The cost of feeding your dog bones

2010-09-16 00:00

RAW or cooked — are bones ever safe to give to your dogs? The short answer to this question is no.

There are people who will tell you that the feeding of bones is a natural and healthy practice for your dog, and that the feeding of bones promotes clean teeth and aids in the nutritional status of the animal. There are, however, numerous examples of dogs that have been seriously harmed by eating bones — even raw bones.

Bones can cause intestinal obstructions that require surgical intervention and the costs incurred can include fluid therapy, antibiotics, radiographs, multiple enemas and prolonged stays at the veterinary hospital. Bones can splinter and cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal system, as well as creating the chance for other major problems and can even cause death. Gnawing on bones often results in the fracturing of teeth, which can lead to severe root infections that require tooth reconstruction or extraction.

As for the nutritional value of bones, there really isn’t any. The nutritional­ value that comes from feeding bones to your dog is derived from the soft tissues that are attached to the bone, such as meat, cartilage, fat and connective tissue, not from the bones themselves. The scant protein matrix in bone is mainly collagen and dogs can’t digest and assimilate collagen. So where is the great nutritional benefit, that is supposed to be coming from the actual bone, really coming from? It comes from the meat, cartilage, fat and connective tissue attached to the bone that happens to be along for the ride.

And let’s just say for arguments sake that there were great untold benefits derived from feeding bones, but with those benefits comes the slight chance that drastic major surgery may be needed to save your dog’s life as a result of feeding those bones. Would the risk really be worth it?

Remember that any good-quality, manufactured complete pet food will provide your dog with all of his or her basic nutritional requirements.

To illustrate my point, over the past 18 months I have compiled a list of actual cases from a veterinary hospital and the costs incurred by our clients­. (Names have been changed.) These are just some of the more than 20 cases on my list.

• “Cassidy” (Rottweiler): general anesthetic­ (GA), X-rays, intravenous fluids (IV) and emergency surgery required to remove a small bone that was lodged in the gastrointestinal tract — R3 385,45.

• “Jack” (Jack Russell terior): GA required to remove a bone stuck in teeth just behind molars — R544,75.

• “Rosie” (Dachshund): X-rays, IV fluids and GA required to administer multiple enemas to relieve severe constipation from eating cooked bones — R1 644.

• “Francis” (Staffordshire Terrier): X-rays, IV fluids and GA required to administer multiple enemas to treat severe constipation after feeding it cooked chicken bones — R2 145; and GA for multiple enemas one month later for feeding bones again. Requires surgery to remove impaction from intestinal tract. Euthanased. — R2 304 (total R4 449).

• “Apache” (Staffordshire Terrier): GA and X-rays to diagnose the cause of severe acute vomiting and retching. Large bone lodged in oesophagus in chest requires major surgery (thoracotomy­) to remove. Owners elect euthanasia — R1 100.

• “Lucy” (Greyhound): GA, X-rays, IV fluids and surgery (enterotomy) required to remove a sharp piece of bone wedged in small intestine — R3 000. Fed chicken bones one week later and required second surgery to remove blockage, plus small section of intestine — R4 045 (total cost involved R7 045).

Ask yourself is it really worth the risk to feed your dogs bones?

• Sister Leslie Shooter is a nurse at a local veterinary practice.

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