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Dogs love bones, and most people think they’re doing their dog a favor by letting them gnaw away at them. After all, it’s a safe outlet for their chewing, can provide minerals and nutrients and is good for their teeth, right? Wrong. Bones, even “bones” sold in pet stores such as marrow bones, deer antlers and many rawhides can be unsafe.

The dangers with bones start in the mouth. Most people think bones are actually good for their dog’s chompers, but the truth is, they’re a number one culprit for broken teeth. A broken tooth can be painful, as well as a source of infection that can cause serious damage to your pet’s mouth and body. The sharp edges of bones can also cause cuts to their cheeks, gums and tongue. I have even seen bones get lodged in the roof of the mouth.

If and when your dog swallows their bone, the potential problem list gets even bigger. Pieces of bone can get stuck in your dog’s throat and cause damage to their esophagus, or worse, cause them to choke, if they get it stuck in the wrong pipe. Bones can also get stuck in the stomach or intestines causing a blockage or even rupture the digestive tract. This can require emergency surgery that can be risky and expensive.

Even if the bone makes it all the way through, the fragments that make it to the end can cause your pet to become constipated and result in painful straining and bleeding when they try to go to the bathroom.

So with all the potential dangers, what can you do to satisfy your dog’s chewing needs? Some of the safest options for chewing include edible chews such as Greenies, although these will probably not last long in the mouths of hard core chewers and you need to be careful not to give too many as they add calories to your pet’s diet and can result in weight gain. Rawhides can be reasonable options as well as long as proper safety precautions are taken. Use thin flat rawhides, instead of the bone shaped ones with knots on the end. The knots can detach from the rest of the rawhide and be a choking or intestinal obstruction hazard.  Make sure you supervise your dog while chewing them and take the rawhide away once it gets small enough to swallow whole. My personal favorite for chewing is the Kong. Kongs are chew toys made of durable rubber that have a pocket in them that can be stuffed with treats such as peanut butter, carrots, and pieces of kibble. This will not only give your dog something to chew on, but the act of trying to get the treats out of the middle will also provide mental stimulation for them as well.

The truth is, while it is normal for dogs to chew, and they should be allowed to do so, it is never a truly risk free activity. Any chew toy or bone soft enough to be safe for their teeth is soft enough to be swallowed and cause a blockage, and anything hard enough to not be broken into pieces that can be swallowed, can be hazardous to their teeth. For this reason, the most important thing to remember is that chewing should always be supervised.

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