Picking a good dog bone is no light matter. Let's say your dog wants something to chew on, and you happen to have a cooked bone from the ham roast you've been eating - one that was going to go to waste. You saw him chewing longingly on the leg of your sofa earlier in the day and naturally decide to give him the bone he so desperately craves...only find yourself in the animal emergency room later that night because he has suffered an intestinal blockage.
This is just one of the many nightmarish scenarios that can easily result from letting your pet chew the wrong bone. The possibilities are so frightening to owners that many deny their dogs the natural satisfaction they derive from chewing. Indeed, the danger of health complications exists whenever a dog chews a real bone. But you don't have to deny Fido the pleasure entirely. By choosing the right bone - whether it be real or an alternative - you provide greater safety while also granting him the supreme satisfaction of chewing.
Sometimes, only a real bone will do. But before giving him one, follow these few simple rules to learn how to reduce the risk of bad consequences.
- Raw bones, not cooked. Never feed your dog cooked bones because the cooking process greatly complicates its digestion. There's a far greater chance of bowel obstruction. Raw bones, still with a layer of meat but with as little fat as possible, are a safer choice for a treat. Dogs can handle raw meat bacteria better than humans, though there is still a chance of minor illness. If you don't want to risk bacterial illness, the only advisable cooking method for homemade dog bones is boiling.
- The right size. The bone should be large enough that your dog can't swallow it or fit the whole thing in his mouth. Bones this small can spell trouble; it's possible for them to get stuck in your dog's throat or for fragments to lodge themselves in the mouth.
- Uncut. Don't give bones that have been sawed or cut. These are much likelier to splinter badly and cause health issues.
- Proper training. Obedience is an important part of safety; if your dog is chewing too long and hard on a bone - or somehow gets hold of an unsafe, cooked one - you need to be able to take it from him. An untrained dog, half-crazed with lust over the delicious treat, isn't going to let you remove it. You should train him from a young age to be obedient.
- Proper supervision. Even with a safer raw bone, you should still supervise the chewing as long as he has access to it. Dogs all chew bones at different rates. Moderating chewing requires that you keep watch on him.
- When to discard the bone. Any raw bone should be thrown away after two days at most.
- Symptoms of a problem. Even with the safest real bones, there will always be some risk in the form of obstruction, choking, bacterial illness and tooth chipping. If, after chewing, your dog begins to lose appetite, become lethargic, vomit, or have bloody diarrhea or difficulty going to the bathroom, then you should take him to a vet immediately.
- Alternatives to real bone. Your dog's natural instinct is to chew bone but, as a pet owner, you're understandably hesitant to let him. You don't have to give up on dog bones yet, though. Today's owners are in luck; plenty of safe, easily digestible alternatives are now available on the market, in all sizes. These alternative treats aren't made from real bone - they're made instead from favoring ingredients like rice, cornstarch or nylon - but they do contain the flavors that dogs love! You don't have to worry about splintering or bacteria. Though obstruction isn't a concern with these bones, observe the same precaution about size.
The safest choice, clearly, is the alternative that isn't made of real bone at all. The best advice would be for you to try these non-bone treats first; if your dog hates them, then you can explore other, less safe options. But if he likes the alternatives, then your choice is simple! Whatever you choose, always make sure your pooch is getting healthy dog treats.