Feeding bones to dogs is an age-old practice enjoyed by millions of dogs across the world. Benefits such as bettered dog dental health, added nutrition and providing doggy mental stimulation, make feeding bones a rewarding experience for many dog owners.
However, despite the positives, there are risks associated with feeding bones. Below is a list of 7 health complaints caused by bones, which all dog owners should know about.
Health Risks when Feeding Dogs Bones
1. Gastro-intestinal upset
Some dogs experience tummy upset when eating bones. Bone marrow and the tissues attached to bones, are often rich and fatty which can result in vomiting and diarrhoea.
As a raw product, bones also carry the risk of bacterial contamination with E. Coli., Listeria and Salmonella, which can pose a significant health hazard to pets and humans in the household.
Constipation can often occur in dogs fed on bones. When bones are consumed their boney fragments can bind together to cause painful and slowed bowel movements. More extreme forms of constipation often require general anaesthesia and enemas to help removal.
3. Calorie over consumption
Bones can be very high in calories especially if they contain marrow and attached tissue. To avoid dog weight gain, it’s important to consider the calorific impact of feeding bones and adjust your dog’s food intake accordingly.
4. Broken teeth
Chewing bones may cause molar teeth to fracture. This is painful for dogs and requires intervention in the form of dental surgery, tooth extraction or root canal surgery.
5. Bone Lodgment
It is not uncommon for bones to get stuck in the mouth (especially across the roof of the mouth and looped over the lower jaw). This is a stressful experience for both dog and owner, which often requires sedation for bone removal.
6. Gastrointestinal Obstruction
When chunks of bone are consumed, they can easily become stuck in the stomach and intestines. Blockages commonly result in vomiting, lethargy and limited bowel movements. Obstructions are life threatening and require surgical removal.
Broken pieces of bone can be extremely sharp and can lacerate your dog’s mouth, oesophagus, stomach, intestines and bowel. Lacerations can result in haemorrhage and the leakage of intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity, causing life threatening peritonitis.
It's not all bad news! Although the above risks are quite alarming, it's good to know you can significantly reduce associated health risks by implementing the following bone feeding guidelines.
Safety Guidelines for Feeding Dog Bones
1. Always monitor your dog when feeding bones
Someone should always be on hand to watch for signs of choke and to intervene should bones become stuck in your dog's mouth. Ideally you should prevent your dog breaking off bone pieces and swallowing chunks of bone.
2. The bigger the bone, the safer it is.
As a general rule, provide bones that are bigger than the size of your dog’s head. This will give you dog ample to gnaw on without the risk of consumption and blockage.
3. Never feed cooked bones
Cooked bones are extremely brittle and easily break into sharp fragments, which can cause serious internal injury.
4. Don’t over feed bones
1-2 bones per week is ample. Avoid constipation by keeping bones to a minimum.
5. Use good hygiene
Always wash your hands after handling bones. Once your dog has finished chewing their bone, discard the remainder to prevent bacterial proliferation.
6. Never feed bones when children and other pets are about
Some dogs have a tendency to guard their bones and can become aggressive when other pets or people approach. Give your dog space to enjoy their bone.
7. Bones are not essential for dog nutrition
Quality pet foods provide all the essential nutrients your dog needs and so do not require supplementation from bones. If using bones as a phosphorous and calcium supplement for home-cooked meals, consider using bone meal instead.
8. Consider toys and dental chews as alternatives to bones
Dog Bone Alternatives
There is a wide array of dental chews and dog toys in the market designed to replace the need for bones.
These include chew toys such as nylon bones, dense rubber bones, and fibrous rope toys. It’s important to test the robustness of these products to ensure your dog cannot chew them into pieces and swallow them.
Dental chews are an excellent edible alternative. By encouraging gnawing activity, these chews prevent the build up of plaque and tartar and promote good dental health. However, it’s important to buy from a reputable company and as with all treats, consider their calorific contribution to your dog’s daily intake.
At the end of the day there is no wrong or right answer to feeding bones. All feeding practices have some level of inherent risk. Apply our recommendations and rest easy knowing you’re employing best practice when feeding your dog bones.