Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Here's what you should know.

Dog eating a bone

So there I was one day noticing that my pit bull, Nala, was having a real hard time pooping.

Once she finally was able to — in true dog mom fashion — I examined the poop and to my horror it was filled with freaking bones.

I realized that someone — probably totally innocently — gave her cooked bones at a BBQ we had been to over the weekend and I was totally freaking out.

Don’t worry, she’s fine now — but only after I sat there for days worrying and Googling until all the bones passed through.

So, The Dodo reached out to Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director of Behavior Vets NYC in New York City, to get some expert advice about whether dogs can actually eat bones.

“This is based mostly on the type of bone,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “While a dog's stomach acid is able to digest boney substances, if a dog eats a large amount of thick bones, that can be hard to digest.”

Because of this, Dr. Tu said, if a bone isn’t chewed well and is swallowed whole, then it’ll likely not digest in the stomach and can progress to an intestinal obstruction — a life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment and possibly surgery to resolve.

“One of my most memorable radiographs was from a Yorkie who got into a trash can, and when the owners walked in, the dog quickly swallowed what was in front of him,” Dr. Tu said. “Unfortunately what he swallowed was a drumstick bone that was exactly the length of his esophagus — basically the length of his neck — and the poor dog had this bone that was stuck with no way to be swallowed and potentially causing choking.”

The story has a happy ending, though — according to Dr. Tu the mischievous Yorkie needed an emergency endoscopy to have it removed. Luckily it was successful and he lived to tell of his gluttonous adventures of swallowing a bone almost as big as he was!

“Another possible risk is if the bone tends to splinter (like chicken bones), the shards could potentially cause injury to the esophagus as it is swallowed,” Dr. Tu said. “Even if the bone is chewed and digested properly, bones can cause constipation and pain/discomfort.”

But chewing on bones doesn’t just bother your pup’s stomach — it can also hurt his mouth.

“Many bones are too hard for a dog's teeth, and chewing on bones can cause enamel damage or even fracture teeth, both of which in turn can result in dental disease, infection, and oral pain/sensitivity,” Dr. Tu said.

So if you’re looking to give your dog a bone, it’s a good idea to stick to toys or edible options that are made especially for dogs — while you supervise, of course.

Note: If your dog has accidentally swallowed a bone, consult your veterinarian ASAP.

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