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Marrow Bone: Dangerous For Your Dog?

Veterinarians send warning to dog owners on the dangers of marrow bone

Dog in cage with a stuck marrow bone around it's bottom jaw.

An uncanny reason for a visit to the ER. When a playful pup manages to get one of those circular marrow bones caught around its lower jaw and canine teeth. I’ve seen a patient that found himself in this very predicament; perplexed, I thought, “How is this even possible?” While it looks like a trick that only David Copperfield should be able to pull off, it can actually happen with surprising ease.

When it comes to marrow mishaps, there is bone bad luck. While some are easily removed with lubrication and gentle manipulation alone, others need to be removed with a cast cutting saw (or other manly tool). This is depending on the thickness of the bone while the pet is sedated. 

I have also seen dogs that have suffered from fractured canine teeth as well as extensive injury to their lower jaw and tongue. Tissue injury occurs when the circulation of blood is cut off to the skin and/or tongue while it is trapped within the bone. The marrow bone literally turns into a tourniquet with the continued and inevitable swelling of the tissues. Major or minor, any of these situations can be painful, distressing, and potentially very costly, depending on the extent of trauma and demeanor of your pet. 

Helpful Hints About Having Marrow Bone Around Your Dog

Your dog absolutely loves these bones and you love to give them, so what’s a pet parent to do?  Here are a few tips to help prevent any misadventures:

  • Size really does matter.
    • Make sure the size of the marrow bone is suitable for the size of your pet. Have your butcher “custom make” your marrow bones, trimming them into longer pieces, such as 8 inches for larger dogs. Skinnier bones can more easily work themselves around the jaw, and should be avoided.
Dog marrow bones of different sizes.
  • Try a knuckle bone instead.
    • These can offer a similar chewing experience, and because there’s no hole, there is no risk of it slipping around the jaw. However, as with any type of bone, these too, can come with risks. Be sure to take them away while they are still large. It’s as soon as the gristle and soft parts of the “knuckle knobs” are gone. This will help to prevent accidental swallowing and choking once it is whittled down to a smaller size.
BONES & CHEWS Made in USA Beef Knuckle Bone Dog Treat -
  • Sensitive stomach?
    • Marrow bones may not be the chew of choice for those pets that get diarrhea or an upset stomach easily.  Marrow is very high in fat as well as causing pancreatitis, in pets that are not used to the richness of the marrow fat.
  • Lastly, never leave your dog unattended while he or she is fancying the flavor—it is amazing how fast these accidents happen! And remember, extra aggressive chewers need extra close supervision.
Pug with a huge bone to chew on.
“Size does matter!”

As gratifying as these treats can be, one can still find a bone to pick with them because the serious complications happen just as often as the “simple ones.”

Vets are sending dog owners warnings about the dangers of feeding their dogs with marrow bone. 

Two dogs that have gotten a marrow bone stuck on their bottom jaw.

From a dog’s perspective, it’s like being on cloud-nine whenever they’re given marrow bones to chew. There is no denying this, right? Unfortunately, that’s where the problem is coming from. 

The Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic shared a picture of a massive marrow bone stuck over the lower jaw of a dog. They captioned the photo, “Watch out for marrow bones. Here’s another unlucky dog.”

Veterinarians are actually seeing this case more often and they are not liking it. It may not look fatal but it still brings danger to dogs’ lives. 

Sadly, this isn’t the only dog to get stuck in a marrow bone. 

Firefighters from North York, Canada, responded to a similar case. A woman came to ask for immediate help when her 10-month-old dog named Ginger. She had gotten a huge marrow bone stuck on her lower jaw. 

Fire fighters cutting off marrow bone from a dog's bottom jaw with a dremel.

It appeared that the woman already went to a vet. But then she was told to bring her helpless pooch to an emergency veterinary hospital. While she was on her way, she decided to drop by the fire station to seek on-the-spot assistance from kind firefighters.

The dog was not in any serious danger when they arrived because she was still alive. 

The fire crew decided to bring Ginger and her worried mom to the Willowdale Animal Hospital. They also offered assistance in removing the marrow bone from the poor dog’s jaw. 

They used a Dremel to cut the two sides of the giant bone marrow. 

A Dremel multitool is a handheld rotary tool that uses a variety of attachments and accessories. You can use a Dremel tool on wood, metal, glass, electronics, plastic, and many other materials, including bone.

Dr. Jonathan Bloom was the veterinarian who took care of Ginger’s case. He said that it’s quite normal to see dogs with marrow bone stuck on their lower jaws nowadays. 

How does it happen and how to treat it?

How to Safely Feed a Dog Bone. Dog with bone marrow stuck on lower jaw.
“What? Do I have something in my teeth?”

Here is the problem. The marrow bones get stuck on the dog’s large fang teeth (canines). When their lips swell, it locks the bone in place around their lower jaw. 

Anesthesia is commonly given to the dog. They then will try to shake the bone off until it gets loose.

If this method doesn’t work, then the bone needs to be cut off. According to Dr. Bloom, that was the first time that firefighters came to assist. A Dremel tool was used to remove the stuck marrow bone from a dog’s lower jaw.

What does it take to be a responsible dog owner? 

There are no specific criteria for becoming a responsible dog owner. Some may say this while others may say that. There is no right or wrong when it comes to taking care of dogs. As long as it comes from a genuinely caring place. 

When something bad happens to a dog, more often than not, the owner takes the blame. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a responsible dog owner. 

Because of these frequent cases, veterinarians would like to remind dog owners to be more careful of the types of bones they feed their dogs. 

Such types of bone can break or split their teeth which may result in serious stomach issues.

If you ever do see a dog with one of these bones stuck over their jaws, seek veterinary assistance right away. Be sure to spread the word to all of your dog-loving friends.

The marrow of the story: know the risks and let your pet enjoy them only under direct supervision.

Boston Terrier with marrow bones licking the inside of the middle.
“Is this how you get the good stuff out?”

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