Dogs and bones

It is common practice on farm for owners to feed bones to their working dogs. Although bones can provide a source of extra nutrients and boost dental health, they should be fed with caution as there are many perils associated with this practice!

The main, and potentially life threatening, conditions seen include constipation, gut blockage, perforated gut and twisted stomach (gastric dilation and volvulus or GDV). These conditions are seen when owners feed bones that dogs can chew up and swallow, such as mutton bones or small beef bones. It is especially seen in dogs that gorge food (many of our huntaway dogs!).

Huntaway Xray
Huntaway with a stomach full of bones causing a blockage that needed emergency surgery!

When a dog swallows pieces of bone there is potential for the pieces to get lodged in the stomach. This can cause an obstruction and potentially a GDV, both conditions being a surgical emergency. If the bone passes through into the small intestine it has the potential to perforate through the bowel and into the abdomen. If the dog is lucky enough for the bone to pass unharmed to the large intestines, there is potential for severe constipation as the faeces become very hard and sharp, and pooing can be very difficult! Most of these cases end up at the vets and require treatment to un-block the dog, which is usually very painful and unpleasant for all involved!

Totally Vets recommends feeding bones with caution and, if you do decide to feed them to your dog, only feed raw bones (no cooked bones as these can splinter!) and ensure the bones are large enough so they cannot be chewed and swallowed. ONLY give bones that can be chewed on NOT chewed up!