If You — Or Your Fitness Clients — Have a Dog

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Dog ownership is widely acclaimed for older adults who live where dogs are allowed, and who have the desire as well as the mental, physical and financial means to care properly for a canine pet. A dog can provide unconditional love and constant, loyal companionship. The responsibilities of feeding, brushing and otherwise tending to a pet can add meaning to life — and occasions for regular physical activity. Walking one’s dog literally opens the door to fresh air, nature and pleasant social interactions. The American Senior Fitness Association has often published articles in Experience! about the potential emotional and health benefits of adopting a dog.

With that in mind, today we want to pass along a critical pet safety guideline for dog lovers. Senior fitness professionals, you may wish to share this information with clients who have beloved canine pets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a consumer alert stating that bones — small bones, large bones, all bones, any bones — are unsafe for dogs. For a PDF handout of these facts that you can copy and distribute to your senior health-fitness clients, click here.

As much as we might want to "spoil" our dog by giving him or her a tasty bone to chew on, doing so is dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. Below are ten reasons, recently published by the FDA, why it’s a bad practice to give your dog a bone of any size:

  • Bones can break teeth and require costly veterinary dentistry;
  • Bones can cause bloody mouth and tongue damage;
  • Bones can get caught around a dog’s lower jaw — a painful and traumatic experience for the animal;
  • Bones can get stuck in a dog’s esophagus, which may cause gagging and necessitate veterinary attention;
  • Bones can stick in a dog’s windpipe, interfering with breathing and demanding immediate emergency veterinary care;
  • Bones can get hung up in a dog’s stomach, often requiring surgery or upper gastrointestinal endoscopy;
  • Bones can lodge in a dog’s intestines, causing a blockage that requires surgery;
  • Sharp (chewed up) bone fragments in a dog’s intestines can cause dreadful pain and the need for veterinary services;
  • Severe rectal bleeding from hard-to-pass pieces or splinters of bone is an urgent situation calling for veterinary intervention;
  • Peritonitis — a serious, hard-to-treat infection that can kill a dog — occurs when bone fragments puncture a dog’s stomach or intestines, and requires emergency veterinary care.
  • Following are some related FDA tips for keeping your dog sound:

  • Ask your veterinarian to suggest alternatives to bones (there are products made of materials that are safe and satisfying for dogs to chew);
  • Supervise your dog when he or she is using a chew toy, especially one that is new to your pet;
  • Dispose of bones from your own meals carefully so that your dog cannot get into them;
  • When walking your dog, be alert to the possibility of bones and other hazards lying on the ground, and lead your dog away from such objects;
  • If your dog simply isn’t acting like him or herself, always call your veterinarian at once.
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