The image of a dog chewing on a bone by the fireside is an iconic one, but accidentally eating a bone can present considerable risk to your pet. Bones can become lodged in your dog's digestive system or perforate it, and both are serious emergencies. However, they also sometimes pass through your pet's digestive system without doing any harm. How do you know when to call an animal care hospital? Read on to find out what to do if your dog has accidentally eaten a bone.
Watch for Choking
Sometimes a bone will become lodged in a dog's airway after he or she swallows it, which is a choking risk. Even if you can't see the bone, you'll be able to tell that your dog is choking if he or she has labored breathing and is drooling.
Choking is a veterinary emergency, so you should call a local animal care hospital right away if your dog begins to choke on a bone. Depending on the size of the bone and its location, your veterinarian may instruct you on how to correctly perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog, which helps to dislodge the bone from your dog's airway. Otherwise, your veterinarian will instruct you to bring your dog in so that the bone can be removed.
Monitor Your Dog's Health Over a 3-Day Period
If the bone has passed through to your dog's stomach, you need to monitor your dog's behavior over the next three days. A dog's stomach contains extraordinarily strong acid that is capable of partially dissolving bone, so a bone will sometimes pass through your dog's gastrointestinal tract with no ill effects.
During this time, you shouldn't attempt to induce vomiting in your dog in order to remove the bone from the stomach, as there's a chance it can become lodged in your dog's airway on the way out.
The most important thing to do during this time is to monitor your dog's stool. Bones will typically only partially digest rather than fully digest, so you'll eventually be able to see the bone in your dog's stool. It will look like a small white rod.
Look Out for These Symptoms
If your dog stops passing stool or begins to vomit, this can be a sign that the bone has lodged in your dog's small intestines. The obstruction prevents anything else from passing through it. With no place to go, your dog will start vomiting up the food that he or she eats.
A gastrointestinal obstruction caused by a bone is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to your dog's intestines, and it requires attention from an animal care hospital. A veterinarian can use an X-ray to determine the location of the bone, remove it, and repair the damaged intestine.
The other complication you'll need to watch for is peritonitis. This is an infection that's caused when the small intestine is ruptured, allowing the bacteria in the intestine to leak out. Small shards of bone can damage your dog's intestine enough to cause peritonitis to happen. The early symptoms include vomiting, distress, and a lack of appetite. Peritonitis is another veterinary emergency that requires immediate treatment at an animal care hospital, as the infection worsens rapidly and can quickly become fatal.
Happily, a bone will often pass through a dog's digestive system with no ill effects and show up in the stool a day or two later. If it does, it's unlikely that your dog suffered any harm from eating the bone. However, make sure you take steps to prevent your dog from getting access to small bones in the future — it still poses a considerable risk.