We all love our dogs like they are members of the family, and one of the ways that we show our furry friends some love is with tasty treats. When we think of dog treats, we may instantly conjure up images of cartoon dogs chowing down on comically large bones, but the reality is that next time you give your dog something like a pork rib, you may actually be doing them more harm than good. But is it safe for dogs to eat pork rib bones?
Dogs can’t eat pork ribs because pork bones of any kind, either cooked or raw, aren’t safe for dogs to eat. This is because pork bones are small and are a choking hazard and may splinter easily and cause damage to your dog’s internal organs. To keep your dog safe, stick to approved dog treats.
This article will discuss:
- Why it’s dangerous to feed bones to dogs.
- What bones are okay as treats.
- What to do if your dog becomes sick from eating a bone.
- Some alternative treats to give your dog instead of bones.
Table of Contents
Pork is as delicious as it is versatile, with several delicious cuts to choose from, such as bacon or ribs. It might be tempting to give your dog something like pork spare ribs as a treat because there is a lot of meat and a lot of bones for them to enjoy.
However, pork bones of any kind are never a good treat option for your dog. According to the American Kennel Association, pork bones pose a threat to your dog when they eat them because of their makeup.
The bones can splinter or crack when gnawed upon, winding up as a blockage in your poor pup’s internal organs, and because of their small size, pork bones pose a choking hazard for big dogs.
So you’ve just finished eating a magnificent roast chicken for dinner, and there are a few bones leftover. It turns out your kids didn’t want those wings, but you don’t want them to go to waste, but can you give them to your dog instead?
The answer to that question is a hard no.
Cooked bones of any kind aren’t safe for dogs to eat. The cooking process turns the once-soft bone into something hard and brittle, as it no longer contains as much collagen.
This means that the bone is more likely to shatter or splinter when chowed down on by a hungry pooch, leading to a range of severe injuries and hefty veterinary bills. In worst-case scenarios, these injuries can even lead to death, which is just not worth it for a treat.
Charles Hurty, DVM at Grove Veterinary Clinic, stresses the seriousness of the health issues that can arise from feeding your dog any amount of cooked bones. These potentially life-threatening complications include:
- Blockages in the digestive tract
- Internal bleeding
- Deadly bacterial infections such as peritonitis in the abdomen, which can be caused by internal injuries sustained by a dog after eating cooked bones.
- Mouth injuries such as broken teeth or fragments of bone lacerating your dog’s tongue or gums.
- Bleeding from the rectum
It is essential to be aware that all types of cooked bones can threaten your dog’s health if eaten. Cooked chicken, turkey, and beef bones are just as likely to splinter and cause problems as cooked pork bones are.
It is very important to never leave cooked bones in a place where dogs can reach them (such as on an unattended plate), but despite your best efforts, sometimes dogs will be just dogs and get into food that they shouldn’t.
You might suspect that your dog has eaten cooked bones, or you may have caught them red-handed, but if you are at all concerned, there are some critical signs to watch out for:
- Anxious pacing
- Cannot sit still or whining when sitting or standing
- Excessive drinking
- Gagging and Coughing
- Swelling or bloating
- Bleeding from mouth or rectum
If your dog has eaten cooked bones, the solution really depends on what stage of the problem you discover it at.
If you catch your dog immediately eating the cooked bones, first try and get the bones away from them before the dog can swallow them. If the bones are still in the dog’s mouth, try your best to get your dog to release their grip on the bones or fish them from their mouth.
However, if you think your dog has already swallowed the bones, you can try and encourage the dog to drop them or even vomit them back up by lifting their back legs into the air.
If it’s already too late, and your dog has swallowed the bones, you must watch over them very carefully. Your dog might be okay and pass the bones through their digestive tract without issue. Monitor them to see if they’re still eating and drinking as usual or if they pass the bones in their stool.
However, if things do take a turn for the worst, and your dog begins to display any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek immediate veterinary assistance.
If your dog is choking on a cooked bone, you must seek immediate veterinary assistance without delay. However, there are steps that you can take in the meantime to help your furry friend:
- Try to open your dog’s mouth to see if the bone is still in there. Opening your dog’s mouth can be done more easily and safely with two people. Remember that your dog will be in a state of high distress, and you may need help to restrain them, especially if you own a larger breed of dog or a dog prone to nervous aggression.
- Don’t put your hands in your dog’s mouth unless there’s clearly something in there. Your dog may bite you because they’re stressed.
- Small dogs can be held upside down by their legs and shaken gently. Be very careful not to injure yourself or your dog in the process.
- Larger dogs need to remain on the ground. Lift their back legs up in order to try to force the bone out of their airway using gravity.
- If gravity hasn’t been able to dislodge the bone successfully, you can try the Heimlich Manoeuvre. Your dog will have a gap under its ribs, which is where you need to put your hands. Make a fist with one hand and put this under your dog’s abdomen, placing the other hand over the top of that hand. Then, carefully push upwards towards your dog’s chest, up to five times.
- Seek immediate veterinary attention. You must do this regardless of if you’ve been able to stop your dog’s choking. They must receive a proper check-up even if the bone seems to be gone to ensure that there are no other fragments of bone lodged in the throat and no other forms of lasting damage.
For more information on how to help your dog if they’re choking and for visual instructions about the above steps, check out the video below:
While cooked bones are most definitely a no-no for dogs, a dog may be fed a raw bone as a treat. Raw bones are much safer than cooked ones, but there are still some important things to keep in mind when giving one to your dog.
Dogs should only be given raw beef or lamb bones, and those bones should be larger than their mouth so that they can’t get lodged in their throat and cause a choking hazard.
Most other types of bones are still off-limits, even when raw. You shouldn’t give turkey and chicken bones to dogs because they’re small and therefore easily swallowed and are also prone to splintering.
Pork bones, as previously mentioned, should never be given to dogs in any form, as they’re prone to splintering and shattering, which can cause intestinal distress to your pet. Fish bones aren’t a good choice as they’re small and can easily get stuck in a dog’s throat or cause intestinal blockages.
Treating your dog to a raw bone once in a while carries several health benefits for your canine friend.
- Raw bones are a great source of vitamins and minerals for your dog. Raw bones contain important vitamins and minerals that are lost when cooked. The calcium in raw bones is good for dogs, as it helps to strengthen their teeth and bones. Eating bones also help to keep a dog’s teeth and gums clean and their breath smelling pleasant.
- Raw bones can have a positive effect on your dog’s digestive system. If you supplement your dog’s diet with raw meat, such as lean chicken breast or beef, feeding them bones will help their digestive system deal with raw meat’s high level of phosphorus. Raw bones also help to promote a healthy digestive tract in dogs.
- Raw bones can be a great source of enrichment for your dog. As you may already know, dogs love to chew on things. Giving them a raw bone provides them with an engaging stimulus to keep them busy, which is much better for them to chow down on a beef bone rather than your sofa cushions!
Giving your dog a raw bone as a treat is a great option, just as long as you understand the risks and treat your dog to a bone safely.
Some dogs absolutely can’t have raw bones because their softer teeth and different jaw structure make it difficult for them to chew and swallow bones properly. These are bracecephallyic dogs (dogs with shortened noses), such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and Shih Tzus. You need to find an alternative treat option if your furry friend is one of those breeds.
Dogs should only be given raw bones, preferably beef or lamb, and the bones should be larger than their mouth so that they cannot get it stuck in their throat. The bones should also not be cut lengthwise or be small enough for the dog to swallow whole. Make sure to thaw any frozen bones, as frozen bones can still shatter and cause the same problems.
Don’t over-indulge your dog with raw bones. Like any treat, they’re only good for your dog in moderation. Too many bones can cause your dog to suffer from unpleasant digestive problems, such as constipation or diarrhea, or cause a dog to put on excessive weight. The high-fat content can also cause their pancreas to become inflamed.
Dogs that eat kibble exclusively should also not be fed too many bones, as kibble can reduce their gut acidity and make it difficult for their stomach acid to break down the bone.
When you give your dog a bone, make sure to monitor their consumption of the bone. Remove the bone if it becomes chewed to a point, as this can cause your dog to injure their mouth when continuing to chew on it.
Also, make sure that the bone isn’t becoming too brittle or that your dog isn’t biting off and eating chunks of bone. It’s never a good idea to give a dog a bone and leave them unattended because you won’t be able to quickly intervene if there are any problems.
If the dog begins to display any negative symptoms like those listed in the section above, ensure that you take the bone from them (if possible) and don’t delay seeking veterinary attention. Giving the bone to your dog after mealtimes is the best time to do so as the dog will be less likely to try to devour the bone out of hunger and cause themselves an injury.
You shouldn’t give a bone to a dog that has had or currently has any dental problems, nor should you give a bone to a dog recovering from digestive tract problems, as they can exacerbate these problems and slow down healing.
You should also discard bones after a few days, as bacteria that are harmful to your dog can develop on the bones and make your dog sick.
Be wary of your dog becoming overly possessive of their bone and showing aggression towards you or other dogs you may own if the bone is taken from them, as they can develop possessive aggression over items, such as bones. If this isn’t nipped in the bud quickly, it can become a much larger problem for you and your pet, one that may ultimately require professional training to deal with.
How often a dog can receive a bone as a treat depends on their age. Puppies can have bones daily, whereas older dogs should receive them less often – only once or twice a week. Dogs that are in their senior years should once again receive bones more often, as the bones’ calcium can be beneficial. Although, at this stage, many dogs have weakened teeth, so give them bones at your own discretion and your vet’s recommendation.
The majority of a dog’s diet should be made up of mainly high-quality commercial dog food tailored for their stage of life. You can safely supplement their diet by adding natural foods, like raw human-grade meat, meaty bones, and vegetables, but it’s worth checking with a vet first to make sure your dog doesn’t have any dental issues that bones may exacerbate.
You should always avoid giving your dog processed meat products, like sausages and mettwurst.
The FDA warns against giving dogs “bone treats,” which are those pre-packaged bones that you see on the shelves of pet stores or your local supermarket.
These treats are sold under names such as “Rib Bones,” “Pork-Femur Bones,” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones” and are bones that have been smoked and pumped full of nasties like preservatives and added colors and flavors.
According to an FDA report, the administration received sixty-eight reports of injury to pet dogs caused by bone treats between November 1, 2010, and September 12, 2017. All of the injuries caused immense pain and suffering for the dogs, and fifteen dogs out of a reported ninety affected died after consuming one of the so-called treats.
Injuries reported included:
- Intestinal blockage
- Mouth or tonsil lacerations
- Rectal bleeding
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the FDA also received information that several of the bone treats were moldy, and some were splintering. It’s very clear that “bone treats” are incredibly dangerous to your dog and should be avoided at all costs.
Rawhides are popular sights on store shelves, but don’t let the prevalence of them trick you into thinking they’re any good for your dog. Rawhides are made of leather that has been bleached to a white color, dyed back to a “natural” color, and then glued into the shape of a bone. It doesn’t sound like a particularly appetizing treat for your dog.
Rawhides should be avoided at all costs, as they can cause your dog to suffer severe intestinal blockages and even death. They ‘re full of chemicals and other nasties and aren’t a nice treat at all.
There are a wide variety of alternatives to bones as a treat for your pet that don’t have any of the risks associated with them. From natural alternatives, sweet(ish) treats, and even toys, there are so many options available to you when you want to show your pooch a little bit of extra love.
Natural treats are often better than store-bought treats, for both humans and their pets. Here is a list of natural treats that you can give your dog that adds to their nutritional needs.
Just like fruits and vegetables are a healthy addition to our diet, so too are they for our canine companions. Carrots are a great treat for dogs as they are rich in nutrients but low in calories and can give your pup something to chew on without the risk of dental problems.
Watermelon is another great option for dogs, especially on hot summer days. For older dogs, apples can be a good treat because they’re rich in vitamins, fiber, and protein.
Bully sticks (or pizzle sticks), such as Downtown Pet Supply Bully Sticks, might have a funky-sounding name, but your dogs will love them. They’re a dog treat made of a dried bull penis.
The benefit of bully sticks is that they’re animal byproducts and would normally go to waste. Some dogs go mad for bully sticks, as to them, it’s just another meat product to snack on. The main downside is that they can have quite an odor, so they’re best used as an outside-only treat.
For Australian readers, another great option for your dogs are WAG Kangaroo Tendons. Kangaroo tendon treats are low fat and high in Omega 3, while also being a medium level chew and aren’t too hard or too soft to be eaten quickly. Every kind of dog can enjoy this treat, from the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane.
A sustainable dog treat option is deer antler, such as this Deluxe Naturals Elk Antler Dog Chew. Male deer naturally shed their antlers during the breeding season, and sustainable deer farmers harvest these for use as dog treats. The antler is softer than most bones, so there’s less risk of sharding, and it satisfies your dog’s desire to gnaw and chew safely.
There are some man-made treats that you can safely give your dog that is healthy and satisfies your dog’s need to chew on something. Here is a list of five that you may want to check out:
Schmackos are dried meat strip products that are useful as a normal treat and as a training treat for all sizes of dogs. They come in different flavors, are 95% fat-free, and have no added artificial flavoring. However, they should be given only in moderation, as they can be fattening for your dog.
If your pet has a gluten allergy, you can try Twistix Dental Chews, which are designed with no wheat, corn, or soy, are low fat, and completely edible with no mess left behind, unlike bones.
They reduce plaque and tartar buildup by scrubbing away at the teeth during the chew. The chews come in a vanilla and mint flavor, leaving your pup’s breath smelling fresh.
Why should your best bud miss out in the heat when you grab a nice cold ice cream? Well, luckily, they don’t have to! Puppy Scoops Ice Cream Mix is ice cream made especially for your furry friend. Just add hot tap water to the powder mixture and freeze. They will love a nice cool scoop of ice cream during the summer.
These products contain low amounts of fat and are designed for the canine digestive system, so there should be no unfortunate incidents after feeding them to your dog. They also use carob as the chocolate flavoring, which is safe for dogs (unlike real chocolate).
If you don’t want to risk any problems that may occur by giving your dog a real bone, American Kennel Club’s Chicken Chew’ N Bones are just what your pet needs. They’re made of natural ingredients and safe for your dog’s digestive system. They’re also shaped like bones, so your pup doesn’t have to feel like they’re missing out on the real thing!
A wholesome, delicious-looking sandwich-cookie treat, Three Dog Bakery has developed something you would probably want to try yourself. These cookie treats come in various flavors like carob and peanut cream, and they even offer a grain-free version for gluten-sensitive dogs.
Everyone loves toys, and your dog is no exception. Here are some great toys that also hold treats that your dog will love playing with. When your dog is chewing on the toy, some of the treats might “accidentally” spill out.
An alternative to using single-use treats is to use a reusable treat holding chew toy, like the Kong Classic. Put a treat inside of the toy and play with your pal. They’ll be very intrigued with the interesting scent of the toy and will want to explore a way to get it out!
You can also use a peanut butter spread on the inside if you’re out of treats, meaning your buddy still gets a reward for playing.
Another option to try is flavored chew toys. These Tikaton indestructible chew toys are a safer alternative to real bones and sticks and satisfy the natural urge for your dog to chew on everything.
With a slight meat scent, your dog will be interested in this toy in no time. Built of tough nylon, these toys will last for hours and hours of chewing, so you won’t need to keep replacing your dog’s toys all of the time.
Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums healthy should always be a priority for any responsible owner, and this toy will do just that while also satisfying your dog’s need to chew and have fun.
NOUGAT’s Aggressive Cleaning Crocodile not only looks funky but sounds funky too, with a squeaker inside that will pique your dog’s interest in the toy. Just don’t get one if you have neighbors close by. You can also fill it with peanut butter or dog toothpaste.
While it can be tempting to reward your dog with a bone, it’s vital to do so carefully and in moderation. Understanding what kinds of bones are safe for dogs is essential for keeping your canine friend happy and healthy. Never give dogs cooked bones. The only raw bones that are safe for them are beef and lamb bones.
Consider alternative treats for your dog, such as bully sticks, or even natural alternatives, like carrots or watermelon. A dog can be just as happy with something like a KONG as they can with a bone.
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- Animal Emergency Service: Cooked Bones are Dangerous for Dogs
- Fetch by WebMD: Rawhide – Good or Bad for Your Dog?
- American Kennel Club: Can Dogs Eat Pork Bones?
- MSD Manual: Peritonitis in Dogs
- Vet’s All Natural: Feeding Raw Bones to Dogs & Cats
- DogTime.com: Is It Okay to Give My Dog a Bone? Which Bones Are Safe For Dogs?
- The Dogington Post: Give a Dog a Bone (But Make Sure It’s Safe First)
- Next-Gen Dog: Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?
- Canine Journal: Can Dogs Eat Bones? The Ultimate Guide to What’s Safe and What’s Not
- Wikipedia: Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome
- Animal Emergency Center: Heimlich Maneuver For Dogs – What to Do If My Dog Is Choking
- Petbarn: Can dogs eat raw bones and what are the benefits?
- Youtube: How to Help a Choking Dog
- The Spruce Pets: How to Stop Possessive Aggression in Dogs
- FDA: No Bones (Or Bone Treats) About It – Reasons Not To Give Your Dog Bones
- VanillaPup: Here are 8 Common Dog Treats You’ll Find in the Market and Why They are Bad For Your Dog
- RSPCA: What Should I Feed My Dog?
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