In cartoons and stylized pictures, dogs are often depicted with nice big bones in their mouths or in their bowls. But while canines do love to chew on bones, there are some safety issues and things to keep in mind before treating your pup with a bone.
In fact, there has been an ongoing debate about whether one should feed dogs with bones at all or not. In some cases, bones can be harmful and downright dangerous for pups. In others – they can bring health benefits and be good for them.
As usual, we recommend that you discuss giving your dog bones, chews, or any new foods with your vet before proceeding.
To keep your pet safe and for peace of mind, we recommend that you read on through the information regarding the potential risks for dogs from eating bones. Also included are the safe bones to give to your pup, the potential health benefits from them, as well as some basic safety guidelines for feeding bones to canines.
Cooked Bones Should be Avoided
It would be best to abstain from giving your pup cooked bones of any kind. The main reason is that when the bones are cooked, they dry up and become weaker. This makes them more prone to splintering in shards.
Needless to say, these shards can cause mild to serious damage to the dog’s mouth, esophagus, and digestive system. There are other potential dangers for canines from eating such bones.
Here are some of the main risks for dogs from eating cooked bones:
- Broken teeth
- Tongue or mouth injuries
- Looped bone on the jaw
- Esophagus, windpipe, or gastrointestinal obstruction
- Rectal bleeding
- Punctures in the intestines or stomach can lead to life-threatening peritonitis
How About Bone Treats From Stores?
These store-bought bone treats are processed, and the manufacturers either bake or smoke them or add preservatives, artificial flavors, and seasoning.
According to the FDA, the bone treats available commercially can pose dangers for dogs and cause illnesses. This warning was based on 35 reports of pups who suffered from various conditions related to eating such bones in 2015.
Some of the adverse effects and illnesses reported from the consumption of commercial bone treats include:
- Blockage of the gastrointestinal system
- Cuts and lacerations of the mouth or tongue
- Rectal bleeding
- Death (of eight dogs in 2015)
So, ask your vet before giving your dog such store-bought bone alternatives.
Are Rawhides OK?
These chews can cause similar problems and conditions as the abovementioned commercial bone treats.
Some rawhides are made with added artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and additives, which are not only harmful but can be dangerous for canines.
Plus, during the manufacturing process, these products are left with trace amounts of hazardous chemicals in some cases.
In some cases, rawhides can even pose the danger of e.coli or salmonella contamination in pups.
What Types of Bones Should You Give Your Pup?
If you are determined to reward your pup with a bone or add bones to its regular diet, you should pick a safer option.
As mentioned earlier, steer away from cooked bones. Most raw bones are a better choice for canines.
Raw turkey, chicken, beef, or lamb bones are soft enough for the dogs to chew on them safely without breaking or damaging their teeth.
The recreational bones which you can find at some butcher shops, including the huge hip or femur beef or bison bones filled with marrow, are meant for chewing and keeping the dog entertained rather than for eating. Some of them even still have some soft tissue, cartilage, or meat attached to them. Ask your butcher next time for such bones.
But keep in mind that any raw bone or piece of meat carries the risk of parasite or bacterial contamination. So, ask your vet about how to store and feed raw bones to your pup.
Also, the risks of choking, obstruction, and others remain even when you are feeding your dog with raw bones. So make sure you follow the safety guidelines and monitor your pup when it is chewing on a bone.
The Safety Guidelines to Follow
Here are the main safety guidelines that dog parents should follow when feeding their pups bones:
Always supervise the chewing, and never leave your dog alone with a bone. The reason is that you will watch whether the dog is not too aggressive, which can cause mouth and tooth injuries and whether it doesn’t choke on a piece of the bone.
Make sure to throw away the bones which your dog has gnawed down. This will help prevent the dog from reaching the brittle parts of the bone, which can cause splintering, punctures, and peritonitis. Plus, a bone that has been gnawed to a small size is a potential choking hazard for canines.
If your pup has had restorative dental work or dental problems, bones are a no-no.
If your dog has problems with the pancreas, do not feed it bones because any leftover fat or bone marrow can lead to flare-ups and to pancreatitis.
Avoid giving bones to dogs that tend to swallow large pieces without chewing to avoid choking and obstructions.
Always give your dog a bone after it has eaten. A less hungry dog is less likely to quickly chew down and swallow the bone.
Do not give your dog a bone that is small enough for the pup to be able to swallow it whole. The safe size of the bone depends on the size of your dog.
Always make sure to give your pup bones that are longer than their muzzles. This, too, will prevent them from swallowing the bones and choking or blocking their gastrointestinal organs.
Avoid giving your dog bones that have been cut in length because they are more likely to break down and splinter.
Limit the bone chewing to 15 minutes. This will help reduce the risk of injury or adverse effects.
Store the bones in the fridge, and throw them away after 3-4 days to avoid bacterial growth and contamination.
How Can Feeding my Dog Bones Benefit its Health?
Chewing is a natural and essential behavior in canines. Recreational bones can help clean the dog’s teeth, and sinewy bone can also help reduce tartar and prevent gum disease.
When the dog chews, saliva enzymes are produced. They are essential for preventing the buildup of plaque on the teeth.
Pups who chew bones are much less likely to lick their paws or scratch excessively.
Most raw bones are rich in phosphorus, calcium, and other minerals. Bones with cartilages are a natural source of collagen, which is vital for the health of the dog’s cartilages, and joints.
Raw bones can also benefit the digestive system of dogs by strengthening the muscles of the stomach, which helps promote regular and healthy bowel movements and can reduce the risk of bloat. Bones can also help prevent problems with the anal glands in canines.
Last but not least, chewing bones can provide mental stimulation for dogs as well. This can help reduce nervousness, boredom and anxiety and thus make the dog calmer, keep it entertained and prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.
Related: How much should I feed my dog? Factors to consider
Final Verdict – is it Worth it Giving Your Pup Bones?
Unfortunately, not all vets and canine nutritionists agree on this, so there is no definite right or wrong answer to this question.
Some claim that chewing raw bones carries more benefits than risks. Others do not agree and suggest that dog parents sprinkle some bone powder on the dog’s food instead of risking choking, obstruction, and other hazards from bone chewing.
Remember to discuss giving your dog bones with your veterinarian.
Ultimately, the choice depends on your vet’s professional advice in regards to your specific dog and on your views of the pros and cons of giving bones to dogs.