Fi consulted with Dr. Jan Bellows, Board Certified Veterinary Dentist, to help us prepare for four-legged Thanksgiving beggars. He gave us the ultimate rundown on which bones are safe for dogs to eat.

With less outside families breaking bread together for Thanksgiving this year, many families are setting space on the floor (or if you’re like me, at the table) for their favorite four legged friend. With Fido at your side, there will inevitably be temptation to share a bit of your plate. So, is it safe to feed your dog ham, rib, knuckle, or turkey bones? The answer is a resounding NO!

Bones given to chew on can hurt and even kill dogs. Before sharing scraps, remember these 10 ways chewing bones can injure your dog:

  1. Broken teeth-especially the upper back cheek teeth. When these teeth fracture, often the tooth’s nerve is exposed which is painful and is treated by either extracting the tooth or root canal therapy performed by a board-certified veterinary dentist. Needless to say, it’s not a comfortable fix.
  2. Mouth or tongue lacerations, especially from hollow chicken or turkey bones.
  3. Bones get looped around your dog’s lower jaw, especially marrow bones.
  4. Bones get 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. Bones get stuck in the windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone.
  6. Bone get stuck in the 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 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. Bones get stuck in intestines causing a blockage needing surgical removal.
  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.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum from the sharp bone fragments.
  10. Peritonitis. This is a difficult to treat bacterial infection of the abdomen caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines allowing intestinal contents to leak out infecting the abdomen tissues.
Not only can Thanksgiving dinner leftover bones hurt your dog. Please stay away from the other hard chew items including deer antlers, nylon bones, and bully sticks. Generally, any chew given to a dog should bend and be easily digested. Fortunately, there are yummy safe chew alternatives which also help control plaque and tartar on your dog’s teeth. The Veterinary Oral Health Council released a list of approved chews for pups, which include popular products like Greenies, Pro Plan Dental Chews, and Milk-Bone Brushing Chews.

Fi's Veterinary Expert, Dr. Jeff Werber, also weighed in on bone safety:

"I can't stress this enough, buy the right size bone! A couple of years ago I had a client who thought it would be wise to purchase a larger size Greenies bone for her dog and break it up herself into smaller pieces in order to save some money.  It ended up costing her a few thousand dollars, as the small broken-off piece lodged in her dog’s esophagus causing a complete obstruction. Unable to pull it out with an endoscope, we had to push it into the stomach, then remove it surgically, he needed a stomach tube placed for 10 days to bypass his esophagus while it healed."

Think twice before giving your dog any kind of bone, and exercise caution when purchasing chews for your dog as well. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian or a veterinary dentist for guidance. What you think is a nice treat for your pup could turn into the most expensive bone you've every bought!