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Help! My Dog Swallowed A Bone! What Should I Do?

Has your dog ever sneaked in your kitchen and gobbled up a huge piece of bone from the garbage can? It happened to me while watching a big game on TV. My dog, Oya, stashed into the kitchen and started her hunt. In the garbage can (which I was about to dispose of right after the game), she found a chunky lamb bone. And as luck would have it, my dog swallowed a bone.

Luckily, the bone was a small one and Oya did not show signs of gastric problems. But, as dog owners, we all have been in this position; dogs will eat anything they can get their paws on. But, aren’t dogs built to eat and digest rib bones, ham, chicken or steak? Truthfully, the answer is no. If it is a cooked bone, it can lead to many problems.

Although dogs and bones have gone together for quite a long time, raw bones are actually good for your dog, but not the cooked ones. Raw bones can provide your canine with much-needed nutrients like phosphorus and calcium. Raw bones also keep the gums and teeth clean and stimulated. All you need to do is keep a watch if they are gnawing on a raw bone.

On the other hand, cooked bones, unless they are labelled ‘safe for dogs, should be avoided at all times. Yes, even the rib bone that your mutt’s been salivating over should be disposed of in the trash, not on your dog’s plate. Since cooked bones are brittle and dry, these bones can crack and lead to painful cuts in the gums and mouth. Worst cases include punctured organs, internal injuries, choking, and even death.

When my dog swallowed a bone on multiple occasions, I took certain steps to ensure it does not happen. But Oya is a smart canine who doesn’t go by the books. Hence, her mischievous behavior won’t end soon. Hence, if your dog has swallowed something they shouldn’t, here’s what you should do immediately:

Stay Calm

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Panicking will not help either you or your dog in any way. If you catch your dog in the act, calmly take the rest of the bones from him. Make sure the bone is not lodged in their throat. If it is not, then remove the bone from its mouth as soon as you can. But, dogs are very possessive over food; hence if your dog is not going aggressive on you, it is likely that he/she will try to gobble up as much as it can before you take the plate away. Even if such a case happens, don’t start panicking. This will only confuse you and your dog further.

If your dog has already swallowed the bone, make sure your dog is not choking, first of all. After that, call up a vet to ask for solutions that can handle the situation. Normally, a vet would suggest simple solutions like giving your dog pieces of white bread that help in cushioning the bone fragments. But, the solution also depends on what your dog has swallowed, so it is a good idea you consult a vet doctor personally.

Watch Carefully And Check For Symptoms

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Although bone pieces like chicken bones can puncture internal organs, it does not mean it will happen every time. But, it is certainly a risk that should be avoided whenever it is possible. If your dog has already ingested bone pieces, all you can do is watch carefully for symptoms like nervous or anxious behaviour, swollen stomach, constipation, bloody stool, blockages or internal bleeding. Check your dog’s stool for bone fragments. If you don’t see any bone fragment within 72 hours, contact your vet doctor.

When your dog swallows a small bone, it is not really dangerous. But, you should get concerned if your dog gobbles up a huge piece of bone-like ribs. When such incidents happen, you need to check out for symptoms of a blockage in the digestive tract. Some very common signs of digestive tract blockage include difficulty in defecating, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and vomiting.

If left untreated, such blockage can lead to further complications like bowels. But, if you detect these complications in the nick of time, your dog won’t have to go through a surgery and get the item removed via endoscopy. 

Approximate Timeline Of When Symptoms Of Blockage Show Up

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The average time it takes for the items to move through the gastrointestinal tract is generally between 10 to 24 hours. In such a case, the symptoms of an intestinal blockage can be seen within 24 hours after swallowing the problematic food item. However, the time frame may vary according to where the item lodges in the dog’s body.

If the blockage is located somewhere in the oesophagus, symptoms would include regurgitating right after being fed (vomit may emerge in an oblong tubular shape and include indigested food particles in large pieces), a lot of swallowing, and licking of lips. Often, your dog might also suffer from dehydration because they are unable to drink or eat properly.

If the stomach is blocked, the food will not be able to make through the intestinal tract because the pylorus is often blocked. Therefore, you might see episodes of vomit usually within a few hours of eating. Other than bones, some other things that that can create a blockage in the stomach are marbles, balls, etc.

If the small intestines are blocked, it means the food got stuck in the bends of the intestines. When this happens, gas gets accumulated and causes the intestine to become distended. After some time, the blood supply may get cut-off, causing the tissues to slowly die. If the food gets stuck in the intestines, some symptoms you will see are shock, fever, distended abdomen, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, it can even lead to death.

Care should be taken because symptoms do not always happen immediately because the bone might be only partially blocking the digestive tract. Sometimes, the object will just bob around the dog’s stomach before moving to the small intestines and create such complications.

What To Do In Case My Dog Swallowed A Bone?

You look away from the table for a second and the delicious chicken leg you were planning to have disappears from your plate and right in the mouth of your dog. As you go chasing around, the dog swallows it whole. What do you do in such cases?

As we know cooked bones can splinter the insides of a dog and are potentially more dangerous than raw bones, you should immediately feed your canine with something like cooked brown rice, plain canned pumpkin, or high-fibre bread, which will wrap around the bone and protect the intestinal lining and stomach and allow the bones to move freely through its system.

After this, all you need to do is sit and wait. If your dog is going about its daily routine just fine, then there is nothing to worry about. But, if your dog starts showing symptoms mentioned above, immediately visit your nearest vet. If you need some tips from vets, click here

If You Go To A Vet 

At first, the veterinarian will start with a physical examination. The doctor will palpate the abdomen of your dog to look for signs of distension and pain. It is often in this step that the foreign object can be felt. Further examination is determined in this step.

X-rays may reveal what your dog has ingested and the location of it. But not all items can be seen with an x-ray. For instance, an x-ray can show up a rock very easily, but a piece of rawhide bone might get hidden away. In such a case, the vet doctor may need to feed your dog with barium to see certain items on x-ray. The doctor can then determine whether the bone will pass on its own or needs to be removed by surgery.

Treatment

In order to treat your dog when he or she has swallowed a bone, do as follows:

1. Treatment for small bones that got ingested in less than two hours
If your dog has swallowed a foreign object like cooked bones less than two hours ago and is safe to bring back up, many vets recommend inducing vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide. But, before you dive into this method, it is important that you consult your veterinarian first. If the swallowed bone is sharp, there is no point bringing it out through vomiting again as it may cause additional harm.

2. Removing the obstructions in the dog’s bowel
In the case that the bone is lodged in the stomach, it can be taken out using an endoscope. It is a tool that is used for looking inside your canine’s body and is armed with utensils for grasping. But sadly, if the bone has made its way through the small intestine, a surgery will be needed to removing the object.

3. Prognosis
Prognosis varies and depends on the presence of complicating factors like peritonitis or necrosis and the severity of the obstruction. Most pets recover just fine after surgery. However, dogs must be kept closed and monitored at all times for any leakage from the intestinal tract. Abdominal pain and fever should be reported immediately to the veterinarian immediately.

Post surgery, your dog will eventually work its way back to normal solid food. For the first few days, a liquid diet would be highly recommended as it is the easiest to digest. Slowly and gradually, you can start introducing mushy till the vet gives you a green card for a normal diet. It is possible that your dog might be required to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent it from chewing on its stitches.

Take a look at this video where a vet explains how worried you should be about swallowed bones by your pet.

Here Is The List Of Other Dangerous Items Your Dog Could End Up Swallowing:

  • Coins and pennies: Often causing intestinal obstruction, coins and pennies can also cause zinc toxicity in dogs, especially if they are minted after 1982.
  • Strings: It may appear to be an innocent object, but strings can be quite dangerous if it ends up inside the stomach of your dog. The wave of movement may cause the string to bundle up. As the bundle gets tighter, there is more risk of it cutting through the intestine.
  • Batteries: Your dog’s teeth are capable of crushing batteries. But, crushing batteries can release acids that may end up corroding your dog’s stomach or throat. Even if your dog has ingested alkaline batteries, it should not be induced to vomit since the corrosive content can cause more harm on the way up. It is better to contact a vet or call poison control.

Conclusion

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Prevention is always better than cure. The best thing you can do after such a frightening incident is to learn from it and make sure it does not happen again ever. You need to take precautionary measures by keeping an eye on your dog. Additionally, you can purchase GPS-fitted collars to keep track of their every move and cut their journey to the kitchen for some off-limit snacks. You can also buy dog-proof trash cans so that scraps can be kept out of your dog’s reach.

Some specific steps that you can take to ensure your canine do not go sniffing around for something dangerous are:

  • Keep a strict eye out for your dog. It will take them mere seconds to gobble down a chunky bone piece or some soft toy.​​​​
  • If your dog loves to swallow food instead of chewing, it is especially advised that these dogs stay away from cooked bones.
  • Teach your dog the drop-it-and-leave-it command.
  • Keep your dog away from the trash bins, especially after a barbeque party. Turkey carcasses, rib and steak bones spell bad news for your canine.

What did your dog swallow? Is your dog not eating like it should? Or do you have a story to share? Feel free to comment if you have any question or simply like to share your incident. 

Rosie Tran

I’m Rosie and I love pets, especially dogs. I have a dog, her name is Lola. I also love reading, writing and living joyfully with my rescue dog. I want to learn everything I can to become a better “dog-mom” to Lola and share my knowledge of dog with all who have the same passion as mine.

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