Now is the time of barbecues with T-bone steaks, chops, chicken and perhaps even a little leftover turkey. Your dog also greatly enjoys the leftovers and will gladly devour any of the bones that it can find.
Unfortunately, all of these produce sharp fragments when chewed which can cause sonic severe complications in the intestinal tract of the dog.
At worst, sharp slivers of bone can penetrate the wall of the bowel causing sudden acute abdominal pain and peritonitis. Fortunately, such episodes are rare but they require immediate surgery if the life of the dog is to be saved.
Chop bones swallowed whole can lodge in the esophagus. This is the part of the intestinal tract which connects the mouth and the stomach. The obstruction causes intense discomfort, the dog being unable to eat or drink. It constantly attempts to dislodge the bone by retching. Surgical correction can be difficult as it often involves opening the chest cavity.
Fortunately, the more common results of eating sharp bones are less dramatic. Fragments of bone may irritate the lining of the stomach and small intestine and cause vomiting.
By far the most common aftermath is constipation. The bone fragments have negotiated the small intestine and have come to rest in the large bowel. Strong contractions of the wall of the large bowel are necessary to pass the contents to the rectum. If there are large amounts of hard bone fragments these contractions cause pain and are largely unproductive.
The wall of the large intestine is efficient in absorbing fluids so that the contents of the bowel become drier and harder. The dog attempts to pass feces by active straining but usually succeeds only in passing some mucus which is often blood-stained.
Of course, the owner is by this time alerted to the problem and often attempts to treat the condition by administering oils and purgatives. Unfortunately, by the time the symptoms of straining appear the condition is well established and the contents of the large bowel are so hard that these medications have little chance of success.
Veterinarians usually have to anesthetize the patient in order to administer enemas and gently break up and extract the concrete-like contents of the bowel.
The feeding of bones is not the only cause of constipation. A whole meat diet can make the dog prone to constipation. Meat is almost completely digested leaving little residue. The contents of the large bowel thus become rather scanty and difficult for the muscular contractions of the bowel to move on.
Some higher residue foods such as kibble-type dog food or wholemeal bread and bran can be mixed with the meat. Overweight, under exercise and high summer temperatures can all contribute to making constipation more likely.