Most people have heard that they shouldn’t give their dogs cooked chicken bones. However, veterinary dentists are now recommending that pet owners do not give their dogs bones of any type, and this has been backed up by the US Food and Drug Administration. “Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”
Here are the potential risks involved:
- Small bones such as chicken bones can get wedged in the roof of the mouth, between the big upper molar teeth. Although this isn’t life threatening, will frighten your dog, and can cause abrasions to the gums.
- Bones can also present a choking hazard, as they may be swallowed and get stuck in the back of your dog’s throat, requiring emergency treatment.
- Even large marrow bones aren’t safe. These are hard enough to break your dog’s tooth, which can lead to painful gum infection and tooth root abscesses.
- Some bones can get stuck in the gastro-intestinal tract and cause a blockage, requiring surgery to clear it. Even worse, if a shard of bone actually pierces his intestine, it can lead to peritonitis, a potentially fatal infection of his abdominal cavity.
- A bone can get stuck in the esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will require a visit to your veterinarian.
- Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.It’s also possible that bones can cause your dog’s feces to become very hard, which leads to painful constipation. If this happens, he may need an enema and laxatives to help him pass his bowel movements.
If you buy into what the FDA is saying–and there are many who aren’t entirely in agreement–then the trick is to figure out how to keep your dog’s teeth clean if you can’t give him a bone to chew on. Since most dogs have periodontal disease to some extent before they reach 3 years old, an effective substitute must be found.
“Talk with your veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to your dog,” says Stamper. “There are many bone-like products made with materials that are safe for dogs to chew on. Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your dog hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”
Another simple and safe solution is to brush his teeth! The current recommendation from veterinary dentists is that you need to brush his teeth at least once a day, preferably twice. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a finger toothbrush. These are made out of silicone and have soft rubber bristles. You can put them on your finger just as you would a finger guard, add some toothpaste made especially for dogs and just rub your dog’s teeth with your fingertip.
If you can give your dog safe bone alternative and find five minutes once or twice a day to clean your dog’s teeth, he will have a healthier mouth. He will also have fresher breath, which will make it much nicer to cuddle up next to him on the couch.