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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice June 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor - On feeding uncooked bones

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians

Q I read with interest your article in the April issue about bully sticks and the inadvisability of feeding raw food. You do not mention uncooked dog bones. When we purchased our Aussie puppy, I was told by the breeder that once a week we should give her a small soup bone such as those packaged by Big Y. When I asked if I should cook it first, she said definitely NOT. She added, ‘Who told you to cook it, your vet?’ In fact, I had not discussed it with our doctor. After reading your article, though, it would seem that cooking it first might be a good idea. What would you advise?
Joy P. Favretti
Storrs, Connecticut

Dear Ms. Favretti,
A We cannot stress enough what a bad idea it would be to give your dog raw bones to chew on. Consider it as dangerous as feeding uncooked meat. A raw bone from which the meat has been scraped off may still contain all the offending bacteria that could make a dog — and the dog’s owner sick. These would potentially include Salmonella and E. coli, among others, which can cause everything from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to dehydration, or worse.

The best way to consider raw meat or raw meat products for dogs would be to think of feeding them to yourself — or to a child, or an elderly or infirm person. If you would not feed raw meat items to people, do not feed them to your dog, either.

There are two other potential problems with giving dogs bones, either raw or cooked. First, bones can fracture a dog’s teeth. Our general rule of thumb is that if you can’t press your fingernail into an object, you should not give it to your dog to chew. In addition, many dogs try to swallow bones (because they seem like food), and large bones can get stuck in the lower esophagus, just above where it enters the stomach, which is a potentially life-threatening problem. A good alternative to bones are food toys, such as Kongs, that require a dog to work to extract food. These types of toys satisfy a dog’s urge to chew without being dangerous, and can keep dogs happily entertained for hours.

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