Dog begging for holiday food
Did you hear the one about the dog who swallowed 13 chicken hot wings? When she was X-rayed at the emergency clinic, her belly was full of bones. The owners had to have her X-rayed a couple more times over the next few days to make sure the bones were dissolving and not causing a blockage.

Dogs will eat bones any time of year, but the holiday season seems to be a particularly common time for them to dig into the trash or steal meat with bones off the table. Some people even give leftover turkey and chicken bones to dogs as treats.

Why Bones Are Bad

No bones about it, that’s not a good idea. Cooked bones can splinter, puncturing the digestive tract. I always advise against giving dogs poultry or fish bones. Rib bones and pork bones also splinter easily.

What about other bones? Beef bones can shatter and perforate the intestinal tract or cause an intestinal blockage. Blockages can require emergency surgery to remove the bone.

Large or oddly shaped bones, such as T-bones, can become stuck in the esophagus, causing a dog to choke, or elsewhere in the intestinal tract. Beef vertebrae also can get stuck in the esophagus.

Choking can be a concern with dogs who gulp bones without chewing them thoroughly. And a dog can break a tooth chewing on a bone or cow hoof. That can mean an expensive repair or extraction by your veterinarian.

Still not convinced? Here are five more good reasons to avoid giving your dog a bone:

  • Bones can cause bloody mouth or tongue injuries.
  • Round bones can become stuck around your dog’s lower jaw and may require a veterinary visit to remove.
  • Bone fragments that pierce your dog’s stomach or intestines can cause serious bacterial infections that are difficult to treat and can even be fatal.
  • Bones and bone fragments can cause your dog to become constipated. 
  • Bone fragments can be sharp, causing pain and bleeding from the rectum as your dog passes them.

Keep Your Pooch Safe

To protect your dog from an emergency this holiday season, don’t leave bones in your kitchen trash can — immediately take them to an outside garbage can that your dog cannot access. If you’re preparing the roast beast for a holiday meal and are leaving it out to come to room temperature after cooking, don’t assume your dog can’t get to it on the kitchen counter. Place it well out of his reach.

On walks, pay attention when your dog seems to be unusually interested in something in the grass. In my experience, that usually means he’s found a bone. Know how to do a finger sweep to check his mouth for and remove calcified contraband.

Finally, always say “thanks, but no thanks” to well-meaning friends, relatives and neighbors who want to give your dog a bone.

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