I am worried that there are still dog lovers out there who do not realize they are jeopardizing their dog’s very life by ever giving her a bone of any kind. You may think you’re giving your dog a treat and doing something nice for her, but giving a steak or chop bone to your dog can result in terrible pain, costly emergency surgery and even a life-threatening condition, depending on whether the swallowed pieces of bone have caused an intestinal blockage or have punctured some place in her digestive tract.

Some people are aware that chicken bones are especially dangerous because they can easily splinter when chewed, but those same people will still give bones from other animals to their dogs. When a chicken bone splits it often cracks into a sharp, spear-like shape that your dog may be able to swallow – but which can pierce her internally, anywhere from her esophagus to her stomach or through her large or small intestine.

Cooked chicken bones are most dangerous, but there is a definite danger of bones splintering when they are raw, too (a concern often dismissed by those who choose to feed whole pieces of raw chicken to their dogs). However, those same dog owners don’t always recognize that any sort of bone (steak, pork or lamb) is equally hazardous and can splinter in exactly the same way. If you feed any bones from your dinner table to your dog, you are placing her in the same jeopardy as if you had given her the steak knife itself to swallow.

Marrowbones are the thick, round, white bones filled with dense white marrow (that looks like Crisco) in the center, which leave a hollow center after a dog licks out the marrow. These are the only bones that will not splinter if they are eaten raw, but they cannot be cooked, since they can crack once they are baked or boiled.

However, raw marrow bones still present a number of reasons to avoid them: the raw bone marrow could potentially have food-borne illness (remember all the fears not so long ago about BSE -Mad Cow Disease?), the marrow is greasy on your carpets and pet beds, it is very high in calories (problematic for dogs with weight issues) and is pure cholesterol (a high level of fat can cause intestinal problems for some dogs). While raw marrowbones may not splinter, a dog can still crack her teeth chewing on them.

And do not be swayed by anyone who tells you that chewing bones is natural for dogs, who are descended from wolves. Today’s domestic dog is a far cry from a wild wolf, which has greater jaw strength and digestive system – and in any case, wolves do not naturally have access to cooked pork chop bones!

If you want to give your dog something to chew, stay on the safe side when you want to give her a treat: keep it simple, healthy and safe by giving a Liv-a-Little biscuit and a pat on the head!

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.


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