Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Here's what you should know about dogs eating bones 🦴️

Dog eating a bone

Dogs chewing on bones is an age-old pop culture trope. It’s standard in cartoons, but can dogs eat bones safely in real life?

We reached out to Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director of Behavior Vets NYC in New York City, to get some expert advice on bones and dogs.

Can dogs eat bones safely?

Eating any kind of bone can be dangerous for your pup, and the type of bone — small, large, cooked or raw — will determine the specific risks involved.

For example, you should never give your dog small bones or cooked bones, because of how brittle they are.

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

And according to Dr. Tu, if a bone isn’t chewed well and is swallowed whole, it’ll likely not digest in the stomach, which can cause some major problems.“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,” Dr. Tu said.
That’s why, to be safe, you should always call your veterinarian if your pup swallows a bone, whether it’s an accident or not.

Other risks of dogs eating bones

There are a couple additional risks associated with dogs eating bones.

Gastrointestinal obstruction

If your dog can’t digest it, the bone 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 his adventures of swallowing a bone almost as big as he was!

Tooth damage

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.

What to give your dog instead

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

Try rawhide-free SmartBones from Chewy for $6

Or this Petstages chew toy from Chewy for $3

So before you toss your pup a bone, be careful. Thin or cooked bones can be incredibly harmful if your dog chews on them, and even large or raw bones can be tough to digest and cause some major problems.

Just in case, it’s probably best to give him some safer alternatives instead.

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