An emergency procedure at a leading London small animal hospital has highlighted the potentially fatal consequences of feeding bones to dogs.
Jacey, a three-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, was admitted with a piece of bone stuck in her throat.
Our internal medicine consultant Dr Sivert Nerhagen was able to successfully remove the blockage before any serious damage was done.
However, he has warned of the dangers of dog owners allowing their pets to chew on bones.
Dr Nerhagen, who worked with our internal medicine intern Dr Laura Letwin to treat Jacey, said: “It’s not unusual for pieces of foreign material such as bones, toys or even fishhooks to become trapped in a dog’s oesophagus and this can be a very serious, even fatal, condition.
“The main areas this usually happens are just behind the voice box; where the oesophagus enters the chest; at the base of the heart and between the heart base and the diaphragm.
“This can cause damage and inflammation to the oesophagus, which can result in long-term narrowing or, in severe cases, an oesophageal rupture, necessitating the need for surgery.
“Jacey was very fortunate. She was frothing at the mouth and very uncomfortable when she was admitted.
“She was given pain relief then anaesthetised to enable me to pass an endoscope down her throat and extract the piece of bone using a very large pair of forceps.
“Jacey’s oesophagus was then assessed for any signs of damage. We found she had developed a degree of inflammation and some mild erosions were noted, but she’d luckily escaped any significant injury.”
Happily, Jacey made a full recovery and was even feeling well enough to eat her dinner in the evening after the operation, before being discharged the following day.
Dr Nerhagen added: “It’s a great outcome but it could have been so much worse. We generally advise against dog owners giving their pets bones as we have seen far too many of these cases, some with less happy outcomes.
“It’s also difficult to find safe alternatives to give dogs to chew on, as unfortunately many objects such as toys, still have the potential for pieces to break off and become wedged in the oesophagus.
“However, toys designed specifically to be ‘pet safe’ or digestible foods such as carrots can be used, although even these can carry some degree of risk.”