Can a Large Bone Hurt a Small Dog?

If his jaw is delicate, it's best to avoid large bones and stick to a chew toy.
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For years it was fine to give your pooch a bone, whether it was from table scraps or the butcher. What used to be a simple pleasure for your pup is now open to debate. There's question over what kind and size of bone is right, or if bones should be avoided altogether.

FDA: No to Bones

The Food and Drug Administration recommends skipping bones as a treat for your dog, no matter how big or small he is. According to the FDA, potential hazards include: broken teeth; the potential for a bone to get lodged in the windpipe, esophagus, stomach or intestines; mouth injuries; getting the bone looped around the lower jaw; constipation from bone fragments; rectal bleeding and peritonitis from bone fragments poking holes in the stomach or intestines. The FDA doesn't differentiate between raw and cooked bones for dogs.

Or Yes to Bones

Despite the FDA's warning, some veterinarians advocate feeding bones -- with care, of course. Dr. Karen Becker of recommends avoiding cooked bones, which can splinter and injure your pup, and instead, feeding raw bones. She advocates edible bones or recreational bones for your dog's chewing pleasure. Edible bones are hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds, such as chicken wings and turkey necks, and are pliable. Recreational bones include large chunks of bison or beef femur filled with marrow. These bones aren't meant to be chewed up and swallowed, but are for gnawing, helping your pooch pass the day and giving his teeth and gums a good cleaning.

Size Matters

Veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko cautions finding the right fit for your pup when it comes to bones. Large breed dogs require bones large enough so they're not chewed and swallowed quickly. A beef shank bone is a good choice for a large breed dog. If your guy is a small dog, a large bone might be too much for him; Dr. Basko recommends choosing a bone larger than the length of the dog's muzzle so it's impossible for the dog to swallow whole. Knuckle bones can be a good option for a small dog; they're large enough to avoid a choking hazard and help ensure your pup won't eat too much. If your little guy is a brachiocephalic breed -- such as a pug or shih tzu -- Dr. Basko notes you should avoid all bones because those breeds' jaws aren't designed to chew bones safely and effectively. If your pup has softer teeth or a delicate jaw structure, you should skip the bones. A Kong is a better choice for these little guys.

Safe Chewing

Smart chewing is safe chewing for your pup. If your guy has a sensitive belly, he may not process bones too well, making a chew toy a better option for him. You may want to take a pass on bones if he likes to gulp his treats in a single swallow or if he's had restorative dental work. If he is a good candidate to enjoy a bone, pay attention and look for blood around the bone or his mouth to indicate he's gnawing a bit too aggressively. When his bone has been gnawed down to the brittle part of the bone, throw it out so it doesn't splinter and potentially injure him.