Let me guess, you’re here for one of two reasons?
Your dog ate too much bone and you’re looking for help adjusting their raw diet.
Your dog misbehaved, broke into your raw meaty bone supply, and ate a ton of bones. This might be an emergency situation and you’re FREAKING out…
Take a deep breath. I’ll tell you exactly what to do.
We may be able to get out of this without a costly vet visit or emergency surgery. How?
The 4-step bone remediation plan.
And in this post, I’ll show you exactly how to do it, step by step.
The 4-Step Bone Remediation Plan
Late one evening, I received the following message from a local co-op member and friend:
“Amy help! Ares the GSD ate a whole thing of chicken necks! What do you think I should do?”
I knew she needed help.
But she needed the right kind of help. She needed to hear from a vet but also an experienced raw feeder.
Without hesitation, I contacted Ronny from Perfectly Rawsome. Ronny is a dog trainer and an experienced raw feeder. She also runs Raw Feeding University (RFU). It’s Facebook group dedicated to advice and support for raw feeders.
I knew Ronny was the perfect asset to help. And she was nice enough to share her personal bone remediation plans with us, which I’m sharing with you today.
What was the result of Ares’ indiscretion?
After following Ronny’s bone remediation plan, Ares the GSD, came out of the ordeal unscathed. And he did it without a costly vet visit and without unnecessary, emergency surgery.
The best part:
You may be able to do the same thing if the situation arises.
But how will you know if you can treat at home or if you should to see an emergency clinic? We’ll outline everything you need to know step-by-step.
First, Let’s Clarify Bone Type
This post is for raw feeders. And we’re talking about raw, edible bone.
If your dog ate cooked bones:
- Call your vet ASAP.
- Cooked bones are more dangerous because heat alters the structure of the bone.
- Cooked bone is indigestible and more likely to splinter.
If your dog bit off a chunk of a rec bone (recreational bone) or ate weight-bearing bones from a large animal:
- Call your vet.
- These are large, dense bones that are not edible
- They pose a greater risk for complications.
If you don’t know how to determine bone type, I would still call your vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Scenario 1: Your Dog Ate Too Much Bone and You Need Help Adjusting the Percentage of RMB in their diet.
This is quite common.
Many new raw feeders provide more than the 10% bone guideline in the first 1-2 weeks of feeding raw. It helps to reduce loose stools during the beginning phases of the raw transition.
Once outside of the first few weeks of transitioning, the bone ratio should drop down. While exact percentages may vary by dog, aim to be around the standard 10% edible bone guideline.
Feeding too much bone is a trend among beginner raw feeders.
Ronny attributes it to a lack of understanding. New raw feeders need to understand edible bone is not equal across the board. It’s important to learn how to estimate the edible bone content within a raw meaty bone (RMB). That way, you can determine if you’re feeding the proper percentage.
What are the telltale signs and symptoms of too much bone in the diet?
- Light, white, grey stools
- Crumbly stool
- Straining to defecate
How do we deal with this?
Scenario 1 has a simple 4-part solution:
Step 1: First, Determine How You Achieve Balance.
Balance with bone is usually handled in one of two ways: daily or weekly.
You can feed meals with more than the recommended bone content. But following meals must balance it out.
Some raw feeders achieve balance in a span of 7 days versus daily. This means they feed meals with high bone content but the meals that follow are always boneless
Or, you can achieve balance daily by providing an appropriate amount of RMB in your dog’s meals every day. I recommend this approach for puppies.
Step 2: Assess the Items Used for Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs)
Because RMBs will vary in edible bone content, it’s important to mix them up. Having a variety of edible bone will provide flexibility in the diet.
It’s also important you select RMBs to suit the dog. Toy and small breeds need smaller RMBs like chicken feet and whole quail. Large and giant breeds need larger RMBs like turkey necks and pork ribs.
Step 3: Treat Constipation
If your dog is showing mild symptoms of constipation like a dry, crumbly stool, do two things:
- Feed 1-2 meals of boneless muscle meat and the stools should resolve. Once resolved, you can continue with bone.
- Use Slippery Elm Bark Powder
Slippery Elm Bark powder is a natural medicine. Both Ronny and I use it with our dogs and we recommend it as a must have for any raw feeder. It’s available in most health food stores or via Amazon (see below).
Slippery Elm Bark powder helps constipation by coating the GI tract with mucous. This protects the intestinal walls from inflammation and helps move things along.
- Give ¼ capsule twice daily to small dogs
- Give ½ capsule twice daily to medium dogs
- Give one capsule once or twice daily for large dogs.
You should be able to open the capsule and pour out the powder. If it’s hard, cut it into the appropriate size. Dilute in water, broth, kefir, or meaty blood juices. Buy here (organic, non-GMO), here and here (non-GMO).
- 1/4tsp per 10lbs body weight.
- Mix 1 tsp in 1 cup of cold water and bring to a boil while stirring.
- Turn the heat down, stirring and simmering for 2-3 more minutes.
- Remove from heat, add 1 Tablespoon of honey and let cool.
- For dogs under 25lbs, give 1-2 tsp
- For dogs 25-50lbs give 2-4 tsp
- For dogs 50 lbs and over give ¼ – ½ cup
- Dose 4 times per day
The most important part of treating constipation:
Watch your dog for any changes in behavior. Go to the vet if your dog becomes lethargic, begins to vomit, and/or has a painful abdomen.
Step 4: Adjust the Diet to Lower the Bone Content Moving Forward.
Whether you feed bone daily or a large serving of bone at once, lower the amount of bone in your dog’s meals.
- If you’re feeding several RMBs at once, try reducing it by one or two.
- If you’re feeding a single RMB each day, try a different RMB with lower bone content.
- If you must continue feeding the same RMB because it’s all you can afford or source:
- Rotate it every other day with a RMB that contains less bone content
- Rotate it with a boneless meal every other day.
Try these options and see if your dog’s stools return to normal.
Scenario 2: Your Dog Broke Into Your RMB Supply, Ate A TON of Bones, and You need Help ASAP
This scenario doesn’t happen too often.
Luckily, raw feeders are more cautious with raw product because they invest a lot of time and money into it. Plus, most raw feeders understand bone safety.
But accidents can happen.
Dogs are notorious for getting into things they’re not supposed to.
They act on impulse and instinct. Dogs by nature are scavengers. They will seek out food if it is available to them, especially if it is high value. We cannot fault them for expressing behaviors that are natural to them.
Don’t beat yourself up either or question why you’re even feeding raw. You know processed pet food is far riskier.
Here’s what to do instead:
If your dog ate a lot of edible bone, keep your energy calm and don’t scold.
The last thing you need is your dog running away from you or hiding. Why? You need to watch your dog for certain symptoms.
Should You Call Your Vet?
It depends on the severity of the situation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many RMBs has your dog eaten?
- Is the consumed edible bone more than 3-4 days of bone content?
Some dogs are more sensitive and can constipate quickly with any small increase in bone. Other dogs can tolerate higher bone intake. This is where knowing your dog is vital.
If your dog has consumed enough RMB to equal 3-4 days of bone content, contact your vet.
They need to be aware of any scenarios that could lead to constipation. It may result in needing an enema or blockage surgery.
It never hurts to talk to your veterinarian (even if they don’t support the decision to feed raw).
Call in and explain the situation.
Your vet’s office or an emergency clinic can be ready for the dog if needed. And at the very least, they may provide suggestions for home remedies and care.
Why Would Some Raw Feeders be Hesitant to Call Their Vet?
Some raw feeders worry the vet can be a double edge sword.
Vets who are unfamiliar with raw may be quick to do surgery. Especially if imagining shows bones in the GI tract and the vet is not used to this.
Dr. Karen Becker says the following:
“One day my husband brought home a box of chicken wings that were in the back of his truck. He got distracted with a phone call and didn’t realize that Ada (one of our dogs) had jumped into the back of the truck and started helping herself.
Ada ate about 15 pounds of chicken wings in five minutes. By the time my husband turned around, she looked like a bloated tick. Needless to say, she did not eat dinner that night. But she was fine. We fasted her. This episode would have sent many dog owners to the animal emergency clinic just to make sure everything was okay.
If I had X-rayed Ada, her films would have shown a tremendous amount of bones in her GI tract. And for a traditional veterinarian not used to looking at bone fragments on X-rays, this would have been very concerning.
In fact, surgery would probably be recommended. I’ve seen several cases in my practice of animals that were rushed to surgery, and all the surgeon discovered was tiny bone fragments from the pet’s raw food diet in a totally healthy GI tract. So, it’s an important point to make.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Many raw feeders do not support immediate surgery without first evaluating the situation:
- When was the last time the dog eliminated?
- Is the consumed edible bone more than 3-4 days of bone content?
- Is the dog in visual discomfort? Lethargy, loss of appetite, pale gums, vomiting?
- Has an x-ray determined if blockage is actually present?
DISCLAIMER: Not all vets will react this way. Give them the benefit of doubt. And for the record, I recommend you always contact your vet to be safe.
Medical Concerns From Your Dog Ingesting Too Many Bones
Don’t get me wrong:
If your dog ate too much bone, legitimate reasons for surgery exist. But you want to ensure surgery occurs because it’s necessary, not because it’s a knee-jerk reaction (Click to tweet this).
What are those concerns?
- Blockage or Obstruction
- Perforation and/or Peritonitis
This is the most common scenario when a dog consumes too much bone.
The canine body is able to digest raw bones. In fact, the by-product of bone is what creates firm stools. But too much bone can cause constipation, which can make it difficult to pass stools.
Blockage or Obstruction
This is the partial or complete blockage of nutrients (solid or liquid) ingested into the body. It can occur in the stomach or intestines.
We tend to see blockage or obstruction in cases where the dog ate dense, weight-bearing bones. Or, when a dog ate a piece from a recreational bone. Both of these bone types are too dense to digest well.
Check out this article and video that goes over more of this information from a veterinarian.
Perforation and Peritonitis
If a blockage or obstruction is left untreated, it can cause perforation of the GI tract. And perforation can lead to septic peritonitis (i.e. bacterial contamination).
Many believe this tends to be more common with dogs that consumed cooked bones versus raw bones. But, consuming large weight bearing bones can also pose this risk as well.
Blockage, obstruction, perforation, and peritonitis are uncommon with correctly sized edible bones.
But be smart nonetheless.
You can’t rule out the possibility of these medical situations, which is why you need to monitor your dog.
Go to the vet if your dog shows signs of:
- Vomiting, especially after eating
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody or tarry stools
- Abdominal pain
- Distended abdomen
- Difficulty defecating
Before we talk about treating Scenario 2, I want to go over one thing you should not do…
Do NOT Induce Vomiting
Inducing vomiting can be a useful tool for dogs that have eaten something they shouldn’t.
But it does not apply here.
If you seek help from a raw feeding forum or Facebook group on this matter, a well-intentioned member may suggest you induce vomiting.
Here’s why you don’t want to do that:
Bones doesn’t always come up straight and they can damage the stomach or throat on the way back up. Inducing vomiting when a dog has consumed a lot of bone introduces far too much risk.
Now, let’s talk about how deal with Scenario 2. It also has a 4-part solution but with different steps:
Step 1: Put Your Dog on Mandatory Rest & Assess The Situation
With scenario 2, it’s likely your dog ate a LOT of bones. Because this could pose a potential blockage it’s important you document everything:
- What was eaten?
- When was it eaten (a timeframe or window is fine if you don’t know)?
- How much was consumed?
If your dog ate more than 3-4 days worth of bones, call the vet to notify them of the situation.
While you’re assessing the situation (and not losing your marbles) put your dog on mandatory rest for a few hours. Try for at least 4 hours following the eating incident. This means no running around or jumping.
This is to prevent possible bloat.
Step 2: Fast & Fluids
If your dog is not showing emergency signs and symptoms and does not need immediate medical attention:
- Fast your dog for 24 hours.
- Ensure your dog is retaining fluids.
Make sure water is available at all times during the fasting period. But it’s important to control their intake to prevent bloat. Provide 1-2 cups of water each hour instead of leaving a full bowl out.
Document how much your dog is drinking and when. If for any reason surgery becomes necessary, it will be helpful for your vet to know this information.
If your dog isn’t a big water drinker or you can’t encourage them to drink water, provide bone broth instead. It’s much more enticing for dogs. That way you can ensure your dog is able retain fluids.
Provide Slippery Elm Bark powder (dosage cited earlier in article).
Step 3: Boneless & Organ Meals
Following the 24-hour fast period, feed smaller meals more frequently for 1-2 days.
Use only boneless muscle meats and organs. Organs and muscle meats will provide a natural laxative effect. The lack of bone creates loose stool.
Do not give any bone during this period.
Supplement with water, bone broth, and slippery elm bark powder as noted above in step 2. Continue to supplement this way until your dog returns to a normal feeding routine.
Step 4: Monitor their Condition & Stool consistency
The consistency of your dog’s stool will help determine how many boneless meals to feed.
Once your dog’s stool changes from hard and crumbly to more of a soft-serve, return to your regular feeding routine.
If your dog suddenly gets liquid, shooting, or squirting stools, contact your veterinarian. This may indicate they need a vet’s help to get things moving better.
Take your dog to the vet immediately for:
- Any sudden change in attitude
- The presence of emergency symptoms noted earlier.
If your dog ate too much bone, the only real options are:
- Your dog can pass it
- Or, your dog can’t pass it.
Unfortunately, we have to wait and see what happens.
That’s why it’s important you monitor your dog the entire time. Can you call into work or can someone you trust pet sit? Don’t leave your dog unsupervised if you choose to wait it out at home.
If your dog can’t pass the food, surgery may be the answer and that’s where your trusted veterinarian comes in. That’s why I recommend making them aware of the situation and having them on standby.
Prevention is key to making sure this doesn’t happen to you. And if it has, let’s ensure it doesn’t occur again.
All dogs can get into trouble and no dog is immune to this situation.
With that said, the size of the dog can play a factor. Large breed dogs are more likely to counter surf than their smaller counterparts. But that doesn’t mean small dogs can’t do the same. A 5lb Chihuahua can’t counter-surf. But if a chair or stool is close to the counter, they can hop onto the chair or stool, then the counter to access food.
As a raw feeder, you always need to wary of where you leave food to defrost (click to tweet).
If your dog has a reputation for counter surfing or scaling furniture to steal food – be careful. Do not leave anything on the counter or in the sink.
If you are thawing a large amount of meat, put it in a room where the door can be securely closed. You can defrost meat:
- In a bathtub
- The garage
- Or a basement
The first step in preventing blockage is managing behavior.
Never leave anything out that has the potential to cause blockage. And don’t allow your dog access to anything that carries the potential to cause injury or illness.
Wrapping It Up
If your dog ate too much bone and is showing mild signs of constipation, follow the first bone remediation plan.
But if your dog ate far too many RMBs, follow the second bone remediation plan instead.
Either way, I always recommend you call your vet.
The truth is:
You are in charge of your dog’s health. You must make the judgment calls and live with the consequences (good or bad) of those decisions. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable for any reason – talk to your veterinarian.
One more thing:
If you’re new to raw feeding, don’t be scared of bones.
They’re essential to raw diets. And the majority of raw feeders do not encounter issues. But if you decide to feed bone, be responsible and follow bone safety protocols.
Now, I have just one favor to ask of you:
Share these bone remediation plans with other raw feeders.
Let’s prevent the problem in the first place. But if the situation strikes, you’ll be prepared and know what to do.
DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion. It should not be considered veterinary advice. And it is not meant to replace a professional, veterinary medical opinion. If you have any concerns about the health of your dog, please contact your veterinarian or other qualified professional immediately.