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FDA: Don’t give the dog a bone, ever

dog-boneGiving your dog a bone — any bone —  is a dangerous practice that can cause serious injury to your pet, the Food and Drug Administration says.  

It’s not like they’re recalling bones, but the agency has issued a warning in an article appearing on the FDA’s online Consumer Updates page.

However popular the idea may be that it’s natural for dogs to chew on bones, the tradition —  knick-knack paddy-whack aside — falls into the danger zone, in the FDA’s view.

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

The FDA lists 10 reasons why bones are a bad idea — and we’ll pass them on verbatim:

  1. Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
  10. Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.

“Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your dog hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”

We agree with those last two points, at least, but can’t help but wonder if a total bone ban may be a bit over-protective, a bit contrary to the nature and roots of dogs, and one more step in turning dogs into humans.

Most bones are bad — chicken bones, as we all know, in particular. But there are those that, with supervision, I don’t hesitate to give my particular dog,  like marrow bones. They can help clean teeth, massage gums and, in my dog’s experience, seem quite safe.

What school are you in when it comes to bones? Do you think some are OK? Do you ban them in your household?  Do you have a bone to pick with the FDA? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Comment from laura
Time April 22, 2010 at 8:18 am

I give my dog frozen marrow bones all the time. I haven’t seen it splinter or fragment.

Comment from Melissa
Time April 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

I don’t give bones to my dog. She had three broken teeth last year due to a popular plastic bone brand so the vet dentist said no bones or hard plastic chew toys. The only thing she recommends are rawhide rolls.

Comment from 2pugsinapod
Time April 22, 2010 at 9:34 am

Really? This is what the FDA is spending their time on? Not contaminated pet food, life threatening reactions to topical flea meds? I would think that more dogs have problems with rawhides, choking or having them surgically removed.
I take a slab of ribs, like most people would barbecue and cut between the bones. I freeze them and give them to my dogs once a week. These are small enough for my pugs to handle, but too big to be swallowed. I don’t use the bones from pet stores any longer because they’ve been cooked and DO splinter easier. When the bone gets to the point that it could be swallowed, it goes in the trash.

Comment from selkie
Time April 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

I’ve always given my dogs a variety of bones; marrow bones of course but also ham bones and steak bones. I understand what they’re saying here, but sometimes I think you can get too caught up in being almost “over-protective” with our dogs – like people do with their kids. My dogs LOVE their bones.

Comment from ananda
Time April 22, 2010 at 10:20 am

COOKED bones are bad for them as they splinter and break….the cooking process does this. Raw bones are great for dogs, even chicken bones. They are naturally flexible and very digestable…and very good for your dogs!

Comment from Ark Lady
Time April 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

I find it funny that the FDA would make such a statement. Over all the years I’ve been working with animals, very seldom do I see problems with knuckle bones.

In fact, it is speculated that part of all the dental problems come from those who are following the spin from the marketing of the major dog food companies.

Today raw food feeders give dogs bones. The trick is to feed the right type of bones (knuckle bones are a favorite), monitor to the bone, and use care in the storage and handling of the bone.

Plus, I have a hard time taking advice from a government agency that is not a pet specific oriented agency and has failed on some many levels.

Look at the recent flea control issues–and don’t forget the giant pet food recall.

Well said, Ark Lady. Maybe there should be a Federal Dog Administration.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time April 22, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Across the decades I have fed a variety of styles of bones, all carefully reviewed and purchased (in the vegie household!). Only once did I have a panic attack! My dogs always loved the round, hollow bones, 2-3″ diameter, 1″ thick, hollow except for marrow which they quickly furrowed out. They’d chew, steal from one another, play chase, toss the bones mid-air, bury them deep in the sofa. One day my 6 month old husky managed to get the round bone encircled and locked onto her lower jaw. Nonchalant she was, but I freaked out and drove madly on a late Sunday night to the emergency vet, who tranquilzer her a bit in order to remove the bone. Now I buy my big dogs bones that are WAY bigger than their jaws, and they can only chew on ’em (often filled with peanut butter) under my watchful eyes. Heavy duty, non-splinter bones, $8 or $9 each but very long-lasting. A good hour or two can pass, and then the dogs are sound asleep and contented from all that jawin’. I really don’t think that I, or they, could give ’em up. For them it is natural instinct and natural behavior. And for me…. Sunday evening reprieve!

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time April 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Oh, my, Ark Lady! What are the recent flea control issues, and how have I managed to miss them??

Comment from Elaine
Time April 23, 2010 at 2:07 am

I wish they had clarified that it is only COOKED bones that are bad.

RAW bones provide essential minerals in a dog’s diet. I and many others feed our dogs raw – raw meat, with about 10% real bone & 10% organs/offal.

MANY veterinarians, particularly those that are holistic and NOT brainwashed by corporate “education,” promote a raw diet for dogs and cats.

I’m vegan, and sometimes handling my dog’s food makes me gag, but I know it is what’s best for HER.

Commercial dog food is poison, and I wouldn’t be surprised if dog food corporate lobbyists were an influence on this “warning” from the FDA.

Comment from ted woestendiek
Time April 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Roscoe, my yellow lab, says “live a little…give your dog a bone.” Although he barfs up any bones he eats, he thinks
it is a small price to pay for the pleasure of eating a bone.

Comment from Samantha
Time April 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I feed raw, and bones are a must in his diet!

As long as the dog has proper supervision and the owner is properly educated, there isn’t any problem. Cooking bones is always a huge risk though, and those are the dangerous bones.

As with anything, you need education and smarts about you. Dogs can choke and die on kibble just like they can on bones. YOU as an owner need to weigh the risks and benefits for your dog.

Comment from HG
Time September 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

We give our 10 month old Frozen Marrow bones, the only time one broke was after it bounced on the patio. He plays with them for a while after, once they get dry we dispose of them – no problems except a happy dog.

Time October 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

my 13 year old dog had recent his teeth removed he only has 2 eye and 1 small left in his month on the bottom sometimes he acts like a leash is across inside his month

Comment from Miss Cellany
Time March 12, 2016 at 4:06 pm

My border collie used to eat whole ham bones with no worries (a little bit of constipation the next day sometimes but nothing major). He didn’t like the very hard bones (he only liked bones he could crush up and eat) he wasn’t much of a gnawer.

It did worry me how FAST he ate them though… the femur of a ham (a bone about 6 – 8 inches long and 3 – 4 inches wide at the joint ends) would be gone in less than 30 mins. I was always worried he must be biting off huge chunks and swallowing them to eat it that fast…

I only gave them to him very sparingly (maybe one or two a year). I think giving them too often would cause bad constipation and perhaps blockages.