My Dog Ate Ham Bones – Time To Worry?

You’re running around your home frantically looking for the dog. Is he missing or into mischief?

You finally find him hidden away, licking a bone that he just finished chewing on. It’s a ham bone and part of it’s missing. He must have broken off a bit and swallowed it.

It’s not until later when you see the blood stains on your floor and realize that this is bad news.

In this article we’ll cover what to look for if your dog eats and ham bone, what to do about it, and the warning signs if you need to see a vet.

Check for these Signs

Bloody or very dark stools coupled with vomiting are usually the most serious signs that something is wrong. If your dog ate a ham bone and is now hurling or they have blood in their stool, then that’s a sign that there’s a serious problem.

Your dog might suddenly end up acting lethargic or may not want to eat after he or she swallows a bone. This is a sign that they’ve developed an infection and are now dealing with inflammation.

Keep an eye out for dental problems as well. Bone slivers can get caught in your dog’s gums as well, which will irritate them and make them balloon up.

Some dogs naturally have trouble breathing either because of allergies or the shape of their face. This is usually a problem with pugs and other smaller breeds.

If your dog swallows a bone and then starts to retch, however, you’ll want to treat this as a serious problem regardless of his or her medical history.

Potential Problems

The risk of infection is usually the biggest consideration when dealing with a swallowed ham bone, but bones can splinter and cause many other issues. Keep an eye on all of these when you look over your dog:

  • Mouth Injuries: Bone chips or slivers can get lodged in the gums and tongue
  • Choking: Larger pieces of bone can get stuck in the windpipe and block the air passage
  • Ulceration: Fragments that get caught in the esophagus can create ulcers
  • Stomach clog: Ham bones will sometimes pass into the lower stomach or upper intestines, necessitating surgery to remove them
  • Constipation: Dogs carrying bone fragments often can’t go
  • Peritonitis: Over time, bones that aren’t dealt with can release parasitic organisms that will colonize a dog’s abdomen

You’ll especially want to look out for any of these signs coupled with the above ones. If your dog is vomiting and seems to be constipated, then that’s a sign that something pretty serious is going on.

What to Do

When a dog swallows part of a ham bone but doesn’t appear to show any discomfort or any weird behavior, there’s a good chance that they’ll be fine and simply digest whatever fragments they’ve eaten. Watch your dog closely for any changes, give them a little extra attention and make sure that they get plenty of water.

Over time, your dog might start showing some of the above symptoms. If this happens or they showed them right from the start, then you’re going to want to treat this like you would any other medical emergency and get your dog to a vet hospital.

Any dog who has swallowed uncooked bone material is at a much greater risk for developing serious complications compared to those who at least had their bones cooked before hand. You’ll want to let the vet know if you’re familiar with what your dog swallowed.

Do I Need to See the Vet or Go to the Emergency Animal Hospital?

You’ll need to take your dog to an emergency animal hospital if they’re starting to show any of the above symptoms after they’ve swallowed a ham bone. Fragments from the bone can start to work their way into stomach lining very quickly, and it’s even more serious if your dog ate an uncooked bone that had any amount of bacteria growing on it.

Consider observing dogs that aren’t showing any symptoms just yet, especially if they’re larger dogs. You might want to take your dog to a regular vet if that’s the case.

That being said, even if your dog isn’t vomiting or experiencing diarrhea you’ll want to treat this as an emergency if you notice your dog suddenly coughing. Take your pet to an emergency animal hospital in this case, because it could mean that a portion of bone has lodged itself into their throat in spite of the fact that they’re not effected by it in any other way.

Safe Alternatives to Eat

Traditional dog food and treats are of course often the best option when trying to figure out how to reward your dog. A tough purpose-made bone replacement, like hard chew toys sold in pet stores, are a great pick for letting your dog chew on.

Hardened cow hooves are often sold in pet supply places as well, and these work well alongside a set of regular chew toys. Rawhide bones might be something to consider, but these can splinter just as badly as ham bones would so you’ll want to be really cautious if you’re thinking about getting anything made out of hide or leather.

Professionally processed natural dog chew bones are safe to use, and these are a great alternative to bones from your table as well as rawhide toys. They’re essentially cow bones that have been heated to a certain temperature so they’re safe to give to larger dogs.

Can Dogs Eat Ham Bones?

Dogs can chew on ham bones if you follow specific rules and only ever give them bones that are considerably larger than their muzzle. Most dogs usually find larger bones difficult to swallow.

You should only give your dog bones after they’ve had a meal so they’ll just chew on them rather than actually eat them. It’s a good idea to cook the bone first, even though your dog may prefer raw bone.

While domestic dogs are descended from wolves and have the same craving for marrow that these larger predators do, they’re not able to handle all of the parasites that cling to uncooked bones. As a result, you won’t want to take that risk.

Some larger retailers now sell cattle and hog bones that have been treated to make them safer for dogs. These are an option if you have a bigger dog who can handle bones and you make sure to buy a bone that exceeds the size of their muzzle.

You’ll need to remove the shrink wrap before giving any prepared farm bones to your dog.