Because of the recent pet food recalls, I’ve been talking to pet owners more than usual about what they are feeding their pets. Some are nervous, worried their pet’s food will be the next one recalled. Some are angry, feeling their pet’s health may have been jeopardized by a carefully chosen food, and others want to feed their pets anything and everything the pet fancies.
An email from a dog owner yesterday asked for advice on feeding bones to dogs. I am sure my response was not what the owner was hoping to receive. I said no.
I know, I know — dogs love bones. My mother cautiously rationed the T-bones from our Sunday barbeque to our pack of beagles. Ok, there were only 2, but they made enough noise to be a pack. These dogs gnawed happily for hours on the bones. Fortunately, nothing bad ever happened to the dogs because of bones, but bones are dangerous.
Sharp pointy bones, like my mother’s T-bones or pork chop bones can be chewed small enough to be swallowed. Once these pointy bones get into the esophagus, they can get stuck in the soft esophageal lining and permanently damage the esophagus. They are also a diagnostic challenge. When a bone is stuck in the esophagus, your dog acts like they want to vomit. In response, veterinarians x-ray the stomach and find nothing, because a bone is stuck in the esophagus. This can lead to a delay in bone removal because your dog can’t say “I got Sunday’s T-bone stuck in my throat.”
Pork and ham bones are especially dangerous. A couple of chomps and the bone is reduced to splinters as sharp as needles. The splintered bone pieces get swallowed and can pass through the stomach and intestine unencumbered, but when it is time for those splinters to pass out the other end, your dog will scream.
Rib bones are another hazard. You put a pile of them in the trash, and your dog thinks it is a buffet and helps himself. The rib bones can lodge themselves between the left and right sides of the top teeth. When a bone is lodged in the dental arcade, your dog might not be able to close its mouth, or he might drool profusely or he might paw at his face trying to dislodge the bone. If you see a bone in there, head straight to your local veterinary ER. Sedation will probably be required before the bone can be dislodged. This is not a do-it-yourself project as you could end up in ER yourself from an accidental dog bite.
The final bone hazard is microbes. The email that started this discussion contained a question about bones from the butcher. One of the reasons we cook meat is to kill any bacteria that might have gotten on the meat during processing. Both you and your dog are susceptible to infectious agents contaminating raw meat and bones. But since you won’t be giving your dog bones, I don’t have to worry about reminding you about the hazards of raw bones!!
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