Ask A Vet: Are Bones Bad for Dogs?


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!

Q: We are going to the House of Prime Rib for Thanksgiving. Everyone always gives me their rib bones to take home to my dogs, but I remember reading once that cooked bones are bad for them. Is that true?
A: It might make his day or he might end up in the emergency room! I believe you don't want to find out, especially not the day after Thanksgiving, which is a very busy day in the emergency room for dogs, by the way. Although we think of our dogs as wolves, who would of course be chomping on bones in the wild, we have to keep in mind that most of our pet dogs are used to eating canned food or kibbles. Bones can, in fact, be pretty dangerous to dogs and lead to a costly trip to the vet.
Here is why you should avoid bones:
1. Bones can chip or break teeth, leading to pain and expensive dental work
2. Bone shards can get stuck in the palate of the mouth or the esophagus - leading to immediate distress
3. Marrow bones can get stuck around the lower jaw – the only way to remove the bone is to saw it in half, for which the dog must be sedated
4. Bones are hard to digest. If larger parts are ingested, it can lead to all sorts of gastro-intestinal problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, constipation, or even blockage of the intestines.

Behavior issues:
1. Your dog might love this rare and high-value treat so much that he will get very protective and show aggression when approached while he is working on it–a behavior that he might not show with his regular chew toys.
2. You might decide to take away that last piece of bone, and when you go to grab it, your dog might not give it up and bite you.
For the above reasons, it is best to not give bones. However, here is what you can do to make your dogs’ day:
1. Take all the leftover meat without the bones, and add small portions to his regular meals (decrease the amount of kibble and canned food accordingly). Dogs can develop severe pancreatitis if they eat too much or if the meat is too greasy, so use caution and moderation.
2. Wash off all the spices and remove all onions from the leftovers before giving it to your dog. Onions and garlic are not good for dogs.
3. Get a Kong, the shape of which mimics the action of extracting marrow from a bone, and stuff the meat inside and put it in the freezer for a few hours– it will become harder to chew and your dog can happily work on it for a few hours
4. Buy dog-safe, long-lasting chew toys for your dog such as Greenie's or one of the many great chew option from Premier.
May you and your dogs have a happy, safe and delicious Thanksgiving!

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