Giving dogs bones is commonplace to the point of being clich. I have known many dogs that gnawed on bones their whole lives without incident. During my travels (El Salvador especially comes to mind) I have met dogs that subsist almost solely on bones.
However, subsistence should not be confused with thriving. And although many dogs can tolerate bones just fine, I have seen bones–cooked and raw–wreak havoc upon many others.
I have removed bones from every part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus (rest assured that I especially loathe removing bones from the rectum and anus). I have seen bones cause diarrhea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and peritonitis. When bones go down the wrong pipe dogs suffocate or, if they’re lucky, only come close to suffocating. I cannot count the number of teeth I or nurses under my supervision have pulled after they fractured in the course of bone gnawing.
Therefore I was not surprised to read in yesterday’s Washington Post that the FDA has published a top ten list of reasons not to feed bones to dogs.
Most of the list was familiar, but one of the items truly struck a chord with me.
8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because theyre 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.
As bone fragments pass into the rectum, they may become stuck together in a firm mass called a bezoar. This happens especially often with rib bones. The bezoar may be too big to pass through the anus, leading to horrible, painful constipation. One dog I treated had lost 30 pounds before his owner realized something was up (how could someone not know something was wrong when his dog hadn’t defecated for a month?).
By the way, did I mention how much I hate pulling bones out of dogs’ anuses?