A dog and a bone go together like, well, a dog and a bone, right? Actually, dogs and bones go together a lot less than you might think, especially when you’re wondering, “Can dogs eat rib bones?” While it has always seemed rather normal to toss a dog a tasty rib bone after you’ve had your fill of the meat, doing so can actually result in some dangerous health complications.
Sure, you might hear some old-timers balk at the idea of not giving a dog a rib bone to gnaw on—but when they were feeding their furry friend leftover bones from the table many years ago, they didn’t have the knowledge that is widely available now. And that knowledge highly recommends that you avoid giving dogs many types of bones, especially rib bones.
The Truth About Whether Dogs Can Eat Rib Bones or Not
While your dog will certainly disagree, a rib bone is just a big no-no. It doesn’t matter whether the bone has been cooked or if you’re serving up raw. It doesn’t matter if it’s got protein and other healthy nutrients. It’s dangerous, and simply not worth the risk of causing harm to your beloved pet.
Despite the danger, many knowledgeable veterinarians still advise that giving dogs rib bones to eat is okay. Others disagree on the types of bones, stating that larger bones will be safer than smaller ones, or that it is safer to eat if the bone is raw rather than cooked. And still others say that the best time to give a dog a bone is after it has already eaten its meal so that it doesn’t chew too long on the bone.
However, the official stance from the Center for Veterinary Medicine [CVM] at the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is that dogs should not be fed bones.
The debate will likely continue for many years, but the facts remain the same: of all the bones you might consider giving your dog, poultry, pork, and cooked bones of any kind cause the most health problems in dogs, especially rib bones.
Why is it Dangerous for Dogs to Eat Rib Bones?
Rib bones are most susceptible to splintering when chewed. The shards of bone can cause damage and lacerations to your dog’s mouth, cause the dog to choke, or worse, cause internal problems if swallowed. The splinters of bone can puncture the intestines, or cause a blockage that leads to constipation and additional internal problems.
While cooked rib bones splinter very easily, raw rib bones are also dangerous, as they will splinter under a dog’s powerful bite. They are also covered in bacteria and fatty tissue that can lead to other health problems when ingested. Dehydration, intestinal problems, vomiting, a loss of protein, and even pancreatitis are some of the most common problems associated with dogs eating raw rib bones.
The FDA even says that bone treats, which are real bones that have undergone processing and flavoring, can also cause health problems in dogs leading to surgery and unfortunate deaths. That’s because the bone treats are typically produced from uncooked bones.
Just like rib bones and poultry bones, the bone treats also tend to splinter, leading to many of the same health problems dogs experience when eating regular rib bones.
Other problems posed by eating rib bones, both raw and cooked, include broken teeth, fragments of the bone becoming lodged in the jaw, splinters of bone getting caught in the esophagus, or bone fragments caught internally that must be surgically removed.
How to Avoid Giving Your Dog Rib Bones
Simple, just don’t do it, no matter how much your dog begs and salivates for the bones on your plate. Be sure to dispose of all types of bones properly, in a secure container that your dog does not have access to. Wrapping the bones securely before placing them in the trash also helps to keep them away from the dog, who will surely try to sniff them out when you aren’t looking.
You might think taking all this precaution with a few bones is unnecessary, but preventative measures now can save you a lot of money and your dog a lot of pain. If you’ve ever caught your dog nosing through cabinets or pawing through the garbage looking for a tasty morsel, then you’ll definitely want to do what needs to be done to keep the bones locked safely away until trash day.
Safe Alternatives for Giving Dogs Bones
It’s no secret that dogs love the flavor of meaty bones, but the primary purpose of giving a dog a bone today is mainly to give it something to chew on in order to keep its teeth and jaw strong. There are plenty of alternatives that can do just that.
Venison or pig ears can keep a medium-sized or small dog busy for hours. The venison ears are lower in fat than the pig ears, and neither one breaks very easily, making them a very safe alternative to rib bones.
Deer antlers are also a great alternative to rib bones, and are packed full of nutrients and minerals that help to maintain your dog’s health.
It is always wise to monitor your dog when it is chewing on any of the above alternatives to rib bones. While they are definitely much safer, it is still possible for your dog to break off a small piece that it can choke on. For even safer alternatives, consider frozen carrots. They are low calorie and very safe to eat.
A hard chew toy is also a safe option. Get a toy that is slightly bigger than what you think your dog can handle. This will greatly reduce the chance of choking hazards. Talk with your veterinarian about some safe options. Your vet can recommend different chew treats and chew toys that will best suit your dog.
If You Insist on Giving Your Dog a Bone…
Can dogs eat rib bones? If the answer in your house is “yes”, then at least follow certain precautions to reduce the risk of any harm befalling your dog.
For starters, give your dog the raw rib bones. While the fragments of raw meat still left on the bone aren’t recommended, the bone is also slightly less likely to splinter.
Always supervise your dog when it is chewing on a bone (or any other type of large chew treat that can be broken down). If your dog starts to choke, or if you notice blood on the bone or around the dog’s mouth due to lacerations or other issues, you can react quickly.
Take the bone away when it gets too small. This reduces the chance that your dog will swallow the remaining piece of bone. Raw bones should also be disposed of when your dog is finished chewing it. A raw bone left out is susceptible to additional bacterial growth that can affect your dog’s health if it returns to chewing it the following day. If you want to save the bone, wrap it in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator. It shouldn’t be kept more than 3-4 days.
Think twice before giving any sort of bone to a dog that has had dental work done. The aggressive chewing can damage what was likely an expensive procedure.
If you have more than one dog, keep them separate when handing out bones. Dogs are very territorial with their bones and chew treats.
Consider the mess. Chewed bones, especially raw bones, can become quite messy. Feed the dog a bone while it is in its crate, outside, or on towel, to reduce the mess it might make on your floors and furniture.
Don’t give a bone to a dog if it has experienced diarrhea the last time it ate a bone. The dog is likely to be predisposed to pancreatitis, and the raw bone marrow can cause a flare-up.
Don’t feed your dog more than two bones a week. It could ruin their appetite for their regular dog food, and also lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
What if My Dog Accidentally Eats a Bone?
The dog probably did it on purpose. But maybe you weren’t looking when the dog got into the trash or snuck a bone off your plate? If you discover that your dog has eaten a rib bone (or any bone), don’t panic. Just be sure to monitor your dog for any odd behavior or illness.
More often than not, any pieces of bone the dog swallowed will pass harmlessly through its system, If you sense any changes in your dog’s behavior over the next few days, take the dog to the vet. Take note of whether the dog has stopped eating or if it is listless and appears sick.
If the dog stops eating, it could have swallowed a large piece of bone, or a splinter of bone could have caused intestinal damage or a stomach perforation. Vomiting and diarrhea are also cause for concern. Be sure to tell the vet that the dog was eating a bone before you noticed any abnormal behavior.
In conclusion, avoiding giving your dog any types of bones, raw or cooked, is best for its overall health. But if you must give a dog a bone, give it one of the bones deemed safer than rib bones, and keep a watchful eye.