All posts by Dr. Marty Becker

Beagle dog licking plate from table. Hungry dog concept

Dogs and turkey bones? Just say no

Thanksgiving’s almost here, and a reader wanted to know if it’s okay to share the leftover bones from her holiday turkey with her dog. Here’s what I told her, and why.

Q: With Thanksgiving coming up, I was wondering if it’s OK to give my dog the leftover turkey bones from the feast?

A: I know it’s tempting, but that’s not a good idea — no bones about it.

Dogs certainly love to eat bones, and during the holidays they are extra tempted to raid the trash for leftovers or steal meat with bones off the table, but cooked bones hold risks you don’t want to deal with. They can splinter, puncturing the intestinal tract and potentially causing serious or even fatal bacterial infections.

Bones can also cause an intestinal blockage. When that occurs, you may be taking your dog to the veterinarian for X-rays every day or two to make sure the bones are dissolving and passing safely through the system and out the back end. Worst-case scenario, your dog will need emergency surgery to remove the blockage.

There are other reasons not to give bones of any kind:

— Large or oddly shaped bones (think T-bones or beef vertebrae) can become stuck in the esophagus, causing choking, or elsewhere in the intestinal tract.

— Dogs who gulp bones instead of gnawing them thoroughly can choke on them.

— Dogs can break a tooth on a bone, requiring an expensive repair or extraction.

— Bones can become lodged on the lower jaw and must be removed by the veterinarian.

— An assortment of bones or bone fragments in the intestinal tract can cause canine constipation.

— Sharp bone fragments passing through can cause pain and bleeding from the rectum.

Bottom line: I always advise against giving dogs poultry or fish bones, and other bones are cause for concern as well. To prevent unauthorized bone intake, don’t leave them on the counter or in a trash can that is accessible to your dog.

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

Young golden retriever run at the snow in winter park

Helping a dog make the transition from sunny California to the snowy Midwest

Moving from sunny Southern California to the snowy Midwest is a big change for anyone — including the family dog! Since I’ve lived in Idaho my whole life — a winter wonderland if there ever was one — I felt I had some advice to help with the transition.

Q: My dog and I just moved from Southern California to Wisconsin, and it’s starting to get a lot colder than we’re used to. What should I do to make sure my dog is prepared for winter?

A: Having lived in Idaho all my life, I know just what kind of weather you’re facing. Brrrr!

First things first: Provide protective gear as needed. Lots of people object to dogs wearing clothes, but shorthaired or thin-skinned dogs such as greyhounds or pugs don’t have much fur or fat for insulation, and it’s a real kindness to provide them with a warm coat or sweater to protect them from the elements. Not every dog needs a winter coat. Nordic breeds like Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies love the cold and snow and will happily dig themselves a snow cave to relax in.

Whether your dog needs booties depends on similar factors. If he walks on streets or sidewalks that have been treated with salts to melt ice, booties will protect his feet from chemicals. And longhaired dogs often get snow or ice balls between their foot pads. They may need booties as well, or you can try clipping the hair so there’s less opportunity for ice balls to form.

When he plays outdoors, make sure your dog has a sheltered area where he’ll be protected from wind and snow. How long should your dog stay outside? Once he’s accustomed to the new climate, he can stay outdoors as long as he wants if he has a place where he can retreat from the elements.

Finally, never let your dog off-leash in an unfenced area. One hazard dogs face in winter is being hit by a car because the driver’s vision is limited by snow piled on the sides of the road.

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

Fear Free exam

What would you like me to write about?

Whenever I survey my readers, you say your number one area of interest is veterinary information. But those articles aren’t as popular as others when I post them to Facebook.

What would you like me to write and post about? I want to make sure I’m giving you the information you really want (mixed with photos of my pets when I can’t stop myself).

Just post in the comments below!


What dog owners need to know about Addison’s disease

Our Quora had the condition known as Addison’s disease, so when a reader wrote asking about her own dog’s diagnosis, I had plenty of information to share. Here it is.

Q: My dog has Addison’s disease. What can you tell me about it?

A: A lot! My own dog, the late, great Quora, developed Addison’s (aka hyperadrenocorticism) when she was 11 years old. She began slowing down, shivering even when it didn’t seem cold, and although she had a voracious appetite, she wasn’t that wild about her food. The symptoms finally clicked for me, and I had her hormone levels tested. Once we put her on medication, it was like she had been plugged into a charger and was back up to 100 percent.

Addison’s develops when the adrenal glands stop secreting enough cortisol and other steroids. We don’t know why it occurs.

The problem with Addison’s is that signs vary widely from dog to dog and are often similar to those of other diseases. That can make it really difficult to diagnose. Until it’s recognized and treated, the adrenal glands become less and less functional, eventually causing the dog to collapse suddenly — what’s known as an Addisonian crisis. Once they are diagnosed and begin treatment, though, they can do well.

Treatment involves daily oral hormone replacement for several weeks to get the dog back on track. Then, depending on how your dog responds, your veterinarian can adjust the dose. It’s a disease that must be managed for the rest of the dog’s life with glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid supplementation, regular checkups and bloodwork to confirm that the dog is receiving an appropriate level of supplementation.

The important thing to know is that stress can cause flare-ups. Consult a Fear Free-certified veterinarian to help you develop techniques to reduce fear, anxiety and stress if your dog needs to be boarded, will be traveling with you or requires surgery or other veterinary care that might be stressful.

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

Lazaruff looking better

This dog needs a quiet foster home. Can you help?

Lazaruff continues to get healthier — but he’s not happier. Can you help him?

Teresa and I wish we could get Lazaruff out here to us, but until he finishes his heartworm treatment, that’s not safe or possible. We have been looking high and low for a foster home in the Lafayette, Louisiana area, near enough to Opelousas so he can continue to be in the care of Dr. Kevin Fuselier at Bellevue Animal Clinic.

This dog is really suffering from kennel stress, and is in need of a quiet, peaceful place where a knowledgeable, attentive person can keep him quiet (necessary while his heartworm is treated) and give him the love and attention he needs to adjust to life as a pet – at this point, we honestly don’t care if it’s indoors or as an outdoor pet, as he’s shown a lot of stress in a home setting.

We don’t know if he’s dog aggressive or not, but he has been evaluated by a veterinary behaviorist and we’d make all that information available to the potential foster home. It would be ideal if there were no other pets in the home, but a knowledgeable dog person with good separation and time to work with him in a calm environment would be wonderful, too.

Teresa and I would be willing to provide some compensation in the form of a donation to a rescue group, or directly to the foster, if you were the right situation. Lazaruff is already near and dear to our hearts, and he is truly unhappy living in the hospital kennels. We can’t let this continue, but despite reaching out to just about everyone we can think of, we haven’t been able to get him settled somewhere else.

If you or anyone you know is in the Lafayette area and would like to discuss the possibilities, please email me at

Thank you, and keep Lazaruff in your prayers and thoughts!