Bones can be harmful to your pet

Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:18 a.m.

Bones from human food can cause serious health issues for pets, including upset stomach and internal bleeding.

Bones from human food can cause serious health issues for pets, including upset stomach and internal bleeding.

By John Beck

I always grew up watching my parents give our dogs bones to chew on. Usually, they were leftover pork chop bones or soup bones. Our dogs always seemed fine. But now, I have heard that it isn't good to feed your dogs bones. What is your opinion?

It was once believed to be beneficial to feed your dog bones. They were thought to supply nutrition and help keep their teeth clean. Though this is partially true, there are now much better ways to do both of these things.

Feeding bones can cause many problems, starting with mouth and tongue injuries. Bones can severely cut the sides of mouths or tongues so badly that they are unable to eat their food. Bone fragments can become lodged in the mouth, causing the dog to be unable to close its mouth. Not always obvious to the owner, the dog can have this foreign object stuck for weeks or months.

This can lead to infection and damage to the teeth and gums. Bones can also cause teeth to chip or fracture.

Fragments can also get stuck in the esophagus, windpipe, stomach and intestines. Just like in the mouth, these fragments can cause major lacerations and even punctures to the intestinal wall. Damage to the esophagus and windpipe can cause trouble eating, breathing and produce a hacking cough. Sometimes, a simple cough suppressant and/or antibiotics can help, while other times, surgery is the only option.

Finally, bones are not digested easily, therefore they usually pass through in the same condition they were swallowed. These fragments can scrape the colon and anus on the way out, causing constipation and anal bleeding.

Let us set aside all the mechanical damage that bones can do to a dog and think about the nutritional side of things. The small amount of meat, which is usually fat, left on a bone is not enough to provide a good amount of nutrients for your pet. But, it can be just enough to cause an stomach upset, pancreatitis and hemorrhagic gastric enteritis (bleeding from the intestinal tract caused from inflammation). Sometimes, this can be treated with antibiotics and medication to sooth and coat the intestinal lining. Other times, these problems can become extreme where severe dehydration sets in and hospitalization with IV fluids is a necessity.

If you would like to treat your pet and help clean their teeth, there are a lot of good products on the market. Many major dog food companies make bone-type treats specifically for this purpose. They make chews that are the right density, with the correct shape and impressions for the most optimal teeth cleaning.

You can also use dehydrated sweet potato, turkey breast, chicken breast or bananas as a chewy that will preoccupy your dog without causing major incident. If you need advice when it comes to picking the right treat for your pet, feel free to contact me or your current veterinarian.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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