There is no doubt that bones help keep a dogs teeth clean and they enjoy chewing on them! But every year we see problems at Withy Grove Vets. The commonest is when a dog chews up the bone and swallows it as splinters which then cause intense abdominal pain (similar to having the inside of your intestine rubbed with sandpaper!). This can cause vomiting and severe constipation, we can usually sort this problem out with painkillers, anti-spasmodics and laxatives, however a few of these dogs need an anaesthetic, enema and possible surgery to relieve the blockage.
Of much more concern are the dogs that swallow lumps of bone, if these get to the stomach they may be digested and not cause a problem but they can cause obstruction requiring surgery to remove. Even more serious are the cases where the piece of bone gets stuck where the oesophagus (gullet) enters the stomach, there is a natural constriction here. This is a life threatening condition. This happened to Misty, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Pulling the piece of bone out with an endoscope proved impossible (the bone has spikes and protrusions on it). Usually at this point we would refer Misty to a specialist. Surgery is very risky, once you open up the chest to get to where the bone is, Misty would stop breathing and require artificial ventilation.
Add to this the fact that if any of the contents of the oesophagus leak out during removal, any resulting infection is likely to be fatal and the fact that the oesophagus is notoriously difficult to suture, and the picture is pretty bleak. Use of a specialist is expensive and in this case it was not an option. One of our vets, Suanne, undertook this risky and life-saving surgery and it was totally successful.