There is nothing dogs love more than chowing down on a fresh bone, and most aren’t picky about what they chew. As long as it smells like fresh meat, your dog is sure to be interested in any bone leftover from dinner.
If your dog gets its chops on a cooked bone such as a ham bone, it can potentially splinter as they chew and cause life-threatening harm to their digestive tract. If you suspect that your dog has eaten ham bones, you should be ready to go to your vet at the first sign of distress.
Here, I’m going to go over the dangers of ham bones for your dog and how to tell when it’s time for a trip to the emergency room. [Pro tip: If there is ANY doubt call your Vet emergency line immediately]
Should I Give My Dog Ham Bones?
You should never give your dog cooked ham bones after dinner, even if they seem big and meaty enough to make a tempting treat.
If your dog ingests a cooked ham bone, it can severely harm its digestive tract. Depending on a dog’s age, breed, and size, damage can end up being fatal. The more bone that a dog consumes, the more likely you are to see problems arise.
Raw ham bones, on the other hand, are safe for dogs. The bone doesn’t splinter in the same way that a cooked one would. However, keep in mind that too much rich and fatty ham can quickly lead to obesity issues. Raw bones may also carry bacteria that can lead to diarrhea and vomiting.
If your dog manages to sneak itself a cooked ham bone for dinner, you need to watch closely for signs of discomfort or distress. If you notice anything amiss with your dog after 24 hours of eating, it’s best to take an emergency trip to the vet.
The Dangers of Ham Bones
An enthusiastic chewer can destroy a cooked ham bone in a matter of minutes, reducing it to countless razor-sharp bone splinters. Ingesting even just a small piece of bone shard can end up causing potentially life-threatening harm to your dog. Here, I will go over the most common health concerns for dogs who have eaten ham bones.
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Bone Fragments Can Cut the Mouth
Even if splinters don’t enter the digestive tract, they can still harm your dog. Shards may slice up the inside of your pup’s mouth, causing discomfort and making it difficult to eat. In some cases, splinters can even get stuck around the gums, tongue, or throat and lead to a nasty infection. If shards get caught in the windpipe, it may result in breathing difficulties or even suffocation.
Bone splinters in the mouth aren’t as serious a concern as splinters in the digestive tract. However, you may still want to see a vet to ensure that there is no bone lodged inside your dog’s mouth to avoid serious infections.
Splinters May Damage the Digestive Tract
If bone shards manage to make their way down into the stomach, they can perforate the delicate lining of the bowels. Even if most shards pass through, all it takes is one splinter puncturing the intestinal lining to cause internal bleeding.
Dogs with a perforated intestine need to see a vet as soon as possible for emergency surgery. Splinters need removal and damage to the bowels repaired to restore normal function.
Bone Shards Can Obstruct Bowels
Intestinal obstruction can be just as much of a health risk as a perforated bowel for dogs. Smaller splinters can build up and block free passage through the intestines, or your dog may end up swallowing a chunk of bone too large to pass.
In extreme cases, an obstruction caused by bone shards may perforate the intestine, leading to internal bleeding. A large enough obstruction can also restrict blood flow throughout the digestive tract, eventually killing the tissue.
If your dog is experiencing a bowel obstruction from errant bone shards, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Otherwise, the condition could prove fatal within a matter of days. Your vet can remove the obstruction through emergency surgery and hopefully repair any damage caused.
Irritation Can Lead to Peritonitis
Peritonitis is a condition where the peritoneum, or abdominal lining, becomes inflamed after getting punctured. As an infection takes hold, your dog may experience discomfort, changes in appetite, and digestive difficulties.
Bone shards can easily tear into the abdominal wall and cause peritonitis. Many times, dogs don’t show symptoms until it’s too late. Once they do, the only course of action is immediate emergency surgery.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Eaten Ham Bones?
You should watch your dog for at least 24 hours following the ingestion of cooked ham bone to ensure that there’s no damage to the digestive system. If you see any of the following symptoms, you should see your vet as soon as possible:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dark, tarry, or bloody stool
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
- Discomfort around the mouth
What To Do If Your Dog Ate Ham Bones
If you see or suspect your dog has eaten a ham bone, you should take immediate steps to protect their digestive system from harm.
Assist the Digestive Process
Certain foods can help to improve your dog’s digestive process, which could make it easier to pass ham bones safely. Pumpkin and squash, in particular, are known to help aid in digestion for dogs.
High levels of soluble fiber increase stool volume, covering splinters more completely as they pass through the intestines. Fiber and other nutrients also help soothe the stomach and ease the digestive pain caused by ham bones.
Give Your Dog Bread
If your dog ingests bone splinters, bread can help to cushion sharp edges as they pass through the digestive system. A stomach full of bread will protect the delicate digestive lining and allow your dog to safely and comfortably pass bone shards in their stool.
Go to the Vet
Even if you take preventative measures, your dog may still end up suffering damage after eating ham bones. If you notice symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or constipation within 24 hours of ingestion, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Cases of perforation or internal obstruction often need emergency surgery immediately.
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