August 24, 2017

A Bone to Pick: One Dog Learns the Dangers of Marrow Bones

Dottie with a marrow bone locked on her jaw

Late one night in June, David B. Hernandez noticed his dog, a three-year-old Lab/shepherd-mix named Dottie, pawing at her face.

A closer look revealed that Dottie had a three-inch beef marrow bone ring lodged around her lower jaw, locked behind her canine teeth. She had licked out the marrow, and what remained of the bone in her mouth looked like a thick bangle bracelet.  

“I rushed over to Dottie but she started to panic, thrashing around like a fish out of water,” recalls David, a canine behavior specialist.

David, who lives in Queens, tried to remove the bone himself, but feared breaking one of Dottie’s teeth and causing her pain and further distress. He knew she needed veterinary attention, but because of Dottie’s size, he was unable to get a taxi. Early the next morning, David’s father drove him and Dottie to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) in Manhattan.

Dr. Maren Krafchik, a veterinarian at the ASPCA for 12 years, said she wasn’t surprised by Dottie’s predicament.

“Dogs love bones, and they’ll swallow them, too,” says Dr. Krafchik, adding that Dottie was lucky the bone didn’t break any of her teeth, or splinter and get stuck in her esophagus. 

Dottie after being brought into AAH with the bone securely locked around her jaw.
Dottie after being brought into AAH with the bone securely locked around her jaw.

With assistance from Michaelene Albert, Senior Veterinary Technician, Dr. Krafichik gave Dottie an anesthetic. She then took a piece of Gigli wire—a flexible wire used for bone cutting—and pulled it back and forth inside the ring of the bone until it broke in two. The procedure took less than a minute.

“It was an exciting moment for staff,” says Dr. Krafchik. “There was a lot of cheering when the bone came apart.”

“Dottie was popular that day,” David adds. “After she woke up, I could tell she was feeling 100 percent better because she was back to her old ways.”

Aside from slight bruising and swollen lips, Dottie made an easy recovery. David says he routinely sees and hears about such incidents with bones or toys. He recalled the day at the pet supply store when he purchased the marrow bone for Dottie.

Dottie with her siblings
Back at home with her siblings.

“They didn't have the right size bone for her, but in my mind I thought ‘What are the odds?’ and bought it anyway,” says David, who also has two rescued pit bull-mixes, Clea and Xoco.

“In general, we think bones should be avoided,” says Dr. Camille DeClementi, Vice President of the AAH. She and Tina Wismer, Medical Director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), often treated animal injuries involving bones when they co-owned an emergency veterinary practice. “They can break teeth, get lodged in the throat and obstruct the airway, and cause digestive irritation, obstruction or perforation,” she added.

Dr. DeClementi recommends pet owners know the chewing habits and preferences of their dogs. “Consumption of chews should be slow and deliberate,” she says. “When selecting appropriate chews, avoid products that dogs can consume in significant pieces, or with inappropriate rapidity, which can lead to intestinal obstruction or perforation and require immediate life-saving veterinary intervention.”

Transitioning Dottie and his other dogs to safer treats is David’s new priority. “The second Dottie got home, she found a bone that was shaped just like the old one,” says David. He promptly took it away—and all others like it.

See the video of Dottie’s procedure below!