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We’ve all heard the phrase “give a dog a bone,” but you might want to consider alternative treats to dog bones.

Bones can be a good source of minerals and other nutrients and help satisfy your dog’s appetite. Chewing stimulates saliva enzymes and helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth and gum disease. And a dog chewing on a bone is less inclined to excessively scratch or lick their paws.

However, chewing bones can pose potential dangers to dogs. If you’re considering giving your dog a bone, consider whether it’s the right treat for your pet.

Potential Health Hazards

Fatty Bones Can Cause Pancreatitis

Rib bones, especially pork rib bones, are high in fat. Dogs aren’t built to handle this amount of saturated fat, which can cause pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, often caused by too much fat in the diet. It can range from mild to severe, but symptoms typically include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Severe cases can be deadly, so it’s important to seek veterinary attention right away if you suspect your dog may have pancreatitis.

Cooked Bones Can Shatter and Cause Damage

Cooked bones splinter into shards. So if your dog eats one, they might choke on the tiny pieces. These pieces can cause serious damage to the dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. Cooking can also remove nutrients from the bone.

Cute golden retriever playing / eating with bone consists of some pork skin on the huge garden, looking happy
©Khaligo -

If your dog does ingest cooked bones, give your veterinarian a call for advice or schedule an appointment to rule out any serious outcomes. Be careful to keep platters containing bones out of reach when you’re cooking or putting food on the table. And avoid putting bones in any trash cans that your dog might be able to get into.

Fragments Can Be Choking Hazards

When your dog gnaws on a bone, they might chew it down into small pieces. Those fragments are a major choking hazard. Bone fragments can easily get lodged in your dog’s throat, blocking the airways and creating an emergency situation.

Also, these chunks are typically very sharp. They can puncture and cut the inside of your dog’s mouth, tongue, stomach, and intestines. Fragments of bone, especially rib bones, can also lodge in the descending colon near the rectum, causing constipation-like symptoms and pain. If this occurs, bring your dog to the veterinarian or emergency clinic for treatment.

Chunks of Bone Might Cause Blockages

The chance of bone chunks getting stuck in the intestines is fairly high. Blockages can occur if a bone fragment is too large to pass through the gut and obstructs the flow of all other digested food through the gastrointestinal tract. Obstructions are very serious and can quickly lead to severe illness and death.

Bones Can Irritate Canine Stomachs

A bone and its marrow can cause diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Bones could also further irritate already sensitive stomachs.

What to Do When Giving Your Dog a Bone

Ask Your Vet About Raw Meat Bones

Some veterinarians suggest raw meat bones for dogs. But raw meat bones may carry bacteria like salmonella. And bones that are too hard, even raw bones, could damage your dog’s teeth. If a bone is harder than a tooth, the tooth can fracture and your dog will need an expensive dental evaluation and treatment. So before giving your dog a raw meat bone, ask your vet if this would be a safe treat.

Give Your Dog a Bone if They’re Alone

It’s a good idea not to give your dog a bone if there’s another dog visiting. Even friendly dogs can be very protective of their bones.

Weimaraner bone
Brian goodman/Getty Images Plus

Try a Bone After a Meal

Because they’ve just eaten, your dog is already full. As a result, they’re not likely to chew the bone as quickly.

Put the Bone in the Fridge After 10 to 15 Minutes

After your dog has spent 10 to 15 minutes chewing on the bone, take it away and put it in the refrigerator. Dogs have powerful jaws, and you don’t want your dog to ingest too much bone.

Throw Out a Bone After a Few Days

Dispose of a bone after three or four days. Bacteria can grow on the surface and cause intestinal problems for your dog.

Give Large Breeds Large Bones

Bones should be larger than the length of the dog’s muzzle, so they can’t be swallowed whole. So try giving large breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, Bloodhounds, and Mastiffs, large bones. A beef shank bone is a good example of the type of bone to give to a large dog.

Supervise Your Dog

It’s very important to check periodically on your dog when they are chewing a bone. Be ready to remove the bone if it’s breaking apart or getting too small.

Bone Alternatives

Consider playing it safe and only providing commercially available chew toys and simulated dog bones that are made for dogs of all sizes.

Related article: Medical Emergency Tips for Your Dog
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