Which Bones Are Safe For Your Dog?

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: November 25, 2014

Updated: May 21, 2021

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bones are not safe for dogsThere are dangers, regardless of whether they are raw or cooked bones, big or small.

It's a myth that raw bones are OK but cooked aren't

Are there dogs who chew and/or eat bones without incident? Of course. BUT there are also plenty of dogs, who do so with incident, including plenty who had previously done so without. In fact, there were so many reported illnesses and deaths due to "bone treats" in 2017 that the FDA issued a warning to pet owners.

What kinds of problems do we vets see with dogs chewing or eating bones?

Plenty. This type of dog emergency is painful, distressing, and costly. Some are even fatal. Here’s a sample of the bone-chewing/eating problems commonly seen by vets and experienced by dog owners:

    • Broken teeth. Painful for the dog, and predisposes the tooth to infection. Requires anesthesia and surgery to fix or remove the tooth.

    • Obstructed airway. Distressing for dog and owner, as the dog has difficulty breathing. Requires quick action to remove the lodged bone. Sometimes attempts are unsuccessful, and plenty a dog owner has been bitten by their distressed dog while trying to remove the lodged bone at home.

    • Digestive irritation. Leads to pain and inflammation of the lining of the stomach (“gastritis”) and/or intestines (“enteritis”). Often results in a refusal to eat, as well as vomiting and/or diarrhea (frequently with blood in it).

    • Digestive obstruction. Blockage of the stomach and/or intestinal tract results in vomiting, abdominal pain, electrolyte imbalances, and dehydration. If obstructed long enough, the blood flow to that area of the digestive tract can become compromised and the tissues can die off, resulting of spillage of gut contents into the abdominal cavity (“peritonitis,” with or without “sepsis”). Anesthesia and endoscopy and/or surgery is typically required to remove an obstruction.

    • Digestive tract perforation. Sharp points on broken bones can poke through the wall of the stomach and/or intestines as they pass through, resulting in spillage of gut contents into the abdominal cavity (“peritonitis,” as above). This is a very painful and debilitating condition, requiring surgery and intensive care to correct. Here's one family's story with pork bones.

Find out which of the most popular chew toys are actually dangerous for dogs.

Dog bone chew toyWhen cooking Thanksgiving birds and holiday feasts please keep these hazards in mind. And also realize that these dangers are also present with deer antlers, a dog chew that seems to be gaining in popularity (and causing more and more problems as a result).

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.

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