Are Bones Unsafe For Your Dog?

In short, yes, bones can be unsafe for your dog. Many owners assume that it's natural to 'give a dog a bone.' It's an age-old assumption that we've followed along with because we haven't been told otherwise. But have you stopped to consider the harm that bones can cause?

Not only can bones or rawhide cause digestive upset, they can also physically harm your dog, resulting in a trip to the veterinarian. Often, owners will give their dog the bones from a leftover meal, or purchase the bone/rawhide from the pet store. Keep in mind that bone size doesn't matter, if you give a large dog a large bone, your dog is still at risk for injury.

Although bones/rawhide can cause harm, the chewing aspect can provide a great release for your dog, as chewing naturally decreases stress levels. Bones and rawhide's also help to remove tartar and calculus on your dog's teeth and gums as they chew, which helps prevent the harmful bacteria to form.

Potential issues caused by bones/rawhide:


Choking Hazard


Depending on the size of the bone/rawhide and the durability of it, it can become a choking hazard. If you are giving your dog a bone you want to make sure it's a large enough size, so that they are unable to break or swallow it.


Broken Teeth


If the bone is dense, it can pose an issue when your dog is chewing on it. It is very common that a solid bone (i.e. antler) can chip or break your dog's teeth. Chips and breaks on teeth can become quite painful for your dog and will often require a trip to the dentist. Vet bills can add up quite quickly if extractions are necessary, so be mindful of the density of the bone.




Peritonitis is a hard-to-treat bacterial infection that forms in the abdomen when bone fragments rupture your dog's stomach or intestines. This is a deadly infection that would need to be caught and diagnosed immediately.


Mouth/Tongue Injuries


Chewing on sharp bones can become quite the bloody mess. The bone or rawhide can cause bleeding of the gums and teeth as well as punctures to the tongue.


Lodged Bones


When your dog is chewing, it is very possible for the bone or rawhide to chip away and become lodged in various areas of their body. Bone fragments can get stuck in their esophagus, windpipe (if your dog inhales a small enough piece), stomach, or intestines. All of which require immediate surgery and a hefty surgical bill.




When dogs break away at bone fragments or rawhide they often chew and swallow what they pull off. Rawhide can cause major digestive upset and can be very hard to pass. The bone fragments are hard to pass as they are very sharp and can cut the inside of their large intestine or rectum as they pass though.


Rectal Bleeding


Due to the passing of bone fragments, rectal bleeding can occur. This involves a trip to the veterinarian. Depending on the fragment that passed, surgery may or may not be required.


Tips For Safe Chewing:


If you decide to allow your dog a bone or rawhide, make a mental note of the above facts and try to implement some rules before giving them their ‘treat.’


Watch Them


Make sure you keep a close eye on your pet; never give them a bone and allow them to run off and chew. Always make sure they are in your sight line, that way you can remove the bone should they rip pieces off and begin to swallow.


Size Of The Bone


Make sure the bone isn’t easy to swallow. If you have a large breed dog, you’ll want to give them a bone they can’t wrap their entire mouth around, and the same goes for a small dog.


Time Constraint


Don’t allow them to chew for as long as they want otherwise there may not be a bone left! Always take the bone away after a short span of time. Allow it to be their treat for the day or their reward for doing something good.


Quality Of The Bone


Some bones are naturally denser than others, especially if you are giving your dog a bone from your meal as opposed to one you purchased at a pet store. Be mindful of the quality and note that smaller dogs have smaller teeth, which are easier to break or chip.




When your dogs chew is too soft or has shrunk in size due to chewing, replace it. Have extras handy and always remove and replace when appropriate.


If you feel hesitant giving your dog a bone after reading through this article, keep in mind that there are many other chew toys on the market that aren’t “edible.” Many non-toxic plastic toys can become a practical substitute, some can even be stuffed with a treat or filling. See below for some suggestions:

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