No Bones About It: Bones are Unsafe for Your Dog

The idea that it’s natural for dogs to chew on bones is a popular one. However, it’s a dangerous practice and can cause serious injury to your pet.

“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” says Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. “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.”

“Make sure you throw out bones from your own meals in a way that your dog can’t get to them,” adds Stamper, who suggests taking the trash out right away or putting the bones up high and out of your dog’s reach until you have a chance to dispose of them. “And pay attention to where your dog’s nose is when you walk him around the neighborhood—steer him away from any objects lying in the grass.”

Here are 10 reasons why it’s a bad idea to give your dog a bone:

  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.
  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.

“Talk with your veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to your dog,” says Stamper. “There are many bone-like products made with materials that are safe for dogs to chew on.”

“Always supervise your dog with any chew product, especially one your dog hasn’t had before,” adds Stamper. “And always, if your dog ‘just isn’t acting right,’ call your veterinarian right away!”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page4, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Date Posted: April 20, 2010

The Critical Importance of Socializing Your Puppy

Did you know behavior problems are the number one cause of relinquishment of dogs to shelters?

Another very disturbing statistic: over half the dogs entering shelters in the U.S. will be euthanized.

It’s a well-known fact that puppy classes help prevent behavior problems and increase the likelihood a dog will become a great pet and lifelong companion.

Given the reason most dogs are turned in to shelters and the success of early socialization in preventing behavior problems, it seems obvious the risks associated with an unsocialized dog are much greater than the minimal risk of disease transmission during puppy classes.

It is for this reason the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) believes it is necessary to socialize puppies before they are fully vaccinated.

Dog owners are strongly encouraged to weigh the small risk of contracting disease against the enormous benefits derived from early, effective socialization. The wisest choice is to begin socialization of puppies at seven to eight weeks of age.

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Your puppy, just like your child if you have one, can’t grow into a healthy adult without your help and leadership. I often tell my clients, “Good puppies aren’t born, they’re made.”

You wouldn’t dream of confining your child to your house and yard all her life, or decide to begin parenting your child at 18 years of age, when they have developed concerning behaviors or habits. Yet that is the situation many puppies grow up in – with owners who later don’t understand how their cute little puppy turned into such a destructive or disobedient or aggressive animal.

Dogs are social creatures. Your pup needs interaction — with you, other people and other animals, beginning very early in life.

Companionship is necessary for your puppy’s emotional well-being. Involve your puppy with your family, as well as friends and new faces, right from the start. If you’re crate training your pup, move the crate or playpen into a room where your family spends time together.

Contrary to what many people believe, puppies need a great deal of time and attention in order to ensure they mature into dogs who are beloved members of the family.

The Importance of Socializing Your Puppy

Socialization means exposing your puppy to as many new people, animals, environments and other stimuli as possible without overwhelming him. Over-stimulation of a young puppy can result in excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior, so knowing how much is enough is important.

A properly socialized puppy is:

  • Handled from birth and learns to accept touching of all body parts
  • Exposed to as many people, other animals, places and situations as possible
  • Encouraged to explore and investigate his environment
  • Allowed to experience a variety of toys and games, surfaces and other stimuli
  • Brought along often on car rides to new environments with his owner

Proper socialization will engage all of your puppy’s senses through exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of day-to-day life.

This exposure will desensitize and condition your pup so that he develops a comfort level with different and new situations.

Socialization also helps you train your young dog to handle new experiences and challenges with acceptable, appropriate behavior.

An unsocialized dog is unlikely to cope well with changes in his environment or situation, making him difficult to handle for his owner, veterinarian, groomer, pet sitter, and any visitors to the dog’s home.

If your puppy isn’t properly socialized, he can develop permanently ingrained fear responses and generalized anxiety. This type of behavior problem can ultimately make your dog unsuitable as a pet – for you or anyone else.

Almost half of all dogs turned in to shelters have at least one behavior problem — aggression and destructiveness are among the most common. Both of these behaviors can be caused by the fear and anxiety that develops from improper or incomplete socialization.

Timing is Everything

The most important time to socialize a puppy is during her first three months of life. For most people, that means starting the process on puppy’s very first day home.

The first three months of your dog’s life are when sociability outweighs fear, and her brain is most inclined to accept new experiences. What your pup encounters during this critical time will shape her character, temperament and behavior for the rest of her life.

If your puppy isn’t socialized during her first three months, it can increase the risk of behavior problems later in life, such as fear, avoidance and aggression. These problems can be excruciatingly difficult to fix in an older animal.

The last thing you hope for when you bring home your adorable little bundle of love and energy is that she’ll end up an ill-behaved and unmanageable adult dog, banished to your backyard or the nearest animal shelter.

That’s why it is so incredibly important to properly socialize your pup before she reaches the age of 14-16 weeks.

Tips for Socializing Your Puppy

Socialization is intended to develop your puppy into an outgoing, sociable dog without behavior problems. The socialization process can start at seven to eight weeks and should continue for the rest of your pet’s life.

1. Puppy classes

Enrolling your little guy in a well-run puppy class involves minimal exposure to health risks and is an excellent way to:

  • Increase puppy’s responsiveness to commands
  • Teach bite inhibition through puppy play
  • Teach proper interaction with people, including strangers
  • Learn tips for successful housebreaking and how to prevent hyperactivity (the two most common reasons given by owners when relinquishing their dogs)
  • Develop more realistic expectations for your dog
  • Strengthen your bond with your puppy

Studies show owners who involve their puppies in puppy classes are much more likely to keep their pets.

If you adopted your puppy from a shelter environment, you may be asked to attend puppy classes without him for a few weeks to ensure he doesn’t have a contagious illness that hasn’t shown itself yet (such as parvovirus).

In the meantime, as long as your puppy isn’t showing signs of illness, you can take him around older, vaccinated/titered dogs, people and new environments for socialization purposes.

Areas you’ll want to avoid until your puppy has been immunized (acquired protective immunity) and is about 4 months old include dog parks, sidewalks, parking lots of veterinary clinics, floors in vet clinics and mass retail pet stores (where diseased animals may have been present).

Pet diseases are regional, so you should consult your veterinarian or do your own research to determine what types of canine illnesses are prevalent where you live.

Don’t worry unnecessarily about risks to your puppy’s health from other pets in a well-run puppy class. Just keep in mind that the risk of illness from early socialization is small compared to the risks your dog could face if he develops behavior problems later in life.

2. Interaction with other people and animals

Invite friends and family over to meet and interact with your puppy. Try to include people of varying ages and ethnicities, especially children if you don’t have any, and both genders.

Also invite gentle, healthy dogs, puppies and cats to your home to meet and play with your pup. You can also take your puppy for visits to the homes of suitable, healthy pets.

Take your puppy for short rides in the car, and to public places where people gather and there’s plenty of activity.

3. Exposure to unfamiliar sights and sounds

Make sure your puppy is exposed to unfamiliar or out-of-place objects around your house so that he will not startle or be fearful of changes in his environment. Your pup must learn to not fear the opening of an umbrella, the rearranging of furniture, or the clothes hamper being in a new location.

It’s also very important to get your puppy accustomed to hearing a variety of sounds. Examples: your vacuum cleaner, the lawn mower, the traffic outside, a blow dryer, a fresh plastic or paper trash bag being snapped open, the TV, video games, etc.

The goal is not to frighten your pup, but to expose him to new sounds from a distance at first, gradually bringing them closer. Life is noisy; your dog must learn these sounds are nothing to fear.

4. Bathing, grooming and handling your puppy

Get your puppy used to being bathed and brushed, having her nails clipped, her teeth brushed, and her ears and other body parts examined and inspected by routinely practicing these activities (sometimes daily). This allows your pet to get comfortable being handled, making bath time, nail trims and her visits to the vet and groomer easier on all of you.

This is also a good time to introduce your pup to her own collar and leash or harness.

5. Make socializing your puppy a positive experience

Start socializing your pup from his first day home with you, but take it slow. Set the stage for him and then let him move at his own pace. Take care that your puppy doesn’t become overwhelmed, frightened or harmed in any way.

Don’t hurry or force his progress, and don’t try to do too much at once. Puppies tire quickly, so keep his socialization sessions frequent but relatively brief — and always positive.

When your puppy shows hesitance or fear — and most puppies will as they attempt to adjust to a big, noisy world — do not reward his fearful behavior with a lot of attention and affection. Stay close by to reassure him he’s safe, but remember that your puppy views your attention and affection as a reward for a particular behavior. Rewarding his fearful behavior can encourage his fearfulness.

Socializing your puppy should be an enjoyable, satisfying experience for both of you — one that will pay dividends for the rest of your life together as pet and owner. There is no greater joy than a well-adjusted, well-behaved four-legged member of the family.

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