Whilst in the wild dogs ate bones regularly, we do not recommend feeding bones to our domestic dogs. There are a number of reasons for this. (These are not listed in order of importance!)
1. Bones are largely undigestible. When a dog is fed exclusively on a raw diet, comprised of a large portion of meat (as with dogs in their wild state) the acidity of the digestive fluids in the stomach is very low and this facilitates digestion of bone. Our pets which are fed on commercial or home cooked diets, have a very different level of acidity which does not digest bone. The bone therefore passes, almost in the same consistency, through the intestinal tract and can accumulate in the large intestine and rectum causing constipation. Severe cases can lead to bowel rupture and potentially death. Less severe cases are very painful to dogs and require anaesthesia and enemas.
2. Bones, especially if cooked, can splinter or break leaving very sharp edges. When these are swallowed they can damage the back of the mouth and esophagus. The esophagus is very delicate and even minor injury can result in massive inflammatory reactions and potentially infection. This is extremely painful and may take weeks to settle with medications.
3. Obstructions: Swallowing bones which are too big for passage through the gastrointestinal system can lead to enormous complications. Obstructions (bones stuck) can occur anywhere but most commonly occur in the esophagus and the small intestine. As the esophagus passes through the chest seems to be the most common place for a bone to get stuck. These situations are very difficult and usually require referral to specialist surgical facilities and prognosis is guarded. Small intestine blockages are more common and are more routine for us to deal with but still require extensive surgical and medical treatment and are potentially life threatening too.
4. Pieces of bones frequently get caught around or between teeth or across the roof of the mouth. This is very distressing for the dog and often painful especially as dogs tend to try frantically to remove them with their paws often causing significant trauma to their mouths. They also tend to get “bitey” and many owners have been accidentally bitten trying to remove the bones, something we strongly recommend you let us deal with. We also regularly come across broken teeth from dogs chewing at bones that are too hard for their teeth.
5. Pancreatitis: The pancreas is the organ which secrets digestive fluids to the stomach and makes insulin as well as other functions. It is a small organ but easily upset, fatty meals are the most common cause. Upsetting the pancreas causes it to become inflamed which causes severe pain to the dog. It can lead to many complications including death. Eating bone marrow is a very common cause of this disease process in dogs as it is very fatty and even a small amount can cause very severe illnesses in some dogs.
6. Fights: I acknowledge that in general, dogs do love having a bone. This also often causes problems as dogs will fight over the bones. Dog fight injuries vary from minor to deadly. They are extremely painful and most require surgical and medical treatment.
If you really must give your dog bones, and yes they are good for helping keep dogs teeth clean, please select bones that cannot be swallowed and watch your dog to ensure they chew on but don't chew up the bone. Once the meat and cartilage is removed, take the bone away.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact the clinic on 53811996.