Bailey Could be Trusted Around Food. Until his Diet!
Bailey used to be very easy around food, perhaps because he got so much of it. We could leave food on a coffee table and Bailey wouldn't take anything unless it was offered to him. That was before his vet recommended that he lose some weight to make it easier for him to get around on his fourteen year old arthritic joints. Bailey is a different dog since he started his weight reduction program. He lets us know when it's his meal time and he begs more for food and will take food if he gets a chance. No, he's not food aggressive and he doesn't challenge anyone for food or take off a finger when we give him treats, but untended food is fair game now.
Bailey Ate Part of a Trash Bag and Stole Some Appetizers
Bailey made a dive for the kitchen garbage can one evening when I had been cooking a roast in the slow cooker and was taking fat off of the meat before serving dinner. Bailey was hanging around in the kitchen and saw me tossing yummy items into the pail. Surely he smelled the wonderful meaty aroma but he didn't seem like he was going to do anything. The next thing we knew, Bailey had eaten a chunk of the trash bag trying to get to the food before we caught him and moved the garbage bin. Luckily, the plastic was pretty thin and Bailey didn't eat that much of it. It seemed like the plastic would go through him pretty easily. First thing the next morning when we were out on our walk, I saw trash bag in Bailey's poop and that was that. The incident didn't even seem to faze him.
Another time, we went to visit our good friends the Robertsons and Bailey came along with the rest of the family. Bailey especially likes to go to the Robertsons to see his friend Casey, a very sweet female golden. It was dinner time when we arrived, so Bailey was fed soon after he had a chance to greet everyone. We knew we had to keep an eye on Bailey when we saw the hors d'oeuvres on the coffee table but Bailey seemed pretty mellow and had just eaten dinner. Bailey and Casey continued their mutual sniffing and seemed content to be together. They both looked around and approached the coffee table tentatively. Casey gave up after one try at the food. Bailey was more persistent. We signaled him to stop and moved him away each time he approached the coffee table (remember, Bailey is deaf, so a verbal command wouldn't work). Then, with lightening speed (especially for a geriatric dog) before anyone could stop him, in one swipe, Bailey snagged a three or four open faced salmon sandwiches topped with cream cheese and capers!
Our friends were more than gracious and assured us that the same thing happens with Casey. I'm not sure if that is true or if they were just trying to make us feel better, but it was a nice gesture. It probably is true, because when Bailey was eating his dinner and Casey's mom was trying to distract her (she said Casey can be a bit food possessive), Casey made a dive for her food bag when the cabinet was left open and probably ate a week's worth of food in a few seconds. Anyway, nobody was horrified when Bailey snagged a few appetizers and we had a very nice visit while the dogs quietly napped under the table during our dinner and dessert. No harm done. Just a few extra calories for Bailey that day.
But Then, Bailey Ate a Chicken Bone!
Last week was our kids' February vacation from school. My daughter had said she "craves warm like you crave chocolate Mom", so we arranged for a snow and sun vacation. First we went skiing and had a ball. Skiing was probably even more fun knowing that we would be going to Florida soon! Bailey came to Vermont with us like he always does and when we left for Florida, Bailey went to stay with our wonderful friends the Hogans. The Hogans really like dogs and they are so good to Bailey. They don't have a dog, but they do have an old cat. Bailey and the cat aren't close friends but they seem to have learned over time to be comfortable around each other. Bailey is fine with the cat but maybe a little too eager to interact, but the cat isn't so sure about having a large dog in his house. He (the cat) used to hiss at Bailey but as they spend more time together, the cat is chilling out. When we dropped Bailey off on Tuesday evening, the cat just sat in the middle of the kitchen and watched instead of hissing and running away. He mostly ignores Bailey and Bailey has learned to give him more space and to stay out of the cat food. Anyway, the Hogans are very nice to take Bailey and they really pamper him so he's very happy going there, if he has to be away from home. He gets lots of hugs and walks, sleeps in one of the bedrooms and he always has a good time.
But this time, Bailey got into some trouble. You know, the chicken bone. The Hogans had decided that their old kitchen cabinets needed new hinges and a coat of paint. Washing just wasn't doing the trick anymore. So, the doors all got taken down for painting, leaving the kitchen garbage pail vulnerable to stealth canine attack. Bailey took the opportunity and snagged a chicken bone. My friend told me that she knew Bailey had eaten the chicken bone because it was there when she left the room and it wasn't there when she came back a few minutes later. We heard about all this three or four days later when we picked Bailey up on Sunday afternoon. It seemed like a non incident, so our friends watched Bailey closely knowing the dangers of chicken bones, but didn't feel the need to take him to his vet for examination. (When we travel, I always leave extensive instructions and a comprehensive contact list, including our mobile phone numbers, hotel numbers, as well as phone numbers, addresses and directions to the regular and emergency vets, just in case something comes up with Bailey and he needs medical care.)
Bailey seemed OK, mostly. But he didn't eat his dinner the evening after he ate the chicken bone. He drank water, pooped that evening and seemed his usual self other than the lack of appetite (very suspicious for Bailey). He ate breakfast and happily went walking the next morning. He ate and pooped regularly and nothing more suspicious happened for the three days until we picked Bailey up to take him home.
Bailey was in great spirits when we came to get him. He pranced around and frolicked in the snow (Bailey loves snow and we'd had 9" of snow while we were in Florida and it was still a very nice, winter wonderland kind of scene when we got back). He seemed so happy that I didn't worry about the chicken bone. He ate dinner and seemed comfortable. No poop. The next morning, he ate his breakfast and a few minutes later started retching. He threw up most of his meal and I wondered if I should be worrying about the chicken bone. Maybe it was working its way through his system and causing a blockage or tearing something. Bailey didn't really seem distressed other than the vomiting, and he lay down on his bed and waited to leave for school. We had a nice walk to drop my daughter off at school and around the neighborhood. Bailey's poop seemed fine to me. I called the vet as soon as we got home.
I said that I hoped that my call was just a routine, in an excess of caution, slightly neurotic call and told them the story of the chicken bone. Wendy, the vet tech, seemed concerned and asked me questions, including whether the chicken bone that Bailey had eaten was cooked. She put me on hold for what seemed to me to be a really long time while she conferred with one of the vets (I had called our primary vet who oversees Bailey's general care and does his acupuncture). Wendy got back on the phone and told me that the vet had said to watch Bailey closely and if I wanted to be a little bit proactive, to give him some Pepcid. Of course I wanted to be proactive so I went right out to the pharmacy and got Bailey's Pepcid. He initially resisted taking the berry flavored tablet (I tried one and they're quite tasty) but after it was coated in peanut butter he gobbled it down. That was yesterday, and it seems that all's well. I put another Pepcid in his breakfast this morning and he happily emptied his bowl. He seems fine, but I really don't know if he has passed the bone or not. His poops seem like usual and he's eating and drinking fine and doesn't seem to be at all bothered.
The Dangers of Cooked Chicken Bones
Cooked bones are dry and splinter easily into sharp pieces that can lodge in the throat or intestinal tract. They can make a dog very sick if they are eaten. In fact, eating chicken bones can be fatal. You can't make the dog throw up to get rid of the risk, because the same razor sharp bones can tear the dog's throat on the way up just like the bones can pierce the dog's insides on the way down. I hear that dogs often eat chicken bones, usually without much of a problem. Our pediatrician's dog, a smallish little guy, ate most of a chicken carcass and needed surgery to remove the bones and repair the tears in his intestional tract. Not a pretty thought. So, we've been taking the situation seriously and are monitoring Bailey closely.
What to Look For if Your Dog Eats Chicken Bones
We are watching Bailey closely and giving him his Pepcid. We've learned that it's important to keep an eye on Bailey's temperment and his poop. In other words, is he pooping or not, or is he straining to poop? Is he eating and drinking and acting normal? Is he lethargic? We are supposed to check his poops to look for blood or bone parts. Symptoms of chicken bone distress include vomiting, no poop, lack of appetite, sluggishness and blood in the poop. The vet didn't think an x-ray was needed given the mildness of Bailey's symptoms (lack of appetite just after eating the bone and one incident of vomiting days later) and his general contentedness and lack of discomfort, but an x-ray can be a valuable tool in a more serious case of distress. I am happy that it looks like an x-ray or surgery won't be necessary for Bailey.
How to Keep Dogs Away from Chicken Bones
Take a proactive approach with your trash, especially the kitchen garbage pail with all it's enticing aromas. We keep our kitchen garbage pail in a built in trash drawer and are careful to keep the drawer closed. We empty the pail regularly especially if tempting food items are in the bin. We keep food out of Bailey's reach so he isn't tempted to make another stealth raid. So far so good. I'll let you know if the chicken bone incident amounts to anything, but I am pretty sure that Bailey is fine.