FDA to Fido: Dog Bones Not Safe

Broken Teeth, Internal Injuries, Even Death Among Risks Posed by Dog Bones

Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S on April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010 -- Pet owners commonly give their dogs bones as a reward, butthe FDA says in a new consumer warning that it’s not good for dogs to chew onbones because they can cause serious injury or even death.

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a hamor a roast,” Carmela Stamper, DVM, a veterinarian in the FDA’s Center forVeterinary Medicine, says in an FDA Consumer Update. “Bones are unsafe nomatter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidatefor a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, oreven death.”

Stamper says pet owners should throw away bones from meals and make suredogs can’t sniff out and find discarded bones. She suggests putting bones inthe trash immediately, or out of the dog’s reach until you have a chance todispose of them safely.

And when you’re walking Fido around the neighborhood, pay attention to whatthe dog sniffs and “steer him away from any objects lying in the grass.”

The new warning lists 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea to give bones to yourdogs:

  1. Broken Teeth. Bones can break teeth, requiring expensive veterinarydentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. Bones can break and become sharp, causingbloody, messy injuries also requiring treatment by a vet.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can befrightening or painful for your dog, and potentially costly because aveterinarian’s help is usually required.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that foodtravels through to reach the stomach. If a bone gets stuck here, your dog maygag and drool. Removal of the bone can be difficult, requiring endoscopicequipment or a complicated surgery. If the bone is not removed promptly, theesophagus may rupture and cause a life-threatening infection in the chestcavity.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This happens if your dog accidentallyinhales a small piece of bone and can be an emergency if your pet has troublebreathing. When this happens, the FDA says, get the dog to the vetimmediately.
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. The bone may be too big to pass outof the stomach and into the intestines. When this happens, invasive surgery oran upper gastrointestinal endoscopy may be required. An endoscopy is aprocedure in which a veterinarian uses a long, flexible tube with a built-incamera to find the bone and then remove it with special grabbing tools.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines. This causes an intestinal blockage,requiring prompt surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Dogs may have a hard timepassing bone fragments, because they are sharp and can scrape the inside of thelarge intestine or rectum as they move toward the outside world. This can causesevere pain and may require a trip to the vet.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. When this happens, it’s not onlymessy but dangerous for your pet, which will need to see a veterinarian.
  10. Peritonitis. This is a hard-to-treat bacterial infection of theabdomen, caused by bone fragments poking holes in the dog’s stomach orintestines. Aggressive and expensive care is needed to manage this problem.Left untreated, peritonitis is fatal.

Stamper says dog owners should talk to their veterinarians aboutalternatives to dog bones. Many bone-like products are made with materials thatare safe for dogs to chew, she says.

“Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your doghasn’t had before,” Stamper says. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t actingright,’ call your veterinarian right away.”