Never ever give your dog cooked bones!
We learned this lesson after we had to make an emergency trip to the vet at 1am, then we went on to spend the night waiting for the hospital to call us to schedule Sami for an endoscopy, not knowing if he was going to need a stomach operation or not. He did not.
Turns out they could get the bone out by endoscopy, which was the less invasive method. However, this was our first real scare with Sami and I want to share this experience so that no one else reading this has to go through this with their dogs.
I never knew dogs aren’t allowed cooked bones before this. I kept reading that chewing bones is good for dogs because bones have important nutrients, plus it helps clean their teeth. Granted, this was always in the context of raw bones, but I honestly had no idea.
So one afternoon, after making beef soup, I gave Sami the bone to chew. It wasn’t the first time either, I had done this a few times before. He chews on the bone until he gets bored and then moves on.
Only this time, a piece of the bone broke off (as I now know it happens with cooked bones, they shatter easily into potentially sharp pieces) and he swallowed it. After a while he kept making this gagging sound, where he was trying to vomit but just couldn’t. He was fine otherwise, no problems breathing or anything, so I didn’t think much of it.
We were getting ready for bed and he kept making this sound every now and then, almost like trying to cough. That’s when it occured to me something’s wrong and the last thing he chewed on was that bone.
So I googled it and started panicking. There it was, all the info on the internet saying how dangerous cooked bones can be for dogs, how if they ingest sharp pieces of bone they can even die. That if your dog chews on a cooked bone and swallows some of it, you shouldn’t wait until the bone passes through the whole digestive tract (which takes around 8 hours maybe), because it can perforate and even tear the stomach and intestines.
There was some info on how you can give the dog some bread to cushion the insides of the stomach, but it said careful about the bread, it must be white, no sugar and there’s the risk that the dog is allergic. I thought about it but my bread was dark and containing seeds, so I decided that I might create a new problem if I do this, so I’d better not.
The Emergency X-Ray
So I immediately called the emergency number of my vet. It was 1 am at this point, but I realized this could be life threatening so I need to move fast. My vet was very supportive and immediately said she’s coming to the clinic to to an X-ray. I took Sami and got into my car, driving somewhere for the first time since the Covid-19 quarantine started.
At this point Sami had stopped making any coughing sounds and seemed really fine, so much that I even questioned my judgement and wondered if there’s any chance I’m exagerrating. Still, it wasn’t worth taking the risk.
I get to the clinic, I tell the vet the story, take the bone out of my purse in a plastic bag (the zip lock kind they use for police evidence), to show her. She does the X-ray and there it is: the bone fragment, quite big and possibly sharp, in his stomach.
He must have had a hard time while the bone was still stuck in the esophagus, hence the coughing sounds, and that’s why he seemed fine afterwards, when the bone had reached his stomach.
The Stomach Operation? Or The Endoscopy?
The vet said I had two options: I could wait to see if he passes the bone out naturally or schedule an endoscopy as soon as possible. The first option involved the risk that the bone might damage his internal organs in the process, maybe even cause a blockage in the intestine, which would lead to an operation.
This was a chance I couldn’t take, so I decided to do the endoscopy, where they stick something through the esophagus into his stomach and try to take the bone out.
We had to wait through the night, because we were waiting for a call back from the hospital (since our vet clinic doesn’t perform endoscopies) so we spent the night waiting. In the morning, we got the call and rushed to the hospital.
The doctor said he has lots of experience with getting bones out through an endoscopy, but that in case he feels any resistance (like the bone won’t easily come out through the esophagus), he won’t push in order not to tear tissue, so in this case there’s a real chance of having to do a stomach operation.
This felt like a blow to the head, but I agreed. I signed the papers and left Sami there (there was no waiting inside the hospital because of covid). I waited for the call that would tell me which way they decided to go. I read that stomach operations take up to 6 weeks to recover from and that meant limited walks, no running, no playing, strict diet and lots of pain. I felt absolutely terrible and very guilty, since it was all my fault.
Finally, good news!
After an hour, they called with great news: the endoscopy succeeded and Sami was now waking up from anesthesia! We could go pick him up! I’ve never felt more grateful.
As soon as I entered the room, he wagged his tail, still heavily sedated but so happy to see me! I held him all the way home and he was out 🙂 Could barely hold his head.
At one point I had to check his breathing because he seemed like he wasn’t breathing at all. I had zero experience with drugged dogs of course :))
The Aftermath: Treatment and Diet
We got home and it took him maybe 3 hours to fully wake up (useful info: it’s always good to have a puppy pad in these situations, since he might pee a little while sedated). He had a shaved patch on his left paw, where the needle was.
He wasn’t allowed any food or water until the evening, which he seemed fine with since he was so sleepy. We had been given a medicine that would protect the lining of his stomach (since he had been left with some minor lesions that would heal quickly) and we had to administer that twice a day, before meals, with a syringe.
He would be on a diet for about 5 days, preferably consisting of chicken, turkey or fish, mixed with rice or pasta and boiled pumpkin. He was in a very good mood, considering what he’d been through, and even wanted to play with us in the yard. He is such a happy, loving boy!
We couldn’t be more relieved and grateful that everything was ok and that it’s all behind us. This was a lesson learned and he won’t be given any more bones, not cooked or raw. We will be very careful what he chews on from now on (we even notced that a new rubber toy we just bought was slightly cracked and would probably break to pieces soon, so we threw it out).
If you’ve read this far, thank you and please, please learn from our experience. Make sure you supervise your dog whenever he chews on his toys, don’t leave him unsupervised and never, even give him bones (at least not cooked ones). Some dogs are lucky and they might swallow foreign objects and pass them out naturally, but some aren’t so lucky and it isn’t worth taking the risk. It’s always best to prevent these things from happening.
Thanks for reading and go give your dog a hug! 🙂