My dumb dog at lamb bones
December 5, 2011 12:43 PM   Subscribe

My dog ate cooked lamb bones. How worried should I be?

I've been making my dog's food for a few months now, and it's been working out great - until today. After I had cooked up a lamb leg, I peeled the meat off the bones and threw the bones in the trash. While I was out of the house, my dog managed a magic trick that I was previously unaware that she could perform. She managed to reach a garbage can that was COMPLETELY out of her reach and yank the bones out. There were three bones total, and she appears to have consumed about 3/4 of the bones, leaving just a shard of one bone left. I've heard horror stories about bones getting stuck and puncturing vital organs and all that shit. How worried should I be? What should I be looking for? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the damage? If I took her to the vet right now, what could the vet do?
She seems fine right now, and I assume she ate the bones about an hour ago.
Thanks in advance everybody.
posted by msali to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
She'll be fine. I speak from years of experience of our dogs eating bones, cooked and not. (At this very moment my dog is chomping on a raw bone.) I still avoid feeding our dogs cooked chicken bones, which do splinter, but on the occasion they have gotten into them, nothing bad happened.

Just keep an eye on her but I wouldn't worry.
posted by bearwife at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think cooked bones are softer than uncooked bones, which would lessen the chance of them tearing up the digestive system...
posted by dfriedman at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2011

IANAV, but if she is fine now, I think she will continue to be fine.

I once volunteered on a research project that tracked the ranges of wolf-packs in Poland. One way we did this was by collecting wolf scat. I found a sample once that was nearly all white. The scientist in charge said it was from a low-ranking member of the pack, because when they get to the kill, what is left is mostly bone, and they can survive on that for some time.

I've also lived in Central America for a number of years, and watched street dogs thrive on all matter of chicken bones lying in the street. I think your pup will be fine.
posted by oneironaut at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2011

Dogs are dumb, but they aren't generally suicidal. Unless they got into something man-made like candy or medicine, I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by empath at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think cooked bones are softer than uncooked bones, which would lessen the chance of them tearing up the digestive system...

actually, cooked bones can splinter and puncture a dog's internals. this is why owners are always warned to not to let their dogs have cooked bones.

your dog should be fine but do keep an eye on her until the bones have been excreted or vomited.
posted by violetk at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If I took her to the vet right now, what could the vet do?

Nothing, really. While it is true that bone fragments can get impacted or puncture the digestive system, it is rare enough that they are not going to do emergency surgery unless there are symptoms. I agree with violetk that the best thing you can do right now is monitor for any discomfort, and especially watch for bloody stool or an unwillingness to eat or defecate.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:12 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: dfriedman and oneironaut are incorrect: raw bones are (usually) okay for your dog, but cooked ones do have their potential dangers. Cooked bones are more likely to splinter because of the effect that cooking temperatures have on them; generally speaking, they break down and become more brittle, not softer. Dogs' digestive systems are designed to handle raw bones, not cooked.

That said, this lamb leg bone will probably be fine, and taking her to the vet right now would be fruitless. As bearwife pointed out, it's not uncommon for them to get into cooked bones.

I'd make sure she doesn't have a chunk stuck in her teeth, and be aware that she may be a bit constipated for a day or two. Not to alarm you, but keep an eye on her few the next few days until you're sure she doesn't have an intestinal blockage. If she stops eating or drinking, vomits, seems weak or feverish, or has abdominal pain or swelling, it's time to see the vet.

Man, I wish people wouldn't answer questions they don't know the answer to.

On preview: cooked bones *are* man-made.
posted by Specklet at 1:13 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

My dog has a stomach like a baby bird and I try not to give him bones because they upset his stomach and give him either outright diarrhea or really loose stools. It goes away in a day or two. I think the projectile pooping bothers me more than him. If he starts vomiting, my vet recommends that I not give him anything including water for 12-24 hours so that there's nothing on his stomach to upset it. Then I give him chicken and rice (one cup of rice, two chicken legs -skin off one of them, two cups of water, 1 tsp salt, cooked together until the rice is done) and he gets about 3 small meals from this. (My dog weighs 125 pounds but I feed a small amount at a time.) I take the cooked chicken off the bone and shred it into the rice. I usually make another batch the next day and mix it with his regular kibble for the next two days (half kibble/half chicken & rice).

I've found BBQ rib bones to be the worst for my guy and he loves them.
posted by shoesietart at 1:22 PM on December 5, 2011

When our dog was a puppy she swallowed a rib bone that had been sawn obliquley into a stiletto. We freaked out horribly but a day or so later, she coughed it up and was fine.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:32 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: Cooked bones are dangerous for dogs, period full stop. Anyone who says otherwise has been incredibly lucky so far.

Call your vet, but get cotton (100% cotton only) balls and cream or liverwurst right now. Shamelessly stolen in hopes it helps your pup:

Buy a box of cotton balls. Be sure that you get cotton balls not the "cosmetic puffs" that are made from man-made fibers. Also, buy a quart of half-and-half coffee cream and put it in the freezer. Should your dog eat glass ornaments or anything sharp, defrost the half-and-half and pour some in a bowl. Dip cotton balls into the cream and feed them to your dog.

Dogs under 10 lbs should eat 2 balls, which you have first torn into smaller pieces. Dogs 10-50 lbs-should eat 3-5 balls, and larger dogs should eat 5-7. You may feed larger dogs an entire cotton ball at once.

Dogs seem to really like these strange "treats' and eat them readily. As the cotton works its way through the digestive tract it will find all the glass or sharp pieces and wrap itself around them. Even the teeniest shards of glass will be caught and wrapped in the cotton fibers and the cotton will protect the intestines from damage by the glass. Your dog's
stools will be really weird for a few days and you will have to check carefully for fresh blood or a tarry appearance to the stool. If either of the latter symptoms appear you should rush your dog to the vet for a checkup.

An actual experience: I can personally vouch for the cotton ball treatment. While I was at the vet waiting for him to return from lunch a terrified woman ran in with a litter of puppies who had demolished a wooden crate along with large open staples. The young vet had taken x-rays, which did show each of the puppies had swallowed several open staples. He was preparing them for surgery when my wonderful vet came in and said no surgery. I watched him wet several cotton bails, squeeze out the water and pop them down their throats. Within 24 hours every staple was accounted for. This was a lesson I learned in the mid-1970s and have had to use several times. I wet the cotton bails and smear on some liverwurst and they bolt it down and ask for more. The cotton comes out with the object safely embedded.
posted by vers at 1:46 PM on December 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Folks, this cotton ball thing is for real? I've never heard of it before. Any chance I could get a professional to confirm this for me? Paging Rock Steady or Biscotti.....
posted by msali at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please call your vet or the e-vet for advice. Once you've done that, you can give your dog pieces of bread if the cotton balls are too crazy. Do some research and know your sources (I am frankly glad you question my advice). I will say, I would rather have a bowel obstruction than an intestinal perforation with my own dogs.
posted by vers at 2:57 PM on December 5, 2011

My (small) dog grabbed a (small) cooked lamb shank out of my hand (I stupidly was holding it over her food bowl while it was still on the floor to push out the marrow for a treat instead of putting the bowl on the counter). She swallowed it whole.

I took her into the vet first thing the next morning. They took an x-ray that showed the bone, still whole, in her upper intestines. Since it wasn't shattered, and didn't appear to be completely blocking everything, we took a "wait and see" approach. It didn't advance through her system, instead, it gradually dissolved over the course of a week (as shown by a couple of further x-rays). She managed to continue eating (small amounts at a time) and pooping throughout the process.

It worked out well, but I was glad I took her into the vet.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:02 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: Hmm. The cotton ball thing is a new one on me, and while I am not remotely qualified to judge its appropriateness, my instinct would be to not add additional foreign objects to an already stressed digestive system.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:45 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest doing nothing unless your dog shows sign of pain or real distress. He didn't eat glass. He ate lamb bones, a fairly common if not ideal occurrence. Don't forget, you can buy bones for your dog wherever dog food is sold. At worst, he'll probably just get the shits. Call the vet if he doesn't shit or won't stop vomiting.

Dogs are pretty resilient.
posted by shoesietart at 6:11 PM on December 5, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the tips everyone. I didn't have any cotton balls, but I fed my dog some bread, and called the vet. She told me to adopt the "wait and see" attitude that many of you have suggested. She seems alright so far. She's drunk water and scarfed down the bread.
She's a 75 pound Rottie and has eaten many a thing that she shouldn't (I recall she once got into a 12 pack of my husband's birthday cupcakes, eating the plastic container as well. She didn't even get sick. My husband is STILL pissed about it). I worry about the shards in her innards, and I hope that the bread is able to soften/capture some of the bad stuff. I will definitely be on the look out for all of the things you've mentioned above. Thanks again!
posted by msali at 6:23 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: I am glad your dog seems OK so far. I would keep your vet posted, odds are your dog will be fine, but IME I would be watching for vomiting (especially shortly after eating) or straining to defecate without production (no or very little poop), either of those would have me rushing to the vet. (IANAV, IANYV, this is not veterinary medical advice etc.)

For future reference, there are varying opinions about bones, I know of very few veterinary medical people who think cooked bones are safe, and while the "common wisdom" among raw feeders and others is that raw bones are safe, they are still risky to feed - your dog can break teeth, get intestinal perforations or obstruct from them (not to mention get sick from bacteria, dogs can and do get sick and even die from salmonella and e coli). I don't feed them myself, there are other chewies available with much less risk.

I have never heard of using cotton balls that way so couldn't comment. I defer to Rock Steady's view that adding more foreign materials to a stressed digestive system might not be a good idea. Feeding extra food at the next meal (or bread or something) is often advised, but I have never heard of feeding a dog an indigestible material like cotton. I would keep in mind that a bowel obstruction can be as life-threatening (and expensive to treat) as an intestinal perforation.
posted by biscotti at 7:17 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey, Specklet, I didn't say I knew the answer, I replied with what I think based on my observations. I laid out my observations, then gave my opinion, while qualifying that I am not a veterinarian.

I wouldn't have answered at all had it not been that the dog ALREADY had eaten the bones, and appeared fine.

The owner's question was not about the wisdom of feeding bones--cooked or raw--to your dog. It was how worried the owner should be about a dog that had eaten bones about an an hour ago, and currently appeared to be fine.

Based on my observations, I shared my opinion that this was not a death sentence for the dog, that if it appeared to be fine, there was a good chance it would continue to be so.
posted by oneironaut at 6:20 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey folks, just thought I would drop in and let you know that it's been over 24 hours, and pup appears to be fine. She's had three normal bm's (although the last one appeared to be pretty bread-filled), and no belly tenderness or fever. She's eating, drinking, walking and playing normally. I appreciate everyone's concern. Thanks again to the good folks on the green!
posted by msali at 5:48 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's great msali. By the way, I talked to my wife about the cotton ball trick (she's been a Vet Tech for 15 years and has worked Emergency for the last 8 years) and she said it really isn't recommended, for exactly the reason that biscotti said -- you might be trading a perf for an obstruction. Going with bread is a better idea, but isn't really necessary.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:23 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

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