, Salem, MA


April 18, 2014

Vet Connection: Is it OK to give a dog a bone?

We have all seen the cartoons and commercials depicting dogs burying bones and stashing them away for later. Unfortunately, most pet owners are completely unaware of the significant risks and problems that are associated with feeding dogs these treats. The situation has gotten so bad that even the FDA has warned consumers to avoid giving bones to their dogs.

Advocates of raw pet foods and other so-called “natural diets” claim that, given properly, bones are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and provide an instinctive means of stress relief. Some even state that bones provide important nutrients and should be included in your pet’s daily routine.

So, is it OK to give a dog a bone?

Most veterinarians answer that question with a resounding “NO” for several reasons. One of the most common problems for a dog with regular access to bones is a fractured tooth.

Veterinarians will see unusual patterns of enamel wear, cracks in the teeth and even painful fractures of the canine teeth or large molars and premolars. Even if the fracture doesn’t look serious, the connection of the inside of the tooth with the outside environment can lead to abscesses that show up on the muzzle or under the eye. These conditions will require a veterinary dentist to extract the affected tooth or perform a root canal. Either of these procedures will also cause pain to the owner’s wallet, as root canals can start at between $700 and $1,000, and even extractions are rarely less than $500.

The American Veterinary Dental College’s website ( states that dried natural bones are “too hard and do not mimic the effect of a dog tearing meat off a carcass.”

Another common problem seen with dogs that chew on bones is an obstruction of the digestive tract. These treats can become lodged in the esophagus, the stomach or anywhere along the intestines. Blockages in any of these areas will require emergency surgery and several days of hospitalization. A typical exploratory surgery to remove an obstruction caused by a bone or bone fragments can exceed $2,000 or $3,000. Many times, the pet can be saved if the obstruction is caught early enough. Each day that passes while the pet is obstructed and unattended to, the risks of surgery increase and the chances for a positive outcome decline. That is why veterinarians prefer to see the dog that has been vomiting for one day rather than two or three days or longer.

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