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Some say dogs love to chew on bones and it’s good for them. Others say bones are dangerous for your dog. Who is right?
Are there health benefits? What about risks? Before feeding your dog a bone, know the facts. Not all bones are good for your dog, but some are.
If you are well-informed, giving your dog a bone can be safe and even good for your four-legged friend. But, if you haven’t done your homework, giving your dog a bone can be very dangerous. Below is the information you need to help you determine which bones will be good for your dog and which ones to avoid.
Bones To Always Avoid
Do not give your dog bones that are cooked, including bones from table scraps. Cooked bones are not safe for dogs to eat. They can easily break and splinter. Below are some of the dangers your dog can encounter with cooked bones.
- Broken teeth
- Mouth or tongue injuries
- Bones looped around the lower jaw
- Windpipe, esophagus, or gastrointestinal blockage
- Rectal bleeding
- Peritonitis–a bacterial infection of the abdomen caused by punctures in the stomach or intestines
Just the other day I was at Target and grabbed a package of three bones for my dog. When I was making my purchase, the checker confiscated the bones and told me there was a recall on them. Hopefully, they have taken these bones off the shelf.
Additionally, the FDA warns that commercially available bone treats, which are often processed and differ from the bones you might receive from a butcher, may present similar dangers and cause illnesses in dogs. In 2015, the FDA received 35 reports of dogs suffering from a variety of conditions related to commercially available bone treat products including Ham Bones, Pork Femur Bones, Rib Bones, and Smokey Knuckle Bones. These products are often dried through smoking or baking and can contain preservatives, seasoning, or smoke flavoring. The dogs in the reports suffered from the following:
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- Cuts in the mouth or on tonsils
- Rectal bleeding
- Death (in the case of eight of the dogs)
Rawhide chews sometimes cause similar conditions. The manufacturing process of these bones leaves them with trace amounts of toxic chemicals, and they have the potential for contamination with Salmonella or E. coli. These chews can cause digestion problems, as well as blockages. Also, artificial dog chews can contain gelatin, artificial sweeteners, and other additives and preservatives that may be toxic or cancer-causing.
Bones To Give Your Dog
(Healthiest Dog Bones)
Most raw bones that have not been cooked are edible for dogs. Raw chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef bones are soft enough to chew, eat, and digest. That said, with all bones, there is a risk of choking if your dog swallows without thoroughly chewing, and bones that are too hard can cause damage to their teeth. As long as you follow the safety guidelines below, these bones should be fine.
Recreational bones are not designed to be edible, but rather chewed by dogs. These can include large femur or hip bones from bison or beef and are filled with marrow. These bones may have meat, cartilage, or soft tissue still attached. You can usually find these at your local butcher. As long as you follow the Safety Guidelines below, your dog will be able to safely savor the bones.
If you’d like to give your dog a bone, follow these rules and your dog will have an enjoyable experience.
- Supervise your dog. You can’t leave your dog to chew a bone alone. They may bite off too much and choke or gnaw too aggressively and cause mouth injury.
- Throw out gnawed down bones. If your dog chews a knuckle bone, for example, down to the brittle part, splintering becomes a problem. Additionally, a bone that has been chewed down too small becomes a choking hazard.
- Do not give a bone to a dog that has had restorative dental work. These dogs are more at risk for tooth breakage and other dental problems.
- Do not give a bone with marrow to dogs that are susceptible to pancreatitis. Marrow is high in fat and can cause a flare up or diarrhea.
- Do not give a bone to a dog that is likely to bite it in half and swallow large chunks. You know how your dog eats. If your dog is more interested in swallowing food quickly rather than chewing, a bone may present a risk.
- Give the bone after a meal. A dog that is less hungry is less likely to chew a bone and swallow it quickly.
- Don’t feed your dog a bone that can be swallowed whole.
- Give your dog a bone that is longer than the length of their muzzle. This will make it impossible for them to swallow.
- Don’t feed your dog a bone that has been cut lengthwise. A cut leg bone, for example, may be more likely to splinter.
- Don’t feed your dog pork or rib bones. These bones are likely to splinter.
- Let your dog chew for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. This will reduce the likelihood of injury.
- Refrigerate bones that are not in use. Throw them out after three to four days. This will reduce the likelihood of bacterial contamination.
The Health Benefits Of Bones
Chewing is a natural and important behavior for dogs. Recreational bones act like a brush and floss for a dog’s teeth. The lean bones break tartar down and reduce gum disease, cleaning the teeth. Chewing also stimulates the production of saliva enzymes, which prevent plaque buildup.
Raw bones are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals. They have benefits to the digestive system, including strengthening the stomach muscles, preventing bloating, fostering healthy bowel movements, and preventing anal gland problems.
In addition to physical health, chewing has the benefit of mentally stimulating dogs. This can actually reduce anxiety, which is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
As to whether the health benefits outweigh the risks of feeding your dog bones, many veterinarians disagree on this issue. Ultimately, the choice is yours as the owner of your dog. Some advocate grinding bones into a powder to be sprinkled over food, which can provide the minerals from bones to your dog’s diet without the risks of choking or other complications. This does, however, also eliminate the benefits of chewing. When going over the pros and cons, you should do your research and discuss these issues with your veterinarian before you decide to give your dog a bone.