By Chris Pitts, RVT, of Broadway Animal Hospital
I admit it, as a veterinary professional, I cringe when people ask me which bones to feed their dogs. I have seen too many cases of diarrhea from dogs chewing on bacteria-laden bones, vomiting from swallowing a chunk of bone, surgery from bones that will not pass through the intestines, and broken teeth from chewing. I have also had to remove chunks of bone that become lodged in a dog's mouth, and seen bones cause serious choking problems.
The bones that scare me the most are rib bones and marrow bones. They are the perfect shape to be swallowed, and present a choking hazard. They are also prone to breaking into sharp pieces that can cause laceration of the esophagus, stomach or intestines.
If you really have to give your dog a bone, please supervise him. When he starts to pull off chunks of the bone, or it becomes small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube, then it is time to take the treat away. A bone that can fit through a toilet paper tube is usually small enough to be a choking hazard.
If you are set on giving your dog a bone, my go-to would be a beef knuckle bone. They are large enough not to pose a choking hazard when intact. In addition, chewed-upon bones are a great place for bacteria to build up, making it a good idea to switch them out often, say twice a week. Even if your dog is not showing any signs of gastrointestinal issues, you need to keep an eye on him when he is given a bone. Bone is hard on tooth enamel and causes a lot of dental fractures.
A dog with a bone to gnaw on is the quintessential picture of canine happiness. However, keeping an eye on him while he gnaws is a must. Any vomiting or diarrhea may be an indication you need to take the bone away. And keep an eye on your dog's teeth. If they are looking broken or worn, he or she needs something softer to chomp.