My Dog Ate Rib Bones – What Should I Do?

If your dog ate a rib bone, the first step is to ensure your dog isn’t choking, then inspect their teeth to ensure there aren’t any leftover bone fragments. Monitor your dog for the next 24-48 hours. If they start acting weird, take them to the vet. 

After a hearty meat dinner, you might turn around to find your dog staring up at you with pleading eyes. Or maybe your dog will wait until the remnants are thrown away before breaking into the garbage bin. 

Dogs and bones have gone together in our cultural understanding for centuries, so it might feel natural to toss your furry friend a helping of meaty bones from your meal.

However, there are quite a few hazards for dogs who are given cooked pork ribs or other kinds of dinner bones. 

Rather than offering your pet bones from human food, consider getting your dog a hearty bully stick, jerky chew, or bone prepared specifically for safe chewing.

dog eating a rib bone

What if My Dog Ate a Rib Bone?

Even if a dog is prevented from eating his human’s food, an eager pup might follow delicious smells to the garbage and take matters into his own paws. 

If you catch your dog in the act of eating leftover rib bones, try not to panic. Rib bones are not good for them, but dogs have robust digestive systems that are descended from those of wolves and other wild canines. Assess your dog’s behavior to see if he needs a vet visit.

The first and most urgent response is to make sure your dog is not choking. Check that he is breathing clearly and easily, without gagging, dry heaving, or gasping. 

If your dog seems well, consider feeding him several slices of soft bread. This will pad out his digestive system, providing protection as the sharp shards of bone work their way through.

After ensuring that your dog can breathe, inspect his mouth. A bone can break a dog’s tooth or cut his mouth or tongue, so look carefully for blood or broken teeth. 

These problems can be messy and painful, so catching them right away will allow you to get them treated as soon as possible. 

Even if your dog seems fine, keep a close eye on him for the next 24-48 hours. Bones that make their way into the digestive system are at risk of puncturing or getting stuck in the stomach. 

Damage to the stomach or intestines can lead to a bacterial infection called peritonitis. This condition can be hard to treat and deadly if left alone. 

If the rib bone causes damage to the dog, your dog’s abdomen may become sensitive to the touch. He might become lethargic and stop eating. 

Vomiting and bloody stool would also be cause for concern, demonstrating pain and a disruption in the digestive system. 

If your dog shows any of these behaviors in the period after eating a rib bone, watch him carefully and contact your vet. Even if your dog does not get an infection, a bone stuck in the digestive system can prevent a dog from eating or drinking.

It is also possible for bones to get stuck in or scrape the colon, which is the passage to the dog’s rectum. 

Severe constipation can be very painful and will not go away without treatment. The damage might trigger bleeding from the rectum, which is harmful to your dog and can create a messy situation.

Avoid Pork Meat as Well

Pork, the meat most commonly used for ribs, isn’t only problematic because of the bones. The only kind of pork that is safe for dogs to consume is cooked, unseasoned pork. 

Even if you are willing to cook up some safe pork, consider feeding your dog a small amount or offering chicken instead. 

Pork fat is hard for dogs to digest. Avoid giving your dog other forms of pork as well, such as sausage or ham. They are treated with huge amounts of salt, which is not healthy for dogs.

The spices and ingredients that humans use to make their pork taste good are often hazardous for dogs to consume. 

Onions and garlic, some of the most popular vegetables, can release dangerous toxins into a dog’s blood. Your dog’s red blood cell count can go down, causing symptoms similar to anemia. 

Besides weakness, tiredness, and disinterest in eating, look out for vomiting and rapid panting. Keep your dog’s size in mind—large dogs are more likely to be okay with a small amount of onion or garlic than a small dog. If your pork is cooked with onion or garlic, avoid giving it to your dog.

Salt and nutmeg are two spices commonly put on pork that can make your dog sick. Dogs are only meant to have a small amount of salt per day, so a salty snack can put them way over the limit. 

Excessive salt intake can lead to bloat, a deadly condition where the stomach swells and twists. Nutmeg can upset your dog’s stomach and make him very agitated by affecting his nervous system. 

Nutmeg has proved deadly to dogs in some cases. If you want to give your dog some pork, cook him a portion without spices or seasonings.

While dogs are usually well built for consuming raw meat, raw pork contains dangerous bacteria for your dog. Just as raw pork is hazardous for humans and can infect them with parasites, dogs are also susceptible to these specific bacteria. 

Known as trichinella spiralis, this parasite can infect your dog and cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, stiffness, and fever. Never give your dog raw pork. Cooked, unseasoned chicken is a great alternative that can actually calm your dog’s digestive tract.

Rib Bone Alternatives

Dogs love bones, and for strong chewers, they can be a great way to keep them from destroying household items. 

They also provide healthy minerals for your dog and clean their teeth. If rib bones and other cooked bones are not safe for dogs, what kinds of bones are safe

The “Don’ts” of Bones

Don’t Give Your Dog Cooked Bones

Never give your dog cooked bones. They are soft and prone to splintering. Dog’s can’t tell when a bone is no longer safe, and it only takes a moment for them to cut their mouths, choke, or ingest hazardous, sharp pieces.

Don’t Give Your Dog Unsanitized Bones

If you want to give your dog a raw bone, be sure to sanitize it first. Unsanitized bones can be covered in bacteria and cause food poisoning. 

Sanitization is done by blanching or simmering the bone—boiling can make the bone brittle. Make sure the bone is not old as well. Bones pick up more bacteria as they sit around. They also become more prone to splinter.

You can find many rawhide chews at the pet store as well, touted as an alternative to bones. However, rawhide is a controversial topic in terms of whether it is safe. They contain many unnatural ingredients. Dogs often eat them too quickly, swallowing large, hard pieces. 

Rawhide can also be hard to digest. Some rawhide alternatives have come on the market, such as bully sticks, which are formulated to be safer for your dog.

The “Do’s” of Bones

Raw Bones

Raw bones are the way to go when it comes to dog chews. Cow, lamb, and beef bones are considered ideal, while chicken, turkey, and pork bones are not safe. 

Choose raw bones and be sure to sanitize them. Antler is prepared the same way and is a popular choice for a tough, long-lasting chew.

Sanitized & Size Appropriate

Most bones from the pet store are sanitized, safe bones that are hard and resistant to chipping. You can even find bones with chicken, beef, or peanut butter paste inside for a fun twist.

Be sure to buy a bone that is appropriate for your dog’s size. They should be able to hold onto it and get their mouths around it, but it should be far too big to accidentally swallow.

Supervise Your Dog

Supervise your dog while he is chewing on any bone. Chips can fly off of even the hardest bone, and your dog doesn’t know not to eat them. 

Remove chips or broken parts of the bone promptly and discard the bone if it becomes sharp, brittle, or hazardous. 

If your dog won’t stop chewing on the bone, gently take it away after an appropriate amount of time, such as thirty minutes. 

If the bone is homemade, consider stashing it in the refrigerator to fight bacteria rather than on the counter.

It’s true that dogs and bones go together in our minds. It is definitely possible to provide your dog with safe, healthy bones that he can enjoy for a long time. If your dog accidentally ingests rib bones or other cooked bones, watch him carefully for signs of distress.

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