - Bones can break apart into tiny fragments that are unedible due to their increased risk of injury. If swallowed, these shards can also cause intestinal obstructions, leading to a life-threatening emergency. Small dogs, aggressive chewers, or dogs prone to gulping are at higher risk.

Digestive Issues -Bones can cause digestive problems in some dogs, such as constipation, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. Fatty bones like marrow bones can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and sharp bone fragments can damage the digestive tract. Dogs with sensitive stomachs or a history of digestive issues should be monitored closely.

What types of bones can dogs eat?

Since you know which bones never to feed your dog, we can now discuss which bones are right for your pup.

Raw Bones - For natural bones, you should opt for a raw bone that won't cause as much injury. Raw bones are less likely to splinter and cause injuries. Regardless of the type of bones your dog is chewing on, you must watch them the entire time they are chewing.

Synthetic Chews - Plenty of safe synthetic chew toys are available. These products are designed to be durable, non-toxic, and less likely to cause dental or digestive issues. Look for rubber chew toys, nylon bones, or specially designed dental chews.

Vet-Approved Treats - Consult with your veterinarian to find appropriate treats that promote dental health and are safe for your dog. Dental chews or treats specially formulated to support oral hygiene can be a safer alternative to bones.

How will I know that I am giving them the right kind?

When you plan to give your dog new things, you should first speak with a vet professional to ensure you are doing the right thing. While bones can provide benefits such as dental health, mental stimulation, and nutritional value, they also come with risks. Dental injuries, choking hazards, and digestive issues are potential concerns that must not be overlooked.

As a responsible pet owner, it's essential to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and make an informed decision. Ultimately, consulting with a veterinarian is crucial in determining whether giving bones to your dog is safe and appropriate for their circumstances.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Choking

If your dog begins choking on a bone or any other object, immediately contact your primary care veterinarian or our emergency veterinary hospital. Your vet will provide you with detailed directions for this emergency.

These instructions may include carefully opening your dog's mouth and pulling the tongue forward to see if the object is visible and within reach. Then, if possible, you can attempt to remove the object using your fingers in a sweeping motion.

Be careful not to push it further into the airway.

How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on a Dog

If you cannot successfully and safely remove the object, you must perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Heimlich Maneuver for Small Dogs

  1. Carefully hold your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back.
  2. Using the palm of your hand, apply pressure right beneath the rib cage.
  3. Push firmly inwards and upwards five times in a thrusting motion.
  4. Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object causing the issue.

Heimlich Maneuver for Medium & Large Dogs

Standing dogs:

  1. Put your arms around them and join your hands in front of their abdomen.
  2. Make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion.
  3. Check that the object has been fully dislodged and removed from the mouth.

Dogs who are lying down:

  1. Place one hand on the dog's back and use the other hand to push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forward toward the spine.
  2. Sweep their mouth to ensure that their airway is clear.

What to Do Once Your Dog is No Longer Choking

It is important to contact your vet if your dog has been choking, especially if they've been unconscious at any point. If it is after hours, you can contact our emergency veterinary hospital. Our team may recommend you bring your dog in for an evaluation to ensure there is no permanent damage or complications due to the choking.

This is because foreign objects have the potential to cause a throat injury that may lead to other serious outcomes. Your vet will also ensure that the lungs and airway are free of any other foreign material. They may use X-rays to check the lungs for fluid accumulation or the abdomen for ingested foreign objects.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our vets are here for any after-hours emergency, including choking. Contact Animal Emergency Center right away.

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