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A time honored tradition is to “give a dog a bone.” More recently, there have been some stipulations as to what type of bone is healthy for your dog as some may even be lethal. 

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Dr. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

This warning is familiar to some but how do we reconcile this with the traditional beliefs we have held to?

The missing link here is that there is a big distinction between a cooked bone and a raw bone. In the wild, a dog has no problem eating the entire animal, bones and all, as raw bones are very easily digested. The cooking process, however, makes bones more brittle, increasing the likelihood they might splinter and cause internal injury to your dog. Cooking can also remove the nutrition contained in bones.

In their April 20, 2010 Consumer Update, the FDA lists the following risks associated with giving your dog a cooked bone to chew:

  1. Broken teeth. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. These can be very bloody and messy and may require a trip to see your veterinarian.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and potentially costly to you, as it usually means a trip to see your veterinarian.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see your veterinarian.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone. This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. It went down just fine, but the bone may be too big to pass out of the stomach and into the intestines. Depending on the bone’s size, your dog may need surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a procedure in which your veterinarian uses a long tube with a built-in camera and grabbing tools to try to remove the stuck bone from the stomach.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may be time for surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian. Bones also contain a lot of calcium, which is very firming to the stool.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
  10. Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.

Those are some serious warnings! While this advice is accurate and should be headed concerning cooked bones, raw bones are another story. Raw bones can be both safe and healthy providing you follow some simple guidelines. Canines in their natural habitat eat prey, including the meat, bones and stomach contents. In fact, your pup has a biological requirement for the nutrients found in bone marrow and the bones themselves. Chewing raw bones is a great treat to dogs for the yummy taste, the mental stimulation, and also because all that gnawing is great exercise for the muscles of the jaw.

The health risks listed above for cooked bones can also apply to recreational raw bones if your dog has unrestricted, unsupervised access to them. The following are do’s and don’ts for feeding recreational raw bones:

  • Do supervise your dog closely while he’s working on a bone. That way you can react immediately if your pup happens to choke, or if you notice any blood on the bone or around your dog’s mouth from over aggressive gnawing. You’ll also know when your dog has chewed down to the hard brittle part of a knuckle bone, making splinters more likely. When the bone has been gnawed down in size throw it out. Do not allow your dog to chew it down to a small chunk he can swallow.
  • Do separate dogs in a multi-dog household before feeding bones. Dogs can get quite territorial about bones and some dogs will fight over them.
  • Do feed fresh raw bones in your dog’s crate, or on a towel or other surface you can clean, or outside as long as you can supervise him. Fresh raw bones become a gooey, greasy mess until your dog has gnawed them clean, so make sure to protect your flooring and furniture.
  • Don’t give them to a dog that has had restorative dental work/crowns.
  • Don’t give them to your dog if she has a predisposition to pancreatitis. Raw bone marrow is very rich and can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis. Instead, you can feed a “low fat” version by thawing the bone and scooping out the marrow to reduce the fat content.
  • Don’t give a recreational bone to a dog that’s likely to try to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in huge chunks
  • Don’t feed small bones that can be swallowed whole or pose a choking risk, or bones that have been cut, such as a leg bone. Cut bones are more likely to splinter.
  • Don’t feed pork bones or rib bones. They’re more likely to splinter than other types of bones.

Do give your dog a bone following the guidelines above. Chewing is a very important part of maintaining healthy teeth, gums, and digestion is dogs and keeping the jaw muscle strong.

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Summer is here! You and your pet may be anxious to get out and have some fun in the sun. Hiking is a great opportunity for enjoying the outdoors and provides a physical challenge to boot. At the same time, there are dangers such as dehydration or losing your pet. If you are planning an outing with your pet be sure to bring some of these essential supplies to keep him happy and safe in the great outdoors.

  • Fresh water and a collapsible bowl
  • Food and treats
  • Current ID tags and a well-fitting collar
  • A sturdy leash for walking or securing your pet to a specific area
  • A proper car restraint like a kennel or seatbelt
  • A bed or blanket to lie on
  • Doggie bags for waste
  • Pad protective booties for rocky/rough terrain, snow, ice, cacti or nettles
  • First aid kit
  • Towel to clean your dog
  • Snake bite kit (if appropriate for your area)
  • Dog sunscreen/hat
  • Doggie backpack for sharing the load. Use only if your dog is used to doing this.

Evaluate the level of difficulty of the hike or excursion you are preparing for. You may be able to handle it, but what about your pet? You may need to start off on smaller hikes of lesser difficulty or shorter distance to start. As your pet completes these challenges he will be ready to take on more challenging ones.

Adding a doggie backpack offers more challenge to your pooch while giving him a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. The key is starting off with a lighter load and increasing it over time as he becomes conditioned.

Consider that there might be elevation changes on some trails. Be sure that dogs are allowed on the trails you plan to hike and take note of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic in the area.

It is important to stop frequently and offer your dog water throughout your hike. Don’t feed your dog a large meal before a hike instead, feed a portion of his/her meal and supplement treats throughout the hike.

Don’t forget to check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up-to-date on his/her vaccines, as well as flea and tick preventives, and properly microchipped before you head out on a trip.

You never know what your pet can pick up in the great outdoors. Many parasites and viruses are shared by wild animals, such as distemper, lepto, intestinal worms, fleas and ticks.

Also, avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day and keep walks to a reasonable pace and distance. Watch for signs of overexertion, such as excessive panting, drooling, weakness or bright red gums. Also look out for hypothermia, frost-nip, injury to paw pads, lameness and exhaustion.

While on the trail remember to:

  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times while hiking
  • Steer clear of poison ivy, oak and sumac (look for leaves of three-and let them be!)
  • Stay away from snakes, porcupines, bears, mountain lions and coyotes
  • Allow time for frequent rest and water breaks, preferably in the shade
  • After the hike, check for fleas and ticks

In general, sporting, herding and working dogs are good hiking breeds. This includes: Beagles, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Huskies, Malamutes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds.

With a little planning, hiking can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog to spend quality time together and build a stronger bond of trust.

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For many dogs, swimming comes naturally which may be why we refer to one of the most basic swimming techniques as the ‘dogie paddle’. Still it is important to keep your eyes on your dog while in the water since as with humans, even the strongest most confident swimmer can get into trouble. To keep your pet safe follow these steps to prevent, be prepared and stay aware at all times.

PREVENT

The first step of water safety is prevention. Do not allow your dog unsupervised access to any water sources. This may include pools, ponds, and even creeks. If you own a swimming pool, make sure that it is fenced off or has a protective cover so that pets and children can not fall in.

The next best thing to avoiding the water is teaching your dog what to do if he ever does have an encounter. Some dogs may instinctively know what to do while others may not have a clue. This includes certain breeds such as bulldogs and most puppies since their bodies are not proportioned to make them as agile in the water as other dogs such as labs. Also, familiarize your dog with the water sources near your home and the way out of pools and ponds etc since they may not know on their own which side of the pool has the stairs.

Obedience training can save your pet’s life. When your dog knows to obey the word “No,” “Stay,” or “Come” you can stop them from running into a busy street, eating a poisonous substance, and even keep them from drowning by turning them around before heading into deep waters. Some dogs’ with a strong prey drive may be determined to retrieve a ball or stick in deep waters even after you have tried to call them back. In this type of scenario it is wise to have an extra toy on hand that can be used to lured them back.

Be PREPARED

When it is time to let your dogie take a dip do a quick skim of your surroundings and inside the water.  Rivers and oceans can change frequently, and certain areas of water can become treacherous because of currents, tides, and underwater hazards. In the late summer, algae scum on the top of standing water can be toxic, producing substances that can kill a pet who swallows the water. When in doubt, treat it like you would a child: better safe than sorry.

Knowing CPR is a priceless skill when in an emergency situation. While waiting for help to arrive, you may be able to administer the necessary techniques that can mean the difference between life and death.

Keep in mind that puppies, elderly, and debilitated dogs may be safest out of the water all together or on a flotation device under close supervision.

BE AWARE

Keep your dog well hydrated. He may be in water but remember water attracts the sun and he can still become dehydrated and get heat exhaustion. Bring water and offer it to him regularly as well as having snacks or a meal ready for him after swimming. Know when to call it a day. It is good to let our dogs tire themselves out but not to the point of exhaustion which can put them at risk of drowning.

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