In the minds of many, dogs and bones just belong together. Their compatibility has been entrenched in the likes of nursery rhymes and Saturday morning cartoons. But contrary to those long-held beliefs, cooked bones can present serious health complications for dogs and cats.
While it might look like your pet is handling a bone just fine, that can be far from the truth. Veterinarians and other professionals cite a host of potential issues that result from feeding dogs and cats cooked bones, including blockages and perforations in the digestive tract that can lead to severe infection, and internal bleeding.
Dr. Valentino Grant, veterinarian and owner of Caves Village Veterinary Hospital, said that while some pet owners get away with feeding their dogs bones, the risks are very serious, particularly with chicken, pork chop and rib bones.
“The danger of feeding cooked bones, especially chicken bones and rib bones that can splinter and have very sharp edges, is that they can perforate, slice, or puncture the stomach and also create a lot of inflammation to the intestines as they’re passing through with their sharp edges,” he said.
“So, we can not only get punctures of the intestines or even perforations, but lacerations, as the bones can slice the intestines when they’re being propelled through into the colon before being passed to the outside.
“And these bones aren’t digested. They remain intact, and do a lot of damage.”
According to research conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Pet Food Institute (PFI), in the Caribbean region, 31 per cent of pet owners feed their animals table scraps at least sometimes.
Dr. Grant said many people don’t realize the dangers of feeding bones to their animals.
“Persons just associate dogs with bones, and they get away with it for the most part and continue the practice,” he said.
“But on the veterinary side, I as a veterinarian and my colleagues, we see the end result, the sequela of dogs that end up having major issues, major compromises, major perforations that result in sepsis and infection to the whole abdominal area.
“Sometimes there’s not even a perforation, but the bones accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract. And this can lead to a blockage or even constipation.”
And while he noted that some people cite the nutritional benefits of feeding bones to pets, Dr. Grant said there are far safer ways to ensure they receive adequate nutrients like calcium, whether from their pet vitamin tabs, calcium tabs, commercial pet food, etc.
Says Nat Davies, Executive Director of the US-based association with representation in The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Turks and Caicos, “There is an ongoing effort to undo the consequences of the age-old myth that pets should be fed cooked bones or rewarded with them as treats. Pet owners have to make the right decisions for their animals, and ensure that they are giving their pets the best chance at a healthy life by providing them with food that is both nutritionally sufficient and safe for their consumption.”