What to do if your dog ate a ham bone

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Q: My dog (a 3-year-old Lab) ate a ham bone about 6 hours ago. The bone was about 5" long and she ate roughly a third of it. She's had a normal bowel movement since. Should I feed her anything in particularly to help this pass through her digestive system without harm?

A: Right now about all you can do is wait and see what happens. You can give your dog several pieces of bread that may wrap itself around the bone and allow it to go through the system easier. However it has been quite some time since she ate the bone. You will need to keep an eye on your dog's stools to see if the bone passes through your dog's system as well as for signs of fresh blood or mucus.

Fresh blood or mucus indicates inflammation within the large intestine while dark black or tarry looking stools indicate bleeding in the stomach or small intestines. If your dog's stools become black then your dog should see a vet immediately since it indicates digested blood indicating bleeding higher up in the intestinal tract.

If your dog begins to vomit, has a lot of diarrhea, becomes unresponsive to you or squats without having a bowel movement, then you should take her to the vet immediately as well.

As long as your dog is acting normally just monitor your dog closely to be sure the bone passes through your dog's system. The above symptoms could indicate an intestinal obstruction which you can read about here. In addition, bones can splinter and puncture the gastrointestinal tract, causing peritonitis and internal bleeding.

Your dog is a large breed and in many cases they manage to escape serious injury with this type of bone ingestion, but you need to be monitoring her in case she has difficulties. Some owners will elect to take their dog into the vet for an X-ray to see where the bone pieces are in the gastrointestinal tract. This can help if you suspect a round bone might still be in the stomach where it might be retrieved easier. Round objects tend to cause obstructions more easily.

If this was my dog, I'd go ahead and give her a few pieces of bread, possibly bulk her diet up a bit with some canned pumpkin (not pie filling) and feed her normally, watching her for the symptoms of obstruction or peritonitis. Usually, if you don't see any symptoms within 72 hours, she should be OK.

-- Answer from Jane Lefler, dog breeder and former veterinary assistant on JustAnswer

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