There’s been a long and contentious debate in the pet world about whether it’s safe to feed your dogs bones. Some veterinarians say bones are a dangerous food item. Others claim raw bones are actually healthy for dogs. Despite not having one concrete answer, today we’re going to talk about the 10 rules most pet owners and veterinarians agree on when giving your dog bones:
Avoiding the wrong bones can avoid headache and heartbreak
1. Always Supervise
Bones can get stuck between teeth or down your dog’s esophagus, so it’s important to watch for signs of trouble. If the bones are shattering into small pieces, you will have to take the bone away before it can cause damage when your dog swallows it.
2. Avoid Cooked Bones
Never give your dog cooked bones from chicken, fish, or beef. Cooked bones splinter and cause pain and injury not limited to your dog’s gums, throat, and internal organs.
3. Raw Bones for Raw Diets
Advocates of the BARF diet (bones and raw foods) claim that dogs are capable of digesting raw bones without issue because their stomach and intestinal tracts have been adapted to contract their muscles during digestion to make sure the bones pass properly. They also praise bones for cleaning their dog’s teeth, preventing bloat, and relieving constipation. Raw bone proponents say raw bones do not splinter like cooked bones, so the chances of shards cutting your dog internally during digestion are minimized. Raw chicken, turkey, and lamb bones, beef tails, and poultry necks are safe choices. They provide roughage and fiber to add weight to your dog’s stool and clean out their digestive tract. Be aware that all raw bones can carry harmful bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella. They also spoil quickly. Raw or cooked pork bones have a higher rate of trichinosis and should be avoided.
4. Stay Away From Raw Beef Marrow Bones
Your dog likes chewing on bones to satisfy his desire to crunch with his teeth. Dogs can’t crunch large beef marrow bones because they’re too hard and can cause serious dental damage.
5. Beware of Beef Ribs
Beef ribs can get stuck in your dog’s throat if he swallows them whole. Make sure your dog chews them well.
6. Mix Small Bone Fragments With Food
If your dog is on a cooked food diet, but you can’t find boneless meat, you can mix ground, cooked bone fragments in with the meat. Just make sure the pieces are smaller than ¼ inch.
7. Bones for Chewing (NOT Eating)
Your dog will love chewing on large joints such as knuckle bones, but the second the bones start to shatter or splinter off into smaller pieces, you must take the bone away. These tiny chunks can cause your dog to choke or cause obstructions during digestion.
8. Choose Your Bone Meal Carefully
If you don’t want to give your dogs whole bones, but you still want them to get the nutritional value bones provide, consider adding finely ground bone meal to their diet. This will provide calcium and phosphorous while eliminating obstruction, internal scratches, or harmful penetration by sharp bones. Most low quality ground bone meal has limited nutritional value since it’s mostly heat processed. Check to see how much your dog needs as an excess of bone meal can compromise other mineral ratios in your dog.
9. Everything But the Bone
Make sure you understand how the nutritional aspects of bones compares to the stress of a possible emergency situation. As T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM, at PetMD says: “There are no vitamins, no omega fatty acids in bone, no digestive enzymes, and only scant amounts of poorly digestible amino acids locked up in the collagen.” The healthy part of bones doesn’t come from the actual bone itself, but from the nutrition your dog will get from the surrounding meat, fat, and connective tissue still left on it. If you’re uncomfortable with your dog eating bones, let him chew off the meat and fat, then take the bone away.
10. Rawhide: a Safer Bone Replacer?
Hard rawhide bones may give your dog a safer outlet for his chewing. These bones don't splinter during digestion so they won’t tear up your dog’s insides. However, large pieces can pose a choking hazard or potential blockage. Some dogs may also experience tummy issues such as diarrhea from potential contamination during processing. Check out these rawhide safety tips from PetMD for more information. Speak with your veterinarian about how to incorporate a few of these safety rules into your dog’s diet.