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

Features February 2014 Issue

Why You Shouldn’t Give a Poor Dog a Bone

While contrary to popular belief, chicken bones are not likely to hurt your dog, other types can. “The one kind of bone people should definitely keep dogs away from are large beef vertebrae,” says Tufts veterinary surgeon John Berg, DVM. “People get them from the butcher,” he says. “They’re not long. They’re roundish, with a lot of prominences on them. The issue is that when a dog chews one, he has an urge to swallow it because it’s hard to break it into bits. The bone then has a tendency to become stuck in the lower part of the esophagus, which is actually in the chest. That’s a real nasty problem. If we can’t get the bone out with an endoscope, we have to do surgery. The surgery’s not easy. It’s in an awkward location, and the esophagus is not the best tissue for healing.
“If you do let your dog chew bones,” Dr. Berg advises, “give him large long ones, like ribs and leg bones. But if you see that your dog doesn’t just want to chew the bone but also wants to swallow it, it’s probably best to avoid bones altogether.”
Dr. Berg points out that most of the time, when a dog swallows bone of any type, it doesn’t cause any problems. It simply goes into the stomach and dissolves on its own. Nonetheless, do pay close attention, especially the first few times you give your dog bones. If you notice that he attempts to swallow large chunks of bone, let him satisfy his passion for chewing with safer alternatives such as Kongs.

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