Why Dog’s Can’t Eat Bones

Pete Wedderburn
9th December 2019 - 3 min read

What Pete Says

“One of the common questions that I am asked is this: is it OK to give bones to a dog? There are plenty of people who claim that it is, and I can understand their arguments. Dogs love chewing bones, it’s something that dogs have done for thousands of years, and there’s evidence that chewing bones can help to prevent the accumulation of dental calculus or tartar on dogs’ teeth. So what’s not to like about bones?

I guess as a vet, I am very aware of the problems associated with feeding bones, and so for me, it’s a matter of doing a risk: benefit analysis. From what I can see, there are more risks than benefits to make it worthwhile.”

Problems Associated With Feeding Bones

To explain a bit more, here are some of the negative aspects of feeding bones, whether raw or cooked, to dogs.

dog trying to eat big bone

Broken Teeth

  • First, broken teeth. This is the most common hazard. Veterinary dentists say that you should not give a dog anything to chew that you would not hit yourself on the kneecap with and that you cannot press with your thumbnail to make an indentation in it. Bones are too hard to do either of these things, and that means that dogs are prone to breaking their teeth when they chew them. We know from studies of wild dogs that they suffer from broken teeth too, from chewing bones. Broken teeth are painful, and need expensive veterinary help to sort them out.

Mouth Or Tongue Injuries

  • Second, mouth or tongue injuries. Bones can have sharp edges, and dogs can easily cut their tongue and gums from chewing on them, again requiring attention from your vet.

Stuck In Dogs Mouth

  • Third, bones can get stuck in a dog’s mouth: bones can get looped around the lower jaw, wedged across the roof of the mouth, and fragments of bone stuck firmly around teeth at the back of the mouth. The bones can become lodged between the mouth and the stomach, in the pharynx (at the back of the mouth), in the oesophagus or gullet, and sometimes even in the windpipe. This does not happen often, but it is very dangerous when a bone gets caught in any of these places.

Obstructions In The Stomach And Intestines

  • Fourth, bones can cause obstructions in the stomach and intestines. When this happens, the only option is major surgery to remove them.

Bowel Complications

  • Fifth, fragments of chewed bone can gather in the lower bowel, in the colon and rectum, forming a concrete-like solid mass that causes severe constipation. Sometimes sedation and repeated enemas need to be used to help the unfortunate dogs that develop this problem.

Intestine Issues

  • Sixth, the sharp edges of bones can penetrate the wall of the intestines, setting up peritonitis, which is a dangerous and complex problem.

There are plenty of other, far safer objects to give dogs to chew, from Kong toys to K9Connectables to many others. Why offer a dog something risky to chew on when there are plenty of safe options?

red kong toy blue background