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Is It Ok To Feed Bones To Dogs?

Back before the pet food industry really took off and when dogs were mainly kept in working roles, the staple diet of the dog almost always consisted of raw bones and off cuts of bony, gristly meat of all varieties.

In the wild too, of course, dogs would hunt their own prey and eat whatever they got their paws on, gnawing on the bones and marrowbone as well as the meat. However, giving dogs bones as treats has fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years, and in some cases, is even seen as dangerous. At the other end of the scale, some dog owners that follow the BARF (bones and raw food) diet for their dogs feed their dogs almost exclusively on raw meaty bones, and consider this to be the healthiest way to feed their dogs.    

So, for the average dog owner, what is the right way to go about things, and is it ok to give bones to your dog as a treat? Read on for more information.

Are bones safe for dogs?

The answer to this question is basically, it depends upon the bone! Bones from some animals and some cuts of bones are perfectly safe to give to your dog as a treat, and these bones can even have positive effects on your dog’s health, as gnawing at the bone helps to clean the teeth. However, some other types of bones are actually potentially dangerous or harmful to your dog; and it is important to know the difference!


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Cooked bones

It is important that any bones that you consider giving to your dog are fresh and raw, and never cooked. Cooked bones, such as the leftovers from a stew or roast, will be brittle and run the risk of splintering, and can be very harmful to your dog.

Some of the dangers associated with feeding cooked bones to your dog include:

  • Broken teeth
  • Puncture or cut injuries to the mouth and tongue
  • Small bones lodging in the oesophagus or windpipe
  • Bones getting stuck in the stomach, or puncturing the stomach lining
  • Intestinal blockages due to cooked bone fragments
  • Constipation
  • Bleeding due to internal lesions from sharp, splintered bones

What types of bones are safe to feed?

It is ok to give your dog raw bones, depending on the cut and the animal that they came from. Avoid small, delicate bones from small animals such as chicken and other poultry, as these may be sharp and prone to splintering in the same way that cooked bones can. Raw chicken necks, however, are safe to feed, and one of the main component parts of the raw food diet for many dogs.

It is to be expected that your dog will not only gnaw meat from their bone but also in some cases crunch up and eat the bone itself, and this is fine, providing that the bone is of a type that is safe to feed.

Suitable bones for dogs can be divided into two types:

  • Edible bones, where the dog will eat not only the meat but the bone itself
  • Non-edible bones, where the dog will gnaw the meat from the bone and possibly eat the marrow, but not the actual bone

Edible bones will consist of small, hollow bones that are non-weight bearing, such as chicken necks and wings, which are pliable, easy to crush up with the teeth, and do not contain marrow. As previously mentioned, these bones must be raw, and not cooked.

Non-edible bones are bones that provide your dog with recreation and entertainment, and plenty of time spent gnawing the meat and marrow from the bone. However, these are suitable for supplemental feeding only, and do not fulfil all of your dog’s nutritional requirements, so should only be given as a treat.

Suitable cuts of non-edible bones include beef hip bones, femurs and leg bones, or other long, weight-bearing bones filled with marrow and with no sharp edges. Again, these must be given raw, and these types of bones will help to give your dog’s teeth a good cleaning too.

Safety with bones

Even if you are sure that the type of bones you are thinking of giving to your dog are safe and suitable, as with any other toy or treat, it is important to make sure that your dog chews or eats them safely.

  • Supervise your dog when they have a bone, and ensure that they are not trying to bite off more that they can chew, or gnawing off splinters of the bone to create sharp edges.
  • Remember that dogs can be very territorial about toys and food, so ensure that you will be able to take the bone from your dog if you need to before you consider giving it to them.
  • If your dog is likely to try to swallow large chunks of bone whole rather than chewing on it, consider giving them other treats, or ensuring that the bone you provide is too large to fit into their jaw all in one go.

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