The UK’s leading veterinary charity the PDSA has taken to instructing owners not to give their dogs either cooked or raw bones, which it says can become lodged in their throats or splinter, damaging their stomach or intestines and sometimes killing them.
Its spokesman said: “We don’t recommend bones as treats because we often see dogs with digestive tract damage and blockages caused by splinters or larger pieces of bone becoming stuck.
“Surgery is usually needed to remove any blockage and, in some cases, the damage is so serious that it can be fatal.
“Similarly, if they swallow a large piece of rawhide chew this can become stuck and cause serious problems.”
The warning runs contrary to widely-held beliefs about the benefits to the animals’ dental health and digestion of chewing on a bone.
A lobby group called the Raw Meaty Bones Action Group claims vets are biased in favour of prepared commercial food.
Meanwhile, The Dog’s Trust states in a factsheet about feeding that while cooked bones are “very dangerous”, large meaty bones have benefits and can even reduce some dogs’ anxiety by causing particular chemicals to be released in their brains.
The British Veterinary Association has said there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate any benefits of feeding dogs raw meat and bones, however, and has highlighted further risks including salmonella.
Three years ago Tesco withdrew a type of ham bone dog treat from sale after a miniature schnauzer died when it splintered, rupturing his stomach.
The PDSA earlier this year said stones, babies’ dummies, socks and kebab sticks were among hundreds of items its vets had surgically removed from the stomachs of dogs over 12 months.