My Dog Just Ate a Steak Bone! What Should I Do?

If your dog swiped a steak bone off the dining room table, your next steps may vary depending on the type of bone consumed. Veterinarian Jo Woodnutt weighs in on what to do.

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Last Updated: November 5, 2021 | 8 min read

Dog Looking at Steak Bone

This article was written by a veterinarian, but it should not substitute as contact with a trained professional. If your dog ate steak bones, we recommend you contact your veterinarian immediately.

Steak is tasty for humans that eat meat, so it only goes to say that they can be equally tasty for dogs. But what happens when your dog eats a steak bone from your plate or out of the trash? As with cooked chicken bones, or cooked pork bones, a dog eating a cooked steak bone can have some similarly serious consequences.

Grilled steak can be an excellent doggy treat on occasion during leftover nights. The ancestors of the pet dogs would hunt prey and eat most parts of the animals they caught, bones included. However, today’s dogs are very different from their wolf ancestors and have loving owners who provide their food for them.

So, while wolves often eat bones as part of their diet in the wild, do our pet dogs need to do the same? Can feeding bones to pets cause more harm than good? Steak bones in particular can cause problems for dogs. In this article, we discuss why, as well as what you should do if your canine companion eats a steak bone.

Raw vs. Cooked Steak Bones

Dog Eating Steak
Urgency will differ depending on if raw or cooked steak bones were consumed.

How you treat your dog after bone ingestion may differ depending on the type of bones they’ve eaten. Raw and cooked steak bones come with different health risks. When dogs eat a raw bone, there’s less risk of abdominal perforation as raw bones are more flexible and less likely to splinter. If you are new to feeding raw, bones are always recommended to be ground up before feeding them to your pup.

If it was a leftover bone from a cooked steak that was consumed, this is cause for concern and requires you to take certain steps, including contacting your veterinarian. While eating a raw bone isn’t without risk, it may not require a trip to the veterinarian, especially if the bone is fresh.

Raw Steak Bones

Many people feed their canines raw food. It’s seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Raw steak bones are said to be less likely to splinter than cooked bones and are therefore considered safer to eat. They are also recommended to be ground up, and included in their normal food. If your pup does eat a raw bone, there is a risk of contamination with food-poisoning bacteria.

Salmonella and Campylobacter are two bacteria that can be found on raw meat and cause vomiting and diarrhea in our dogs. It can cause the same in humans handling the bones or in contact with the dog. This is on top of the usual risks to the dog of eating bones such as blockages and perforations. So if your dog consumed a raw steak bone, there’s still some risk. But because raw bones are tender and have some flexibility, you are less likely to end up with a perforation in their abdomen.

Cooked Steak Bones

It may be tempting to give your pup the leftover ribeye steak bone after a juicy meal. After all, they probably spent the whole time watching you cook and eat it! Let’s just start off by saying that as tempting as it is to feed your dog a cooked bone, you shouldn’t. Consumption of cooked bones carries a high-risk level and can be potentially fatal.

On top of the usual foodborne illness risks of eating raw bones, cooked bones have greater risks because they can more easily shatter, fragment, or break off into sharp pieces when consumed. This can cause serious problems including choking, tears in your dog’s intestines, and bowel blockages. Cooked bones are never a good idea to feed to dogs.

Steps For Cooked Bone Ingestion

Person Calling Veterinarian
If cooked steak bones were consumed, follow these steps.

If your pup ingested cooked steak bones, there are four steps you’ll need to take. You’ll need to remain calm and collected to ensure you get your pup the help they may need. Dogs consume things that can harm them somewhat regularly, so the best thing you can do is stay calm. Don’t discipline right away, as that may just scare them more than needed. Below are step-by-step instructions on how to handle this situation.

Step 1: Remove Bones From The Area

The first thing you have to do is remove all bones from the area. Make sure there’s no way your pup can get into the bones again. Put your pup in their dog crate, or somewhere locked away so they can’t get into anything else. Make sure you’ve picked up any possible leftover bones so that there’s no future danger if Fido decides to start sniffing around again.

Step 2: Call Your Veterinarian

You’ll want to contact your local veterinarian right away. They will give you feedback immediately on what to do, and it will likely cost you nothing for a phone consultation. If your dog is reacting poorly after ingestion, your veterinarian will likely ask you to bring them in to be seen. They will be your best resource to decide the proper course of treatment. They may require an X-Ray, depending on how much was eaten.

During this call, you’ll want to have as much information as possible. You’ll want to have your dog’s size, breed, and how much bone was consumed if you have an idea. Your veterinarian may provide guidance to “pad the gut” and feed them something like bread, or pumpkin to help ensure the pieces of bone get absorbed and don’t cause damage. Follow your vet’s advice, whatever that may be.

Step 3: Don’t Self-Treat

The first thing many people do is try to make their dog vomit. This is not what you want to do. If you do, you run the risk that splinters of bone may do damage on the way back up. Once they’ve been ingested, you usually will need to wait it out. Even if someone you know had a similar situation, don’t take their advice over a trained veterinary professional.

Step 4: Watch For Signs

Whether you have chosen to feed your dog a bone, or they have managed to get hold of one themselves, it is best to monitor their behavior closely. You’ll likely be looking for warning signs that can appear anywhere from 24-48 hours after foreign body ingestion.

You should call your veterinarian immediately if:

  • Your dog is pawing at its mouth in distress.
  • You see your pup choking on a piece of bone.
  • A whole bone was consumed.
  • Vomiting, gagging, or dry heaving has begun.
  • You notice your dog acting lethargic.
  • You see bloody diarrhea during stool passage.
  • Your pup is struggling to pass stools.
  • You see your dog straining to go, or crying out when toileting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know what to do if your canine companion ingested a steak bone, you may still have some questions that we haven’t answered yet. Below are some commonly asked questions when it comes to steak bone ingestion in canines. If you feel that we’ve missed something, drop us a line in the comments!

Are Steak Bones Good or Bad For Dogs?

Small Dog Eating Red Meat Bone
Some dog owners allow their dogs to eat raw meat, and bone with it.

As mentioned, cooked bones have health risks that accompany them. We do not recommend you feed your dog a cooked bone under any circumstances. If you do want your pup to get the nutritional benefits of feeding raw, grinding up the bones and adding it to their food is recommended. Some people that feed raw do allow their dogs to eat meat off the bone, and the bone with it.

What Happens When My Dog Eats a Bone?

Some dogs can eat bones without an issue, however as we’ve seen in this article, there can be serious negative consequences from eating steak bones. If your dog shows any of the signs above, they will likely need to see a veterinarian promptly. Do not waste time during these initial stages. If your dog is choking or has a bone stuck in their mouth or throat, your vet may want to sedate or anesthetize them to remove the offending bone while checking for damage.

If you know your pup swallowed a steak bone and you are worried about a blockage, your vet can take an x-ray image to find out where it is. They will see how big the piece is, and if the bone is causing enough problems to need removal.  If the x-ray shows that there is a blockage, your vet will most likely need to perform emergency surgery.

They will remove the bone and assess how much internal damage there is. If the bone is lodged in the stomach, they may be able to use an endoscope. If the piece of bone has burst out of the intestines, your vet will have to flush out your dog’s abdomen to remove all the digestive contents that will have spilled out. They then may have to remove or fix any damaged parts of their intestines while removing the bone.

Bones that make their way through the small intestines into the colon can cause a blockage. This may stop your dog from passing stools. In this circumstance, your vet may need to perform an enema under anesthetic. Alternatively, big chunks of bone can damage the intestines as they pass through. This causes diarrhea and bloody stools.

Can Steak Bones Kill My Dog?

A dog eating bones is not necessarily going to result in a problem occurring, and is not always life-threatening, but the risks are there and in a worst-case scenario could result in death. This would be very rare, and usually occurs if there is a blockage or perforation of the intestines and veterinary treatment is not provided immediately, or if complications occur. In 2017, the FDA also issued a statement warning of the risks of pre-packaged ‘bone treats’ for dogs, after an incident in which 15 dogs were thought to have died after eating a bone treat.

Can a Dog’s Stomach Dissolve a Bone?

A dog’s stomach, like humans, produces acid which helps to start digesting the food we eat and kills off some bacteria and other microbes that we eat with food. In dogs, food can stay in the stomach for some time. The acid in the stomach (hydrochloric acid) usually has a pH (acidity level) of 2-2.5 in dogs. However, bone is a very hard substance and takes a long time to fully dissolve in acid. If your pup chews the bone up into very small pieces, it may be able to be dissolved in the stomach. But larger pieces will not break down quickly enough.

This could mean one of two things. Either the bone will be too big to leave the stomach into the small intestine, or it will leave the stomach and get stuck in the intestines, causing a blockage. Bone stuck in the stomach does not necessarily cause immediate issues, but it can cause food and fluid to back up and your dog may vomit. The bone can also cause erosions and cuts on the inside of the stomach while it bounces around in there.

Are Bones Good For Dog Teeth?

Bone is a very hard substance and dogs who chew on bones can sometimes end up with tooth fractures. The sharp edges of broken bones can cause bleeding gums and cuts in the mouth. Hollow bones can also cause problems if they become caught in the teeth of a dog; sometimes this causes quite a lot of trauma and dogs may have to have an anesthetic to remove the bone.

Some people believe bones can help keep your dog’s teeth clean when they chew on them, but there are other options available for your pet’s dental hygiene including non-bone dental chews and tooth-brushing (depending on how well behaved Fido is!). Many of these options are much safer, too.

What Can I Give My Dog Instead of Steak Bones?

While dogs’ ancestors ate bones as part of their diets, today’s pets do not need to eat bones to survive, as the diets we provide them should contain all the nutrients they require. To satisfy a pet’s desire to chew there are several safe alternatives: kevlar chew toys, and healthy dental chew sticks to name a few.

You can even use harder veggies like Zucchini or carrots to provide nutrients to your pup while keeping teeth clean. It is always recommended to supervise your dog when giving them something to chew.

Final Thoughts

If we haven’t been clear by now, we will say it again. Don’t let your dog have cooked steak bones. Even raw bones carry risk. Accidents happen. If your dog does get hold of a steak bone, you should contact your veterinarian right away. Your vet will likely suggest that you monitor them closely for the symptoms described above. Remember, if you are in any doubt then it’s best to involve a vet as soon as possible so they can help you make the right decisions for your furry friend.

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