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Safely Feed Your Dog Bones

Dogs and bones, they seem like a perfect pair. If you’re keen to feed your pup bones, this post will help you choose the best and safest bones for your pup. But before we dig deeper into various bone types and which ones are suitable for your pup, let’s start by answering commonly asked bone questions.

Cooked or Raw? Raw please.

Most experts agree that it’s much safer to give your dog raw bones than processed or cooked. Cooked or processed bones can easily break and splinter causing choking, blockage and internal damage to your dog’s digestive tract. Cooking the bones also strips off many of their beneficial nutrients. Raw bones are high in calcium and phosphorus.

Can raw bones help clean dog’s teeth? Yes, but…

They also need to be raw meaty bones. For a bone to be teeth cleaning, your dog has to rip, tear and chew the meat off it, and crunch and chew the bone. This activity is similar to what brushing and flossing do to our teeth.

Can chewing bones fracture dog’s teeth?

This is where you have to choose the right bones for your pup. Avoid weight bearing bones or large recreational bones such as marrow bones (esp. if you have an aggressive chewer), and do not feed frozen bones as they can crack or wear down your dog’s teeth.

What about the risks with feeding raw bones, such as bacterial contamination, perforation and obstruction along dog’s digestive tract?

There are risks with everything really. It’s about weighing up the pros and cons, doing research, taking the time to navigate it with your dog and choose the right bones for them individually. We’ll talk more about bone types and the associated risks in a moment.

With the risk of bacterial contamination, always make sure bones are fresh and human-grade quality. Never leave your dog’s bones lying around for days making them a perfect breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria. As bones dry out, they can also become hard, splintery and dangerous for your dog’s teeth. Always supervise when giving your dog bones to prevent choking or bone fragments getting caught in their teeth, jaws or mouth.

Can raw bones cause diarrhoea or constipation?

Dogs who are new to raw bones, or eating more bones than usual, can suffer from loose stools. This is normally caused by the rich and fatty marrow inside the bone.

Eating large amounts of bone can also cause constipation. You may notice your pup’s stools hard, chalky (white even), dry and crumbly. Make sure your dog is gnawing on the meat and not chomping down too much bone. If you suspect your dog may have a bowel obstruction, call your vet immediately.

Sometimes your dog may vomit or poop bits of undigested bone. This may be a case of a particular protein not sitting well with them or they may need some extra help digesting the bone. Dogs, especially raw fed dogs, have a very acidic gut designed to effectively kill pathogenic bacteria and breakdown raw meats and bones into soft digestible material. However when dogs have a high starch diet (e.g. kibble), the gastric PH may be less acidic. You can consider adding some digestive enzymes or apple cider vinegar to help lower the pH in the gut. Consult with your vet or pet nutritionist if you’re unsure.

Ok, let’s talk about bone types now…

When people talk about giving their pups raw bones, often they generalise the types of bones. In fact, there are two types of raw bones, each has a different purpose and physical characteristics.

Edible Raw Bones

Edible Raw Bones (or Raw Meaty Bones) are hollow and non weight bearing. They’re soft, pliable and do not contain marrow. These bones can be eaten entirely in a meal. They provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals that are essential for your dog’s diet. Pictured are examples of edible raw bones.

Which Edible Raw Bones are suitable for your pup?

The following information is recommendations only. Consult with your vet or pet nutritionist if you’re unsure. If your pup has gulping tendencies, it’s recommended to feed larger bones to encourage chewing and prevent choking.

Small Breed Dogs require less dense bones. Examples are whole quail, chicken wings, duck feet and chicken necks.
Medium Breed Dogs can have what small breed dogs have, and more such as chicken back, duck necks, chicken feet, duck wings and pork tails.
Large & Giant Breed Dogs require larger cuts to prevent choking. Examples are chicken back, duck frame, turkey necks, pork trotter, lamb ribs, turkey wingettes and wing tips.

Be cautious about feeding drumsticks due to them splintering and machine cut bones like soup bones and bone-in pork chops as they can be quite sharp. If your dog is a newbie to raw bones, teach them to eat a bone and always supervise. NO cooked bones ever!

Recreational Raw Bones

Recreational Raw Bones are bones good for chewing, not eating, as the name suggests. These bones provide great muscle-building activity, mental stimulation and oral health benefits, especially the meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached. They don’t supply significant dietary nutrition and are an addition to your dog’s diet. Common recreational raw bones are long bones and flat bones.

Long bones are made for weight bearing and they tend to have a hard, smooth surface with loads of marrow in the centre. The ends of these bones are soft and contain a lot of cartilage. Examples of long bones are marrow bones, femur bones and knuckle bones. Dogs with a sensitive stomach, pancreatic and weight issues should not be fed bones with excessive fat or marrow.

Flat bones are softer than long bones and don’t contain as much marrow. They also have more convoluted surfaces. Examples of flat bones are beef/lamb neck bones, beef/lamb/pork/goat ribs and pelvic bones. Generally lamb/pork/goat ribs are safe to feed as edible raw bones for medium to giant breed dogs. Beef ribs are denser and more suitable for recreational bones.

Which Recreational Raw Bones are suitable for your pup?

  1. As a general rule, match the bone size to your dog’s head (width ways). It’s always safer to give a bone that’s too big rather than too small.
  2. Know your dog – Is he an aggressive chewer? Does she tend to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in big chunks? Does he have resource guarding issue? These determine which recreational raw bones to give. Try giving different bone types and see how your pup handles them. Always supervise and make sure you have another high value treat for a trade off just in case you have to take the bone away.
  3. If your pup is an aggressive chewer, stay away from pork bones or rib bones or bones that have been cut lengthwise as they’re more likely to splinter and cause mouth trauma. Also avoid weight bearing bones as they may fracture their teeth. Edible raw bones may be more appropriate for overzealous chewers.
  4. Don’t give a recreational bone if your pup is likely to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in big chunks. Consider giving edible raw bones instead or offer bones when your dog is full from a meal.
  5. In multi-dog households, separate the dogs before giving recreational bones to prevent resource guarding issue. Discard uneaten bones.

Hope you find this information useful and can make better-informed decision about which raw bones to feed your dog. All the best x