The trend toward holistic and raw feeding is flourishing, though there are still many myths and speculations around how safe it is to feed our dogs raw bones. Based on our research, it is our view that raw bones play a crucial role in the healthy diet of a dog, and even for cats.
There is no simple way to prove this – in the end information and your own level of comfort is key.
The best starting point is always your own pet: it is important to know your dog/cat and what works for them or not. Many dogs thrive on a diet consisting of raw meaty bones but of course there are stories of fractured teeth; esophageal or intestinal obstruction; and more commonly, constipation.
Here is a guide on what bones to feed your dog and what to look out for.
- Beef bones filled with marrow provide mental stimulation and are great for oral health. Beef bones are for gnawing on, not swallowing. Therefore make sure you give your dog the appropriate size that he/she cannot swallow it.
- Do always supervise, if you notice any blood around the bone or your dog’s mouth, rather take it away – your dog could be chewing a little too hard.
- Never give recreational bones to a dog that is known for swallowing food whole or would try to break the bones into smaller pieces; that would more than likely break the teeth!
SOFTER RECREATIONAL BONES
- When your dog chews on a raw bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, the teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease.
- Pork bone is high in protein and a dog’s diet should consist primarily of protein.
- Raw bones also tend to produce chalkier, less smelly stools because the body uses more of the nutrients.
- Pork bone density is a lot softer than beef bones, almost like a slightly harder cartilage type and these bones are great for fast days.
NON WEIGHT-BEARING EDIBLE BONES
- Chicken bones are probably the most controversial bones of them all. We have always been told the bones splint and are a choking hazard. However, raw chicken bones are actually soft and very pliable! It is the cooking and boiling of chicken bones that changes the density and structure, often resulting in dangerous splints.
- The bones from chicken provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which, as such, are an essential part of the diet and play an important role in providing a balanced raw diet.
- It is very important to know that it is not impossible for blockages to occur when feeding raw chicken bones; especially if your dog tends to gobble up food.
- Chicken wings and necks are good sizes to feed medium to small breeds, or fussy eaters.
- We do, however, recommend whole carcasses and/or larger chunks of chicken for bigger breeds, or for dogs that are known to gobble up their food. Feeding pieces still semi frozen could also aid in helping your dog chew more slowly.
The anatomy and physiology of cats and dogs tell us that they are designed to digest raw bones. They have large canine teeth and strong jaws to crush bones, and their digestive track is much shorter than a human’s so that the food reaches the highly acidic stomach environment (to digest bones) quicker.
Raw bones can provide almost all the important nutrients our pets require. Raw bones contain marrow which consists mainly of fat and blood components – both high quality nutrients (aside from the nutrients contained in the bone itself).
Cooking bones do, however, render them brittle, hard and in most cases indigestible. This could also also result in sharp, dangerous fragments which are known to cause blockages, internal punctures and constipation. The cooking process also removes important nutrients from the bone.
As we said before, every dog is different – and it must be said, for some, any amount/type of bones can have an undesired effect (even if fed raw). Some dogs are just prone to constipation and others simply can’t handle the fat content which could cause an upset tummy.
Raw bones can be safe and healthy if the correct precautions are taken. But don’t let over caution distract you from giving your pet every chance to thrive and lead his/her best life.
Dr Karen Becker: Bones and your dog Part 1
Dr Karen Becker: Bones and your dog Part 2
The Nest - Are Pork Bones Safe for Dogs?