Dog bones – Are they safe for your dog? For years, pet owners have been feeding both raw and cooked bones to their beloved canine companion and there has been a great deal of controversy and debate as to whether or not animal bones are a safe treat for our precious pooch. Before you give your dog a bone, you should understand the risks involved when giving your dog animal bones to chew on.
What Are The Different Types Of Dog Bones?
So what are these bones that we are talking about? Generally, there are 3 types of ‘bones’ that you see dogs chewing on:
Processed Dog Bones / Dog Chews
Processed dog bones are those which you could purchase online or in a pet or retail store. They are usually composed of products/by-products from cows, pigs and other farm animals. These include pigs feet, rawhide bones and actual bone parts. Often they come with other flavouring such as beef to make them more appetizing to dogs. You should be cautious of issues such as cross-contamination and choking hazards.
Synthetic Dog Bones / Rubber Toys
Synthetic bones are just that, man-made bones. They are generally made of rubber and nylon that has been molded to in the form of a bone. They are often used for teething bones for puppies and for separation anxiety.
Natural Dog Bones / Animal Bones
These are they type of bones we will be discussing in today’s topic. Natural dog bones are those which you can “make” at home from table scraps or purchase at a butcher. Marrow bones are the most common type of natural dog bones that owners give to their pets. The ones usually given to dogs to chew on are pork ribs or beef bones.
Are Raw or Cooked Bones Safe For My Dog?
We all love our dogs and the temptation to give them leftover bones from our daily meals are so easy to give into, especially with the way they have been eyeing it. However, both cooked and raw bones present many hazards such as choking and splintering.
If a piece of a raw or cooked bone breaks off while your dog is chewing it, it could become lodged in their throat, stomach lining, or any other organ. This could cause choking, bleeding and a plethora of other serious health issues, and could even be fatal if serious enough.
Believe it or not, cooked bones prove much more dangerous for dogs. When bones are cooked, whether baked, broiled or boiled, their structure changes and weaken so they can break and splinter even more than when they are in their raw and natural state. While cooking a bone will kill any harmful bacteria or parasites, it becomes much more hazardous than feeding your dog a raw bone. The bottom line is – you should NEVER FEED YOUR DOG COOKED BONES!
Although many animal ‘experts’ argue that raw bones are the better choice as they might be less of a choking hazard as they are less likely to break or shatter, most veterinarians do not recommend feeding your dog bones at all. There is a chance that your dog might get a parasitic infection amongst other concerns. In general, bones in general are not recommended for small breed dogs as they are at higher risk for choking on bones.
Are There Any Benefits From Chewing Bones?
Despite the aforementioned risks and dangers, there are in fact several benefits from chewing raw bones for dogs. However, it is important to weigh the dangers over the benefits, as there are many alternatives to chewing bones.
Here are some benefits of chewing bones:
- Relieves Boredom
Dogs can become bored or restless, just like us. Bones are a good way to keep dogs occupied, especially for long periods of time. It is also believed that chewing bones does provide a calming effect to some dogs as well.
Many owners will give their dog a bone to distract them or keep them occupied while they are not home. However, as there is a possible risk of choking, especially if your dog is left chewing bones while unattended, it is not recommended that you give your dog any type of bone, raw or cooked, while they are not under your direct supervision, for safety reasons.
- Satisfies the Need to Chew
Dogs have the natural urge to chew and exercise their jaw muscles., and this means that they would love to chew on anything they can find -from furniture to your favourite shoes!
This is especially true for puppies, due to teething and perhaps separation anxiety. So of course, many owners are tempted to give their growing puppies bones to help prevent them from destroying their personal belongings. This is a bad choice as bones are definitely not recommended for smaller dogs and especially puppies.
- Helps with Dental Care
If you have ever tried to brush your dog’s teeth, you know that this is not an easy task! While it has been proven that chewing bones can help dogs remove plaque from their teeth the risk of your dog breaking their teeth on a bone is another possibility. Why risk damaging your pup’s teeth if there are much better modern alternatives in this day and age?
What Are The Risks/Dangers of Giving My Dog a Bone?
There are many risks involved in giving your dog a bone. What are some of the most common dangers/risks to feeding your dogs bones, whether raw, processed or cooked?
Dogs can very easily break their teeth on bones, which can then require expensive dental/veterinary care.
Bones, especially cooked bones, can break easily and therefore present severe choking hazards for your dog, especially when they are left unattended. Puppies and small breed dogs are at high risk for choking hazards with bones.
Cooked or brittle bones from fowls usually splinter which most likely cause a variety of dangers for your dog such as getting stuck in their windpipe, jaw or oesophagus. Your dog can cut his mouth, throat or tongue on a fragment from a bone, which can be very serious.
Not only can pieces of bone get stuck in your dog’s mouth or esophagus, they can also get caught in the digestive organs, causing a variety of issues from bleeding to constipation. The bone fragments may be too hard for your dog to pass and this can cause significant and expensive damage to your dog.
Sharp or splintered bone fragments can cause severe internal and/or rectal bleeding, which can often be life threatening.
Peritonitis is an abdominal bacterial infection which is very difficult to treat. It is caused when bones fragments poke holes in your dogs intestines or stomach organs. This needs immediate, ongoing medical care and can often be fatal.
When Is It Okay To Give My Dog A Bone?
If you want to try giving your dog a bone, opt for raw bones such as uncooked lamb or beef bones. Make sure that they are soft enough for your dog to chew, swallow and digest and do not prevent a choking hazard. However, you should never give your dog bones while they are unsupervised. Here are some precautions you should take when feeding your dog bones:
What Should I Do Before Giving My Dog A Bone?
- ALWAYS supervise your dog when giving him/her a bone
- Examine bones for any broken parts such as cracks or splinters
- Fresh raw bones can be messy so give them to your dog in a confined area such as his crate.
- If you have more than one dog, separate them when giving bones as dogs can be extremely food aggressive and territorial when it comes to bones.
- Dispose of any bones that are gnawed/chewed down to the point where they can become dangerous or a choking hazard.
- Always give your dog bones that are longer than the length or their muzzle as they will not be able to swallow them.
- Do not give your dog a bone before meals as they will devour them too quickly if they are hungry and thus can be or of a choking hazard
So When Should I Avoid Giving My Dog Bones?
There are definitely some situations in which it is not recommended giving your dog bones. They are as follows:
- Do not give bones to smaller breed dogs/puppies
- Do not give bones to dogs that do not have teeth or have just had dental work/crowns
- Do not give bones to dogs who have a predisposition to pancreatitis or Peritonitis
- Do not give your dog pork or rib bones as they are more likely to splinter/break
- Do not give bones to senior dogs
- Do not give your dog any bone which they could swallow whole.
- Do not give dogs with digestive issues bones containing marrow as this can cause severe diarrhea.
If you do decide to give your dog bones, here are some recommended bones specially prepared for dogs:
What Are Some Other Healthy Alternatives To Bones?
Of course, if you do not feel confident that it is safe to give your dog raw or uncooked bones, there are some alternatives:
- Free from plain flour, sodium, dairy and sugar
- No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives
- Single ingredient, grain-free dehydrated dog treats
- Lavender and chamomile extracts for a calming effect
- Fortified with vitamins and minerals
- Highly digestible
- Grain free
- No additives or preservatives
- High levels of omega fatty and amino acids
- Home-made treats from venison ears
- 100% Grain free
- Low in fat
- High in protein
- Recommended for medium and large breed dogs
A Final Note
As you can see there are both pros and cons of giving your dogs raw or cooked bones. It is up to you to decided if you wish to give your dog bones at all. Remember there are always better alternatives suited for your dog. Furthermore, you can find other types of edible chews and chew toys for your dog.