July 10, 2012

No Bones About It, Dogs Love Bones

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

As every child likely knows from the old English song, “This Old Man,” you can “Give the dog a bone,” but should you? Dogs love to chew bones, and now the reason why they do has been determined.

Researchers from the National University of Colombia have discovered that ancient canines likely adopted the pack-living some eight million years ago to allow for the hunting of larger pray. The reasoning is that the only way that dogs roaming the open plains could snatch very large prey from a herd was to work together. And it is because of this teamwork that the dogs of today — who often aren´t in packs — love to chew bones.

This led to evolution of the jaws, which gradually turned the ancestors of modern wolves into what we today call man´s best friend. The resulting evolution created “hybercarnivores.”

Over time the skull shapes changed and this included jaws that were ideal for hunting.

“They developed strength in their muscles - especially the muscles that close their mouth, And bones that are more resistant to bending, so they could support the mechanical strains of biting the prey,” said Dr. Joao Munoz-Doran to BBC Nature. Dr. Munoz-Doran presented the findings of the study at the First Joint Congress for Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, Canada.

What this also meant is that dogs thus like to chew because of the path evolution took.

“They have the tools to do that,” Munoz-Doran told BBC Nature, “and they want to use their tools.”

However, earlier this year the FDA actually disputed that while it might be natural for dogs to chew on bones it isn´t advisable and could actually cause serious injury.

“Some people think it´s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” said Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration on the website. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian´s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

The FDA offered 10 reasons why bones are bad for dogs that included broken teeth, mouth and tongue injuries, the possibility of bone get looped around the dog´s jaw, the bone getting stuck in the windpipe, esophagus, stomach and intestines, constipation due to bone fragments, bleeding from the rectum and peritonitis, which is an infection caused when bone fragments poke holes in the stomach or intestines.

However, can dog owners try to fend off a desire that has come through evolution? Actually the Stamper suggested it was possible.

“Talk with your veterinarian about alternatives to giving bones to your dog,” said Stamper. “There are many bone-like products made with materials that are safe for dogs to chew on.”

So there may be no bones about it, dogs do like to chew — but as many dog owners have found dogs like to chew a lot of things beyond bones. Trying to fight evolution might not be easy, but as the FDA suggests for the safety of the dog, it might be best to try to get one´s dog to simply evolve further.