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When your dog is gazing up at you with endearing eyes, it’s tempting to share the scraps you have on your plate, especially when it comes to leftover barbecue. We’ve all heard the phrase “give a dog a bone,” but the literal action might not be as harmless as we think. Most people consider dogs and bones to come hand-in-hand; it’s no secret that our pups thoroughly enjoy a tasty snack. But bones, especially cooked ones, have the potential to bring more risks than benefits. Although it’s quite a task for humans to crack through rib bones, our dogs have much more powerful jaws than we do and can break them down with ease. This causes a variety of hazards.

 

Choking and Injuries

Cooked bones, including rib bones, splinter when they are chewed on. This creates sharp chunks and shards that can cause an array of issues for your dog. First, these pieces create a major choking hazard. Bone fragments can easily get lodged in your dog’s throat, blocking the airways, and creating an emergency situation. Second, these chunks are typically very sharp and can puncture and cut the inside of your dog’s mouth, tongue, stomach, and intestines. This is painful and can lead to serious internal bleeding and possibly death.

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Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, often caused by too much fat in the diet. Rib bones, especially pork rib bones, are high in fat. The way we cook them — with sauces and spices — enhances their potential to be harmful to dogs. Dogs aren’t built to handle this amount of saturated fat, along with the added sauces, spices, and seasonings we use, in their diet and often have a poor reaction. Pancreatitis can range from mild to severe, but typically shows up as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. Severe cases can be deadly, so it’s important to seek veterinary attention right away.

 

Blockages

Even if your dog chews up bones, the chance of the chunks getting stuck in the intestines is fairly high. This happens when 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. The blockage can begin to cut the circulation off of the surrounding tissue, causing it to die. Blockages must be surgically removed by veterinarians, so if your dog experiences any prolonged vomiting or diarrhea after eating rib bones and/or any lethargy and a loss of appetite, you’ll want to take him to see a vet.

Rib bones can also cause a blockage in a dog's descending colon. If your dog is straining to defecate and vomiting, he may have a blockage of his descending colon. This is an emergency that should be dealt with by your veterinarian, and not attempted to be taken care of at home. Blockage in a dog's descending colon can lead to serious illness and potential death.

Rib bones might be delicious and seem like a natural treat for dogs, but they’re actually quite risky. Feeding people foods to dogs is generally a bad idea, but some foods, such as rib bones, are riskier than others. With potentially deadly results, feeding rib bones or other cooked bones should be avoided. If your dog does ingest rib bones, we suggest giving your veterinarian a call for advice or to schedule an appointment to rule out any serious outcomes.

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