First “Whoops!” Incident in Dog-Owning

Dogs, chewies, and social gatherings are a dangerous combination

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My son reminded me recently of something that happened to his dog a little over six years ago. I wrote a post about the incident then, but upon re-reading it after talking to my son about it, I thought it might serve as a reminder to dog owners this week.

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Last weekend, my son got his first taste of emergency veterinary medicine (and the resulting surprise of its cost). Fortunately, it was for a non-serious accident, not a horrid injury or illness. But still: his college graduation present may well end up being a health insurance policy for his dog, Cole.

He was at a weekend team-building retreat for his sports team – so, a bunch of young men and a few of their dogs. One of the other young men had brought a raw chew bone for his own dog, Mister. My son caught Cole with the bone and took it away, putting the bone up on a table; he (correctly) judged the bone to be poorly suited for Cole. It was too small for a big dog, presenting a choking risk, and shaped like a ring. It was likely, a cross-section of a cow’s “shin” bone. In horses we call that the cannon bone but I don’t know if it’s called that in cattle.

But at some point, Cole got hold of the bone again and the next thing my son knew, Cole was writhing in distress and guys were jumping in, trying to see what was wrong with the usually ebullient young dog. It was the best-case stuck-bone incident you can imagine: It wasn’t stuck in his throat or actually hurting him, but Cole had somehow gotten the bone looped around his lower jaw and was freaking out. If he didn’t have canine teeth (“fangs”), it would have slipped right off, but any efforts to remove it caused the bone to pinch his gums and chin. The guys tried to get the bone off in a number of ways, but Cole grew increasingly scared and anxious and defensive.

My son eventually called around and found an emergency veterinary clinic that was open, about 40 minutes away. The vet gave Cole a sedative, but he still fought any efforts to manipulate the bone, so the vet fully anesthetized him. Within about five minutes, the vet was finally able to twist and turn and unlock the puzzle and remove the bone. The vet then administered a reversal drug, monitored Cole long enough to see that he awoke and was going to be fine, and that was that: $250. Ouch.

Lessons learned: Raw chew bones are awesome for dogs, but they need to be appropriately sized, and the dogs need to be monitored with them. In fact, ALL chew items need to be appropriately sized (GIANT is the safest size for any dog) and dogs need to be actively supervised while they are chewing. If you are somewhere and there is a hazard that you can’t control (such as a family member or a friend who might give your dog a treat or toy you haven’t approved or another dog who may be a counter-surfer), you should put your dog somewhere out of harm’s way: on leash or in a crate or closed securely in a bedroom. And pet health insurance is an awesome idea for a young, active dog who lives with a young, active, social man.

22 COMMENTS

    • Don’t disagree with taking great care with bones but just had the same experience about a month ago. Vet was able to crush the bone with a specific tool and was off in a few seconds. Not only was my dog OK but amazingly the clinic didn’t charge for less than a minutes work.

  1. Poor Cole! There are so many one in a million accidents possible with dogs, horses and kids! I think that was likely a shank bone. Does anyone have any concerns about bones and Mad Cow disease? My dogs love bones, but I am wondering whether they might be too risky.

    • My concern isn’t mad cow disease, but the damage that they can do to teeth. I used to get big marrow bones from the butcher for my GSD. She could suck the marrow out of those before I could walk away and rinse my hands. Even after they were weeks old she would settle down and lick and gnaw on them with a look on her face that seemed like she had died and gone to heaven. On a routine vet visit the doc looked in her mouth and pointed out a cracked tooth. The crack ran from the top towards the gum but luckily only went halfway down. He also pointed out a back tooth that had a point chipped off. When I mentioned the bones he said that they were the likely cause. Poor Willow, she hasn’t had a bone since. And I thought that the raw ones were supposed to be safe.

      • They do cause the teeth to wear down sooner, however, not to an extent that it interferes with eating. The pro side of the ledger is cleaner teeth. In 20 years of raw bone feeding, I have only had one tooth cracking incident. Surgery was required as it was extracted.

      • I always give my dogs a raw bone after dinner, usually a good size marrow bone. My older border collie, Pete, has had more wear-down off his teeth from being obsessed with tennis balls than from the bones. They work like sandpaper, wearing down the teeth. He is 10 years old now, and he really enjoys playing with these balls, so I will not deny him that pleasure. My younger border collie, Teg, also love her marrow bones, but is not so interested in tennis balls, and her teeth are beautiful.

  2. This happened to me many many years ago. Luckily it was my Afghan Hound and his lower jaw was so narrow, I could pull it off. Scary though. So, yes, definitely match the bone size to the dog size.

  3. He was lucky to get off with only a $250 hit to his wallet. One emergency vet clinic here used to charge $600 just to walk in the door. Treatment was extra. Fortunately, there are several in the area now so prices are more competitive these days.

  4. Before reading it, I thought this article might be about dogs fighting over the bone. I’ve seen and heard about that happening in a group of dogs when one or more have a special treat or toy.
    In regards to bones, cooked bones are very dangerous as they splinter more easily. And, any type of bone or very hard toy can damage teeth. Doesn’t matter if they did that in the wild, it happens and has happened with my dogs. Makes it difficult to find safe chew toys/chews.

  5. It wasn’t a bone like we are talking here, but one of those antlers that are very hard, that caused my dog trouble. He probably dislodged a sliver of bone which then pierced his gum and resulted in an infection up at the angle of his jaw. I noticed one of his eyes was protruding differently from the other one and immediately took him to the local emergency vet who then immediately referred him to the emergency vet with a CT scanner 70 miles away. Everyone thought it was a retro-orbital abscess or tumor. The CT did not show that thank goodness, and it was the ophthalmologist vet who suggested the bone splinter scenario. We threw away all that kind of thing immediately.

  6. This exact same thing happened to my Australian Cattle Dog. I used to buy marrow bones for her which she loved. Like the dog in this article, she somehow got the marrow bone around her lower jaw where it slipped behind her canine teeth and stuck fast. No amount of twisting or prying worked to dislodge it. I took her to a vet where she had to be fully anesthetized in order to remove it. Very costly. I’ve had many dogs over the years but had never experience anything like that. I never gave her marrow bones after that.

  7. We had a similar experience but with a Jolly Ball Toy! (those red balls with the handle). My lab got her bottom jaw caught in the handle and was really freaking out so it was difficult to get it off. When we did, i cut about an inch length out of the base of the handle. She loves playing with the toy but we are always together when she has it. Never unsupervised.

  8. It doesn’t have to be a bone that can cause havoc. Be vigilant about the trash especially when there are extra distractions like a party situation with extra people running around when your usual habits of keeping the trash covered or behind a closed door may not be followed.
    Case in point: Martha Stewart’s great recipe for turkey basted in white wine and butter squirted over a piece of cheesecloth draped over the roasting turkey. Once removed, BE SURE YOU THROW IT AWAY WHERE NO CURIOUS DOG CAN GET TO IT. $$$$$ surgery 9 days later – cheesecloth doesn’t show up on an X-Ray!

  9. Here is another thing to be careful with…sticks! i know, dogs and sticks go together like peanut butter and jelly, but injuries can happen. A friend’s dog was running with a stick in his mouth with one end in the mouth and the other end hanging out the front of his mouth (not crosswise in the mouth). The end jammed into the ground as he ran and pushed the other end up into his palette. Very spendy trip to the vet to get it removed.

  10. Lucky Tucker. I just happened to stop by a friend’s house when she wasn’t home. Identical situation with the bone wrapped around lower jaw/teeth. Fortunately, my mechanic, Dave Verhalen, was just down the road a piece, so I could use his phone to call the vet.
    No need. He got a pair of cable cutters and quickly, smoothly, he simply cut the bone. No damage done and no vet bill.

  11. I’d originally thought this was going to be a post reminding people that the cost of emergency vet care can be quite high and that it’s a really good idea to have pet insurance, but in this case, your son got off with a fairly inexpensive lesson.

  12. Sadly chip bags are very dangerous. I know a person whose dog got a hold of a chip bag and dog was unsupervised at the time. I do not have to say how thay turned out, Just he was found with his head in it. They were devastated. I’m sure they never get over it

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