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Bad To The Bone

Posted 11.01.17 by Maggie Hutchens Landis, DVM

Penny is a sweet one-year-old three pound female Miniature Pincher who presented to the clinic in April 2017 for weight loss, difficulty swallowing,  and crying out in pain when picked up. She had been recently adopted from another family due to her sudden decline in health and very little history was known. At presentation, she had a good appetite and her stools were normal.

Physical exam revealed Grade 3 dental disease and bilateral medial patellar (knee caps) luxations. She was offered some food and she readily ate it; however, she almost immediately vomited it all back up.

Blood work was performed with no significant findings observed. Despite a voracious appetite, no more reported vomiting,  and a very diligent Mom hand feeding her a canned critical diet, Penny continued to lose weight over the next two weeks and dropped down to an emaciated 2.2 pounds. At that time she also became reluctant to walk and developed  limping on her left front leg with intermittent episodes of difficulty breathing. Radiographs were then performed and revealed a large mineralized foreign body within her esophagus that was also causing compression on her trachea.

Penny was placed under general anesthesia and a large piece of bone was carefully removed from the esophagus.

She recovered well following anesthesia and since then has been running around, eating great and has been acting like a normal, happy dog again. She occasionally has some vomiting and breathing problems which are suspected to be from scar tissue development from the chronic foreign body and compression on the trachea, but overall is doing well.

Although Penny does still have some long term side effects, she is incredibly lucky to have survived a bone causing partial obstruction of not only her esophagus but also her main airway.  This story brings us to the controversial topic of feeding your pet bones. Sure it is nice to occupy your pets times by giving them a large meaty bone to chew on for hours. No matter the type, raw or cooked, pork or poultry,  bones can pose a serious health risk to your pet. They can not only become lodged in the esophagus as in this case but can also become obstructed anywhere in the intestinal tract . Bones can also splinter and and become a choking hazard or can cause damage to the pets mouth, throat, intestines, or respiratory tract. Hard bones or antlers can also cause fractured teeth which can lead to an exposed root canal and infection. Fractured teeth usually need to be extracted or have a root canal performed at your local pet dentist.

Then there is the argument that wolves eat bones so why can’t my dog. Our dogs are domesticated and live much longer than wolves in the wild because we are able to prevent them from health hazards such as these.

It took lots of time and money to diagnose the problem and Penny was one of the very few lucky ones to survive a bone obstruction. The moral of the story is to think twice before purchasing that large meat covered femur or tossing that rib bone to your dog as you may end up in the emergency room with your pet in a life threatening situation. Consult with your local veterinarian for more information.

Dr. Maggie Landis

The Pet Hospitals- Germantown

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