Can Dogs Have Rib Bones?

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Introduction

It's a classic picture - a good dog quietly sitting in the corner, gnawing happily on a bone. It's a lovely idea, isn't it? Sure. But most importantly, is it a safe one?

Dogs are known to be pretty vacuum cleaner-esque, sucking up any food that drops to the ground or disposing of any excess food or garbage you might have - but when it  comes to feeding your dog a bone (from a chicken, a pig, a cow, or any other animal), you could be putting your dog at risk for intestinal blockage, gastrointestinal issues, choking, or death. 

We know your dog probably loves to chew on those dog-specific bones you get from the store, so what's the difference between that and tossing your pup a rib bone from your plate? We're here to provide you with the differences, but overall, as a general rule, you should never feed your pup a rib bone (or even a full rack of rib bones) as you could potentially really harm your doggo! 

Read on for more information! 

Signs Your Dog Has Eaten a Rib Bone

When it comes to chowing down on rib bones, various vets and dog-tors request that you don't treat your pup to a bone off your plate. Why? Cooked bones can fracture, splinter, and pose significant health risks to your dog. Sometimes though, dogs can get their paws on things that don't belong to them - rib bones from the trash can included. So, how can you tell if your doggo got into the trash and scoured out a rib bone? 

First, check to see if your doggo is choking or gagging. Rib bones can splinter - like we said, and parts of them can get lodged in your doggo's throat. That being said, even if your up isn't choking or gagging, that doesn't mean that they're not suffering from bone issues. Those splinters and fractures could potentially get lodged in your dogs gastrointestinal tract and can cause serious health issues.

If your dog is experience painful stomach issues, whines or cries when you touch his or her belly, seems tired and lethargic, refuses to eat, is experiencing issues with going to the bathroom, or has bloody stool, it's possible that your pup has ingested a rib bone and should probably be taken to the vet for a check-up. 

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues that might suggest your dog has eaten a rib bone:
  • Whining
  • Shaking
  • Weakness
  • Raspy panting

Other Signs

There are, of course, other signs to watch out for, like:
  • Vomiting or retching
  • Bloody stool, diarrhea, or other digestion issues
  • Stomach pain
  • Not eating
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling

The History of Dogs Eating Rib Bones

Before recent centuries, dogs primarily ate meat scraps and bones. Commercialized dog food the way we have it today is a fairly new development. So, why could the dogs of the past eat bones - including rib bones - without dying all of the time?

Well, to be honest, in many times of old, dog health was not a priority. Veterinary care as we know it is something that only became a real priority in the last hundred years or so. When a canine got their paws on a food that could hurt them, it is unlikely anyone would have stopped them or treat their maladies once it was too late.

But when we look at the ancient ancestors of the dog - the wolf - they seem to be able to eat deer ribs and other bones just fine. Wolves and dogs alike have the equipment to handle bone consumption, but the bones MUST be raw. Throughout history, canines have been able to consume raw bones without much issue.

Cooked bones, however, have always brought with them an increased risk of damage to the internal organs of a dog.

The Science Behind Rib Bone Ingestion

We're sure that you've heard about the benefits and nutrients that lie inside rib bones - that's why people eat bone broth, in order to get the nutrients out. And as a dog owner, it's only natural that you would want your pooch to get all the nutrients he or she can.  

Rib bones, especially when they're cooked, are designed to splinter into bone fragments (often called foreign bodies) and run the risk of getting lodged into your dog's gastrointestinal tract. While chicken bones and other bones are more subject to splinter and crack than beef rib bones, all cooked bones present a clear health risk to dogs that can easily be avoided.

Training Your Dog to Avoid Eating Rib Bones

When it comes to doggos eating things they shouldn't, they're not really able to understand a way to filter out what people food they can have and what people food they can't. So, the safest way to avoid doggo misfortune? Avoid feeding your dog people food altogether, rib bones included. 

First, train your dog to understand basic commands to help with his or her general behavior issues. Simple commands like "no," "stay," and "leave it" can work wonders for a multitude of pet issues, especially if your pup is running full-force toward the trashcan where you just disposed of a rack of ribs. 

It also helps to train your dog not to beg. This is a tricky habit to beat, but it can be done. Teach your dog that begging won't be tolerated - if they do it while you're at the table, train them to stay in their crate during meals. If they can go through an entire family meal time without begging, give them their own treat and allow them to stay out of the crate while they eat. 

We suggest training your dog not to eat things off the ground, too. This is where those basic obedience commands like "leave it" or "drop it" will come in handy! 

How to React if Your Dog Eats a Rib Bone:

  • Check for bone fragments, scattered food, or other signs that your dog might have eaten a bone
  • Look into your dog's throat -- do you see the bone? Can you remove it?
  • Touch your pup's stomach - is there pain? does he or she whine or howl? This could be a sign of intestinal blockage
  • Determine how serious the injury is and give your dogtor a call.
  • Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.