It’s common knowledge that dogs love chewing on tasty bones, but there is a lot of conflicting information about whether or not it’s safe. Knowing what kind of bones are OK (chicken? Cow?) and what type it should be (cooked? Raw?) can feel like a mind field.
We’ve put together all the most up-to-date research to save you from hours of research.
Why Dogs Need to Chew – the Health Benefits
Dogs love to chew. It is a natural urge for all breeds. If you don’t allow your dog to satisfy this urge, you may find your favourite pair of shoes covered in drool or your dining room table’s leg gnawed on. Chewing is a stress reliever and decreases their anxiety.
Chewing a bone acts like brushing and flossing their teeth. It breaks down tartar and stops gum disease.
Bones also help prevent dogs from licking their own paws. They are a good source of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals. They help the digestive system, prevent bloating, help bowel movements, result in less faeces which is also said to be less smelly, and also helps with anal gland health.
While some cooked bones are relatively “safe”, it’s recommended that you avoid all cooked bones entirely as the cooking process can make them soft. Soft bones splinter and break easily which can lead to a number of injuries including:
- Mouth and tongue cuts
- Blockages in the throat
- Intestinal blockages
- Rectal bleeding
- Peritonitis (a bacterial infection caused by wounds in the stomach or intestines)
The FDA receives constant complaints about the ill-effects of store-bought bone treats. These included lamb bones, pork femur bones, rib bones, and smokey knuckle bones, all of which had been dried out through smoking or baking. Preservatives, seasonings and smoke flavours are then added before the “bones” are sealed.
The FDA claimed to receive the following reported illnesses due to store-bought bone treats:
- Blockage in the digestive system
- Cuts and other wounds in the mouth, on the tonsils, or in the throat
- Rectal bleeding
- Death – approximately 15 dogs out of the 90 reportedly died after eating a bone treat
Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, “Giving your dog a bone treat might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.”
Rawhide bones pose similar threats with the addition of toxic chemicals and the potential of contamination with Salmonella or E.Coli.
Bones in general are not meant to be eaten in their entirety; they are supposed to be chewed to satisfy their natural chewing urges. They are usually covered in meat sinews and tasty leftover tissue.
Raw chicken, turkey, lamb and beef bones are all considered safe for dogs to consume. They are relatively soft to chew, eat and digest. However, they still pose a choking hazard if not chewed thoroughly, so it is important you NEVER leave a dog unaccompanied when they are chewing.
Here’s the Best Way to Feed Raw Bones:
- ALWAYS supervise
- Throw out over-chewed bones
- Do not give bones to a dog with restorative dental work
- Don’t give bones with marrow to dogs who can develop pancreatitis (marrow is high in fat and can cause diarrhoea)
- Avoid giving bones to overly enthusiastic chewers (dogs who eat their toys or wolf their food down)
- Give their bone after feeding time to reduce hungry dogs from chewing and swallowing too quickly
- Don’t give them bones that can be swallowed whole (for example, a chicken bone poses a big choking hazard to a Great Dane)
- Give your dog a bone that is longer than their muzzle
- Do not give them a bone cut lengthways (they tend to be more prone to splintering)
- Do not give them pork or rib bones (these are more likely to splinter)
- Let your dog chew for 10 to 15 minutes at any one time
- Keep bones in the refrigerator when not in use, and throw them away after 3 days
Chewing a bone is a healthy, fun thing for dogs to do; follow these simple rules to keep them safe.