My Dog Ate A Ham Bone: What Should I Do Now?

We are used to media portraying bones as dogs’ favorite food, but the reality is quite far from fiction.

Bones can be dangerous treats for dogs and if your dog ate a ham bone, depending on the situation their life might be at risk.

In fact, there are some bones that are mostly safe to eat and others, like ham bones, that should never be fed to your companion.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Swallowed a Ham Bone?

Ham bone

When your dog eats a ham bone, depending on the size of your dog and on the size of the bone, some pieces might hurt or get stuck in different parts of their body.

This, in turn, may cause different problems or even diseases.

As a general rule, your dog should never chew on a bone that is smaller than the size of their muzzle, because they might end up swallowing the whole thing in the process.

If your dog is showing pain or discomfort after chewing or eating a ham bone, you should immediately call your vet so they can help you identify the problem and act accordingly.

Symptoms to Look Out For

If you recognize any of these symptoms, after your dog ate the bone, you should get in contact with your veterinary as soon as possible.

  • Vomiting: If your dog ate a ham bone and is throwing up, it’s the sign they’re trying to get rid of something that is stuck in their esophagus or stomach and it’s causing a blockage. Even if they manage to vomit pieces of the bone, you should still call your vet because there might be more still stuck inside their body.
  • Bloody stools or very dark stools: Blood in your dog’s stool is never a good sign. It means there might be wounds somewhere in their intestines or rectum, probably caused by a foreign object. Dark or black stools means there’s blood mixed in your dog’s feces, which shows they’re bleeding somewhere in the stomach or the first tract of their intestine.
  • Lethargy: If your dog is excessively tired or just not as active as before, they might have some kind of infection going on that is making their body and muscles weaker and affecting their level of energy. Infections can become serious or even lethal really fast, so your dog should be checked as soon as possible.
  • Lack of appetite: This is the clearest sign that something is wrong with your pet. There isn’t one specific cause, in fact, lack of appetite can be a sign for many different issues, but it’s a general ‘distress call’ from your dog that they’re not feeling well. If their loss of appetite occurs after your dog swallowed a ham bone, it might mean the bone is stuck somewhere that prevents your dog from eating. It might also be a sign of infections, gum inflammation, or other diseases.
  • Mouth discomfort or dental problems: When a dog chews on ham bones for a long time, some slivers might find their way between their teeth and gums and cause incredible pain to your pooch which could make it impossible for them to eat food properly. If the bones are too hard, they might break your dog’s teeth and require expensive treatments or even surgery.

Cooked Bones vs Raw Bones

The first thing you should know about a dog eating ham bones is that cooked ham bones are a big NO for your dog’s diet.

You might be surprised, but this is a common misconception because we’re used to mistrust raw food rather than cooked food, as we think that steaming, boiling, or baking our food will kill all the bacteria.

It doesn’t work that way for dogs.

Canines in the wild have been hunting animals and eating their raw meat since the dawn of time, and that, of course, includes their bones as well.

As a result, dogs actually crave and need some of the nutrients they can find in raw bones.

On the other hand, cooked ham bones are dangerous for dogs, always and without exception. In fact, they might be even lethal in some cases.

The danger of cooked ham bones lays in the fact that when you cook the bone in any way you’re actually making it softer and easier to tear apart.

Some splinters could get stuck in your dog’s mouth or in their system and cause wounds or infections that could lead to surgery or even death.

Furthermore, cooking ham bones will deprive them of all their nutrients, so feeding them to your dog adds nothing to their diet and it only becomes a useless risk.

Dangers of Eating Cooked Ham Bones For Your Dog

When a cooked bone splinter, the risk of your dog getting hurt becomes almost certain.

It’s a similar situation to when a dog eats a popsicle stick — it can get serious quickly and requires fast intervention.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) compiled a list of risks related to feeding cooked bones to our dogs:

  • Mouth injuries: splinters may cause wounds in your dog’s mouth and tongue which in turn may cause excessive bleeding. These will require immediate professional treatment.
  • Bone stuck in the esophagus: the bone might not be able to reach the stomach. This causes vomiting or suffocation and may put your dog’s life in immediate danger. Some splinters might wound or even poke holes in the esophagus.
  • Bone stuck in the windpipe: if the splinters are very small, your dog might happen to inhale them and will have difficulties in breathing or they might even not be able to breathe at all. This is an emergency and you should rush to your vet.
  • Bone stuck in the stomach: even if the bone has successfully reached the stomach, it may not be able to pass through it. If it gets stuck in the stomach, your dog won’t be able to eat and may keep vomiting while trying to get the bone to go back up. This will lead to dehydration and malnourishment that are very dangerous for your dog’s health. A gastrointestinal obstruction will probably require surgery to get the bone out.
  • Bone stuck in the intestine: the intestine is very narrow, so even if a bone manages to pass through the stomach it might get stuck later on and cause a blockage. Much like a stomach clog, this will most likely require surgery as well.
  • Constipation and rectum damage: if the bone gets stuck in the final track of the intestine, the splinters or the sharp edges of the bone itself might damage the walls of the rectum and cause internal bleeding and severe pain for your dog as they try to push them out. This might not require surgery, but your vet should nonetheless be informed of the situation as your dog might require a check-up.
  • Bacterial infection: the one thing you want to avoid at all costs is peritonitis. This dangerous bacterial infection of the abdomen may take place if foreign objects such as bone shards cause lacerations in your dog’s stomach or intestines. You must take your dog in for an emergency visit because peritonitis can be fatal.

Safety Tips When Giving Ham Bones to Your Dog

Feeding bones to your dog isn’t something that should happen randomly, like giving them leftovers from your lunch. It actually requires careful planning on your part.

For example, you should be careful about what type of ham bones you’re using as treats.

You should only choose top-quality chew bones, better if specifically made for dogs so that they won’t break or splinter, but at the same time, they won’t be too hard under your dog’s teeth.

Usually, you can find so-called ‘soup bones’ in supermarkets or you can ask your local butcher shop.

The medical history of your dog should also be taken into consideration.

If your dog has suffered from gastrointestinal diseases in the past or has a predisposition to gastritis, then you might not want to feed them bones, or at least you should not feed them bones that still have marrow in them, as it contains a lot of fat and can easily cause inflammations.

A good alternative to raw bones could be dogs’ dental bones, provided that you only choose 100% natural products that don’t have additives or other artificial ingredients.

Dental bones will help your dog brush and floss their teeth, which is very important for their dental health, while at the same time keeping them safe from the risks of eating bones.

Can Dogs Have Ham Bones?

Dogs can eat ham bones if they follow certain rules.

First of all, as we said, dogs should never have access to cooked bones, and bones, in general, should only be fed to them after a meal, so they’re discouraged from trying to eat them and will only gnaw on them.

The type of bone and your dog’s overall medical status must be taken into consideration when making this choice for their diet. When in doubt, the safest option is always to call your vet.

In conclusion, whatever you choose to feed your pet, please be sure to always make informed choices that will not harm your dog’s health.

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