Dog owners love to spoil their pooches. Who can blame them? Dogs provide us with loyalty, comfort, protection, and companionship? Why not share some of our human comforts as a way to say thank you? The dogs across the country we adore are given morsels of human food, comfortable beds, and countless toys to entertain them every day. Pampering a pet in moderation is in no way a crime. But as with children, there are unsuspected dangers in many of the things our dogs come in contact with, most that we give to them. Dogs investigate the world with their noses and mouths. If it smells interesting or like it might taste good, you can bet the next place its going is their mouth. Here are a few things your dog can be given under supervision or should just be avoided.
The most common indulgence for dogs are table scraps. This can come in the form of sharing a morsel from the table or scraping leftovers into the dog’s food bowl. Many dog owners are unaware that giving their dog large amounts of fat, grease, or gristle can cause pancreatitis, making their pet ill and requiring a visit to the veterinarian. The Merck Veterinary Manual describes a case such as this as “dietary indiscretion”. Commonly reported symptoms of canine pancreatitis is lack of appetite, vomiting, weakness, abdominal pain, dehydration, and diarrhea. Table scraps aren’t all harmful in certain cases. But as a testament to the trouble a dog can get themselves into, I once witnessed a surgical case where a Mastiff had been given the scraps from a barbecue cookout that contained corncobs and rib bones. The 150 pound Mastiff’s jaws snapped the rib bones like toothpicks and he had swallowed several of the corncobs whole. While the rib bones miraculously managed to pass through his digestive system without a problem, the corncobs did not. They became lodged in his intestinal tract and blocked his entire system. Unfortunately, the owner was unable to notice the symptoms in time and the incident proved fatal for the poor Mastiff.
The case of the Mastiff and the corncobs bring to light another danger that can be arise through table scraps or even as treats bought at a pet store: Bones. It is a widely known fact that chicken bones are to be avoided as treats for dogs as they easily splinter and can do serious damage to the digestive tract. But damage can occur with any kind of bone, especially in large dogs that commonly chew the bones into large pieces and swallow them. Bones are never safe of dogs of all sizes. The same dangers go for sticks. If your dog enjoys chewing sticks or bones, it is best to replace to them with a chew toy made of a harder material.
Pet stores carry several alternatives to bones to entertain your dog and keep their teeth clean. They are made in a varying range of materials from rawhide, plastic, and rubber. Again, most of these can be enjoyed by your dog under supervision with no repercussions. As long as the dog does not chew off large pieces or swallow them, small pieces of even the polymer Nylabones can safely pass through its system. However, each material has its own dangers. Rawhide in its whole form can be chewed quite readily by avid chewers and when ingested will swell in the digestive system. This can cause blockages in the digestive tract which often require invasive surgery and can be fatal if not discovered early. A safer form of rawhide are the shredded and compressed rawhide chews. Instead of whole rawhide twisted or braided into shapes, the rawhide is shredded and then compressed into various shapes and sizes. When the dog chews the treat, the rawhide is already in smaller pieces, lowering the risk for a blockage.
Balls can also be a danger to your dog even under supervision. Always make sure the ball is bigger than the dog’s mouth to prevent choking. Rubber balls are safe to play fetch with but are not good chew toys, including tennis balls. Dogs can easily tear apart rubber balls and eat the fibers off of the tennis ball, irritating their stomach and increasing the risk of intestinal blockage.
And last but not least, is bedding. Owners of active, teething puppies or just a dog that enjoys exerting energy through shredding should also be cautious with bedding. Not only does shredded bedding make a mess, it can also irritate and block a dog’s digestive system. Natural and synthetic fibers can easily get stuck in the intestinal tract making it difficult to pass. If a dog begins to chew their bedding immediately remove it. It is difficult to leave a dog without a bed, but it is much better to have them sleep on the floor than having a belly full of stuffing.
There are countless ways your dog can get into trouble and not all of them can be prevented. But with supervision and care, you can continue to pamper your pet with all the things he loves. If you have a concern about a toy, bedding, or food, ask your veterinarian. You don’t even have to make an appointment. Feel free to call the office and ask one of the technicians. Get your questions answered. The staff is much happier to answer your question and help you protect your pet than having to care for him during surgery.
(*Note: It is extremely important to remember there is no 100% safe nor 100% indestructible dog toy and the best way to give your dog toys and keep them safe is to let them play and chew supervised.)