Who would have thunk it?
WORTHINGTON -- I don't know who can be credited with coming up with the saying "who would have thunk it." I have said this more than a few times in my life and most of those occasions were right after something happened that cost a lot of money.
I had one of those moments in the vets' office about eight years ago when he told me that my dog needed $2,000 worth of surgery. We had taught the dog to jump up and catch a knotted rope out of the air. Little did I know at that time that this act in Labradors and other big dogs destroys the dogs' ACL tendons about 1/2 of one percent per jump. Two-hundred jumps later and the ACL tendon was toast. These 200 jumps took place over a four-week time span.
It ended up costing $3,000 because as soon as the first ACL was repaired it became evident that the other needed the same surgical repair. As I sat there with my chin on my chest, I asked myself, "Who would have thunk it" that this apparently harmless game played with my favorite dog could do so much damage. She never hunted to a high level again, but lived to 13 years old. It was a big mistake and one that I will never make again.
I was doing some general dog reading on no specific topic and came across another example of one of those "who would have thunk it" experiences. I was reading about all the things that you should never feed your dog. One list had 25 things on it for the most part any moderately informed dog owner would have said, "DUH! Even I know that."
Things like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana were all on the list. I have never been tempted to feed my dog any of these. I can't imagine these items making the list of any dog owner as a possible meal for their dog. What kind of dog owner ever could? Other items on the list were less obvious, but I still had no desire to feed them to my dog. They include onions, garlic, caffeine, candy and gum. I swallowed gum when I was a little kid and did many others. Dog owners would have to understand that if swallowing it yourself might be bad it has to be bad for the dog.
The next few items have never been fed to any of my dogs, but are very serious if you decide to do such. Macadamia nuts and avocado is really bad to the highest level. These items, even in small portions, can do more than make your dog sick. They can outright kill them. Raw eggs, raw fish or raw meat all have the probability of making your dog sick. Some have long-lasting effects on digestion, kidney function and a whole host of other costly outcomes.
I have tried a whole host of dog foods that vary from the most expensive to the moderately priced. My family and friends will tell me how mean I am that I don't let my dogs eat people food. There is one exception and I have never heard of any significant negatives from it. That is that I share my popcorn with my hunting buddies. Not bowls at a time just a kernel here and there. Dog food is what dogs need, but there are very few dogs that exist only on food from the dog food bag. I am one of the very few that can say that mine do.
Other bad things on the list are chocolate, grapes, raisins and dairy products. Salty chips and other dog favorites made the list as well. The last item on the list that was ranked at No. 10 out of 25 is the item that again made me stop again and say, "Who would have thunk it?" When I read it I got this big pit in the bottom of my stomach and wondered just what I might have done. Item No. 10 on this list was cooked or raw bones of any kind and fat or gristle trimmed off raw or cooked meat. Now I know better than to feed a dog a chicken or other poultry bone. These bones are hollow and are very subject to splintering in to sharp shads that get caught in the dogs' throat when they eat them.
I couldn't believe that a good old pork chop bone or a juicy beef T-bone steak bone would possibly hurt my dog. I have heard that feeding your dog raw bones might make it more likely to develop the desire for blood and I never did that. This might be a wive's tale as well. So what problems do feeding your dog's cooked bones do that is bad for them? It causes pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
I got the big pit in my stomach because I had my very best pheasant dog die a few years ago from pancreatitis. I fed him cooked pork rib bones all the time. I would cook a few racks of ribs and save the bones for a small and easy snack for my hunting buddies. I did not feed him bones every day nor did I feed him bones once per week, but I did do it regularly for the four years he was alive. He was always a little on the skinny side and I thought this would help him gain a little weight.
It might have been a coincidence or I might have unknowingly added to demise of my own dog. No dog owner will hang me out to dry for some grievous breach of dog ownership protocol for sharing a rib bone with my dog occasionally, but in my mind I will never really know if I had something to do with his death because I did not know. Scout had always been my biggest "who would have thunk it" episode until Ace died and I read this.
No dogs at my house now get any bones of any kind and no fat no matter what eyes they look at me with trying to convince me that they need or deserve it. I have heard other dog owners say that feeding your dog people food or letting the dog eat items they catch in the wild (like a rabbit) make them tougher dogs. Their stomachs get more resilient from the variety and that they get an upset stomach less often. I cannot prove this right or wrong. All I know is what I read and use my experiences to make decisions from that knowledge base.
Only you can decide if a bone is in your dogs' future, and you will likely never have a problem, but I will say that if you ever experience an "Ace episode," you'll question the wrong decision for a really long time. Finally, rawhide bones have been found to have a variety of toxins in them depending on where they are manufactured. Consult with your veterinarian as to which ones you should purchase if you decide to go that way.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe's outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.