What Kind of Bones Can I Give My Dog?
Chewing bones can provide health benefits for your dog. They keep the teeth clean and keep the dog busy. The chewing stage of the dog will generally last from birth to two years of age. The following tips will help you avoid serious hazards while giving your pet a healthful and enjoyable treat:
1) Avoid bones which splinter such as cooked poultry, rib, pork chop and steak bones. Although the stomach has acids strong enough to dissolve most of these bones, they can easily splinter and be passed into the intestine undigested. Some of these splinters may eventually perforate the intestine causing death of the animal.
What if you dog eats one of these bones? Feed canned food for a day or two and a couple of pieces of bread to help the bone pass. Watch the stool each time the dog has a bowel movement for a day or two. Make sure they have a bowel movement, and watch for bright red blood on the stool or black tarry stool (an indication there is small intestinal bleeding.) If you see blood, take your dog to your local veterinarian.
2) Select bones which are softer than your dog’s teeth such as spongy (cancellous) or knuckle bones, which are found at the ends of the long (leg) bones and in oxtails. These bones are softer than tooth enamel. Knuckle bones have cartilage over the ends, which give to the dog’s teeth and encourages chewing. Bone sawdust shaven from this spongy bone provides calcium, minerals, roughage and firmness to the stool aiding in proper anal gland emptying. Too much bone may cause white, hard stools and constipation and even life-threatening obstipation (the bone packs in the intestine like concrete.)
Hard (cortical) bone is the most common and is found in shank bone (like ham shank bones,) stew, steak and rib bones. This dense bone is harder than enamel and will not give under the pressure of a dog’s strong jaws. Fractured and broken teeth often result when dogs chew on hard bones.
3) Round steak bones can also slip over the end of a dog’s lower jaw and become caught causing panic and trauma in both the owner and the pet. Sometimes this necessitates and emergency call and anesthesia for removal.
4) Small bones should be avoided as your dog might swallow them whole, leading to intestinal blockage. Oxtail bones can be used for toy breeds and puppies. Frozen, they can help in the teething process, much like a Popsicle or ice cube, to numb the puppies gums during this teething stage.
5) Trim bones closely of all fat. You may have to boil the bone to be able to cut the fat away. Fat can be a serious health hazard, providing more than three times more calories than carbohydrates. Many dogs are overweight and the extra burden of joint and marrow fat can bring on a sudden intestinal upset or a serious attack of pancreatitis. Middle-aged, older, or overweight dogs are of higher risk.
6) If your dog is likely to take his/her bone and bury it or if your dog chews non-stop on the bone, offer it to him/her only under supervision for 20 minutes at a time, two to three times per week. Store the bone in the freezer in between chewing session.
7) During warmer weather, be cautious about allowing your pet to chew the bone out-of-doors as yellow jackets are attracted to the meat. Foxtails (grass awns) can also be a hazard when allowing the dog to chew the bone outside, as they work up into your dog’s nostrils.
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