Most people are familiar with the stereotype of dogs chewing on bones. In reality, chewing on bones can be dangerous and even fatal for dogs of any size or breed. The only bones your Maltese should have are bone-shaped treats. See your veterinarian immediately if he eats a real one.
The FDA's Stance
The FDA warns against letting any dog eat bones. No breed or size is specified or exempted. Nor is any size of bone specified or exempted. Large bones from hams can be as dangerous as small bones from chicken wings. This is because bone fragments are as dangerous for any dog as whole small bones.
Potential for Mouth or Throat Damage
Chewing in bones can cause broken teeth and injuries to your dog's tongue or mouth. Bones can also get looped around your dog's lower jaw. This can be scary or painful for your dog and requires removal by your vet.
Dangers of Bones that Get Stuck
Bones can get stuck in your dog's esophagus, causing him to gag in an attempt to bring it back up. Small fragments of bone can get stuck in your dog's windpipe, causing him to have trouble breathing. Bones or fragments can also cause blockages in your dog's stomach or intestines, both of which require surgery to remove. Finally, bone fragments can cause constipation. They they scrape the inside of the intestine and the rectum as they move, which is painful for your dog and results in bleeding. This, too, requires a trip to the vet.
Greatest Potential Danger of Bones
One condition bones can cause is potentially life-threatening. Peritonitis is an abdominal bacterial infection caused caused by bone fragments poking holes in a dog's stomach or intestines. This condition requires immediate emergency veterinary care.
Some people believe that raw bones are safe for dogs because, unlike cooked bones, they do not shatter or splinter. Dr. Patty Khuly, a veterinarian, says she feeds her dogs raw bones that meet certain qualifications, though she does not mention their breed. She recommends getting meaty raw bones with a lot of meat still on them from high-quality butchers and sticking to chicken necks. For larger bones, she recommends weight-bearing bones because they are too large to swallow. Finally, she supervises her dogs when they are eating bones (see ref. # 2).
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