As the pet parent of possibly the most beautiful and amazing dog in the world, you want nothing but the best for your pooch. That goes for everything from exercise and social stimulation to the food you provide. But when it comes to canine nutrition, things can get complex very quickly.
At the most basic level, you probably want to know if giving your pup bones from your own table is a good idea. As with virtually every aspect of pet nutrition, the answer is nuanced. Let’s take some time to look into the details.
Raw vs Cooked Bones
You might be surprised to learn that most veterinarians believe it is safer to give your dog raw rather than cooked bones. That’s because the cooking process softens the bone, increasing the risk of it splintering while the dog is chewing it. Additionally, raw bones are excellent sources of minerals and vitamins. However, they can harbor bacteria that might be dangerous to either you or your pup, so discuss safe handling with your vet.
Small or Large Bones?
Ideally, only give your dog bones that are big and thick. This lessens the chance that your dog will reduce the bon to sharp shards that can be harmful if swallowed.
Quick Word About Digestive Issues
Some dogs are more prone to having sensitive tummies, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. If your pet falls into this category, you probably want to avoid giving bones altogether. That’s because bone marrow is extremely rich and can make these issues worse.
What Types of Bones are Safe?
As you may have guessed, not all bones are created equal. The following are the most common types, with recommendations about their safety:
- Beef bones. Steak and rib bones from a cow are generally great choices to give to your canine companion. They are hard and large, making for less splintering and a great opportunity for productive chewing as well as nutrition. As we discussed above, it is best to provide raw beef bones to your dog.
- Chicken bones. The short answer is an unqualified “no.” Whether raw or cooked, chicken bones are soft and can easily splinter while being chewed. The result can be choking or, even worse, lacerations in the gastrointestinal tract that can lead to injury or even death.
- Turkey bones. Like chicken, turkey bones can splinter very easily and can pose a serious risk of choking or serious injury. Enjoy your own Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t be tempted to pass it on to Fido – at least not the bones.
- Pork bones. Whether you’re thinking about giving your fur baby the bones from ham, ribs or pork chops, it’s not a good idea. Like chicken and turkey, raw or cooked pork bones splinter easily and can lead to disastrous consequences if ingested by your dog.
- Lamb bones. Similar to beef bones in size and hardness, lamb bones are a much safer option. This is especially true when it comes to uncooked ones.
What to do if Your Dog Gets an Unsafe Bone
No matter how vigilant and loving you are, you can’t be everywhere all at once. The day might come when your pup snatches a pork, chicken or turkey bone from your table or counter and begins gobbling it down. What should you do in this situation?
- Try to stay calm. Extreme fear or yelling may cause your dog to run away, making things even more difficult.
- If you catch your dog in the act and he still has the bone in his mouth, attempt to remove it.
- Observe your dog to make sure he isn’t choking on anything.
- Call your veterinarian or the nearest animal hospital for suggestions. Some professionals recommend that you give your dog a piece of white bread, which helps to put a barrier between bone fragments and the digestive tract.
- Over the next few days, keep a close eye on your dog. Call your vet immediately if you notice vomiting, abdominal bloating, lethargy, constipation, bloody stool or straining while attempting to defecate. Also contact the vet if your dog stops eating.
- Monitor the stools from your dog for the next few days. If you don’t see bone fragments within three to four days, make an appointment with your vet to make sure that nothing is stuck in your pup’s digestive tract.
The best way to protect your dog from the negative consequences of ingesting a small or soft bone is to do all you can to prevent them from getting it in the first place. To that end, make it a priority to remove temptations. After all, even the best-trained pups aren’t machines, and food is an incredibly strong motivator. Keep bones out of your dog’s reach, either in a locked trash barrel or in the refrigerator or freezer until they can be properly removed from your home.
Any pet parent knows how hard it is to resist their dog’s soulful gaze. Even though you know intellectually that you just gave Fido his own nutritious meal, it can be very difficult to resist that imploring stare. Fortunately, you can continue to provide the nutrition and chewing stimulation that is important for every dog’s happiness and physical well-being without jeopardizing his health. Just stick to raw beef or lamb bones and work hard to keep your fur baby from getting into trouble with poultry or pork.