Anyone who’s watched cartoons will know that dogs absolutely love gnawing on bones, the larger the bone the better - or are they?
Bones are indeed excellent sources of much-needed minerals for our pups. In fact, it’s recommended for 10% of your pet’s diet to be raw bones, whether as a treat or as a meal topper. But in recent years, evidence has been piling up to prove that dog owners need to be more careful with the type of bones they feed their dogs, and the specific way they do so.
Let’s take a look at the issue and see if we can answer some common questions about feeding bones for our dogs - Are bones good for dogs? Or are bones one of the dog foods to avoid? Which type of bones can a dog eat? Can dogs even eat bones?
Animal bones are strong. Sometimes, they’re even strong enough to break your dog's teeth or cause damage to the enamel coating on their teeth, opening the gate for other health and dental issues. Bones, especially cooked ones, splinter easily. Dogs anxious to devour their treats at the speed of light are therefore prone to tiny splinters that can do a lot of damage.
These tiny splinters are microscopic and difficult to wash down, but they can severely damage your pup’s digestive tracts. In some cases, they can even perforate your dog’s intestines, and a condition known as Peritonitis can occur where bacteria infects the abdomen due to punctures in the stomach or intestines of your pup.
Larger pieces of bone that have been gobbled up can also block their windpipe, gullet or any other parts of their digestive system. With the dangers they pose, it’s no wonder many vets warn pet owners to be extra vigilant when feeding their pets bones.
But on the flipside, bones are also great supplements for your pup because they’re delicious and packed with vital nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. These nutrients help build your pup’s bones and teeth, and help improve healthy bodily functions in the heart, muscles and nerves.
Phosphorus itself is also great for dogs to maintain healthy kidneys, muscles and a healthy digestive system. Plus, chewing on bones is great for your dog’s jaws and helps to stimulate them, preventing them from getting too bored. It also helps clean their teeth naturally. With that said, how exactly should you balance the benefits and detriments of doggy bone treats?
The Right Way
In truth, bones are way too tasty and have way too many health benefits to be entirely cut from your dog’s diet. Nevertheless, it’s important to feed the right type of bones to your dog and make sure to be vigilant when they’re feasting on bones.
But exactly what type of bones are good for dogs?
The main rule is to never feed your dog cooked bones, regardless of whether it’s chicken bones, or any other type of bone. Cooked bones are much more brittle and prone to splintering than their uncooked counterparts, so make sure to avoid those. Pork bones in their cooked and uncooked states are also more likely to splinter than any other type of bone, and should generally be avoided.
Also make sure to avoid giving your dog bones that are in small pieces - if they wolf it down in one go, they could easily get choked, or their digestive system could be blocked. While it depends on the size of your dog, a general rule of thumb is to make sure the bones you give your dog are longer than the length of their muzzle, so it’s impossible for them to swallow it down. For dogs that are under the weather and perhaps have stomach issues, it’s better not to give them bones at all.
Just because you’ve bought your bone treats from the store doesn’t exactly mean they’ll be harmless either as some commercially available treats pose the same problems as bones bought at a butcher.
While rawhide chews are sometimes recommended as alternatives, in reality these chews can also cause similar issues as other types of bone treats. The process of manufacturing many of these rawhide treats often leave trace amounts of toxic chemicals and some of these treats may also be contaminated with diseases like Salmonella or E. coli. Even in carefully vetted cases, these artificial chews still contain artificial additives, preservatives and sweeteners that could be cancerous or dangerous to your dog’s health.
The best type of bones to feed your pup is therefore raw chicken, turkey, lamb or beef bones that are on the softer side. Bones likeZeal Veal’s Spare Ribs are easier to chew and digest - but you should still keep a lookout and ensure they aren’t too tough for your dog’s teeth.
BARE’s Australian Premium Roo Chewies are also great treats for well-behaved dogs as they’re naturally made with no artificial ingredients.
There are also larger bones likeZIWI Peak Oral Health Chews that puts chewing sessions together with oral cleaning sessions! These bones tend to be large femur or hip bones that are typically from bison or beef and are chock full of delicious marrow. In many cases, these bones also come attached with meat, and soft tissue still attached - they’re great for your dogs, but you should be extra careful handling these.
Regardless of the type of bone you’re feeding your pup, here are some safety guidelines you should definitely follow:
- Always supervise your dog when they’re chewing on their bones, especially if they’re being aggressive with it as they may injure themselves in the process
- Give your dog 10 to 15 minutes to chew at a time before taking the bone away, reducing the likelihood of any injury occurring
- After your dog is done chewing on their bone treats, rinse it and put it in the refrigerator for the next day. Soaking the bone in vinegar will also help kill bacteria before you put it in the fridge
- Throw the bones away after a few days
- Don’t let your dog eat completely chewed bones as these small bits of bones can splinter easily and are choking hazards as well
- If your dog is the type to decimate their food immediately, it may not be safe to give them bone treats as they could swallow large chunks of bone at once
- Try and give them their bones after meals
- Don’t cut bone treats lengthwise as it will splinter more easily
- Avoid bones with marrow if your dog has pancreatitis
Dogs that aren’t allowed to have whole bones can still enjoy the delicious taste and health benefits of bone treats by trying outWholesome Paws’ Multivitamins Frozen Bone Broth!
While it can be troublesome to feed our furry friends bones with all the safety guidelines in place, these treats are high in nutritional value and dogs go crazy for them. It’s definitely worth the effort to take extra precautions to make sure our pets are always happy, healthy and safe from injury.
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.