Are Bones Safe For Dogs?
It’s a universally known fact that bones are dogs’ favorite chew things. It’s also commonly accepted that it is safe and even healthy to chuck leftover bones to your dog, regardless of size or type. After all, dogs in the wild have always eaten every part of their prey including bones, seemingly without issues. On top of that, wild dogs tend to have beautifully healthy teeth and gums as a result.
But it is really safe to feed any bones to your dog?
The answer to this question is no and yes. It really all depends on the bone. Although some will claim that any bone, regardless of type or size, is unsafe for dogs and significantly increases their chances of choking or ending up at the vet, other veterinarians will tell you otherwise.
The level of safety, when it comes to chew bones, lies not only in size but also in whether or not the bone has been cooked.
Cooked Bones and Dangers
For many pet owners, that large juicy looking ham or roast bone may seem like a wonderful treat for their beloved pet. However, there are many dangers involved in giving your dog cooked bones of any kind.
When a bone goes through the cooking process it becomes brittle. When a bone becomes brittle it is highly more likely to splinter while being chewed. If splintered bones are ingested they can lead to serious internal injuries for your dog and may even require emergency surgery to be removed.
Aside from the danger factor, cooked bones hold much less nutritional value for your dogs, making them not at all worth the risk of harm.
The list of possible injuries that can occur if you give your dog a cooked bone is long and scary. At the very least a cooked bone can result in broken teeth, requiring pricey visits to the vet for dentistry repairs. Cooked bones can also inflict lacerations in your dog’s mouth, especially on the roof and tongue. Even without a trip to the vet, this experience can be painful and scary for your vet and create quite the mess for you.
If the bone does make it past your dog’s mouth without harm, the next level of threats presents themselves on it’s way from mouth to the stomach. Bone shards can lodge themselves in the esophagus, causing your dog to gag and try to bring it back up. If they are unsuccessful a trip to the vet will be in order for alternate means of removal.
Additionally, if your dog happens to inhale sharply during the chewing and swallowing process, a sliver could make it’s way into the windpipe, interfering with their ability to breathe. This will most definitely require an immediate emergency trip to the vet.
Should the bone make it to the stomach just fine, there is still the high possibility that it can get stuck in the stomach and be unable to pass through to the intestines? This may require surgery or an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and can be quite uncomfortable for your pet and pricey on your pocketbook.
Surgery is also needed should the bone get stuck in the intestines.
In addition to surgical procedures, your dog could develop peritonitis. This is a bacterial infection that occurs when the splintered bone pokes holes in the lining of the stomach or in the intestines. This can get out of hand quickly and be deathly if not treated.
Last, but certainly not least, fragmented bones can lead to constipation in a couple of different ways. Firstly, when sharp fragments scrape the intestine and rectum, it can cause significant enough pain that your dog will have trouble passing stool. In addition, the high calcium content in bones can make your dogs stool very firm, which is also difficult to pass.
Raw Bones and Health Benefits
Now for the good news. Raw bones are safe for your dog as long as they are used properly. Raw bones provide your dog with wonderful nutritional benefits as well as acting like a good brushing and flossing for maintaining optimal canine dental health. On top of all of that they work out the jaw muscle, give some good mental stimulation and are a flavorful treat. There are a couple different options to choose from.
Edible raw bones are any bones that are non-weight bearing and hollow in a bird. These are usually such bones as the necks from turkeys and chickens or the wings from chickens. These bones do not pose a threat because they are easily crushed by your dog’s teeth as they are pliable and soft with no marrow.
As your pup enjoys these tasty treats they will also reap their benefits, namely trace minerals, calcium, and phosphorus to help keep your dog’s raw food diet well balanced.
Recreational raw bones are bones that are large enough that they will not be crushed or broken into pieces small enough to consume. Bones like giant pieces of femur and hip that are filled with marrow can be given to your dog to chew and gnaw on to their heart’s content.
The meatier the better, as any extra bits of soft tissues and cartilage that are on the bone will act as floss and toothbrush to thoroughly clean and freshen your dog’s teeth by breaking down tartar which will help minimize the chances of gum diseases.
Do’s and Dont’s For Feeding With Raw Bones
Although recreational bones are safe with proper supervision, leaving your dog unattended can result in any of the dangers already discussed with cooked bones, should the raw bone be accidentally broken down and ingested by your dog.
In order to provide the safest chewing experience for your pup, be sure to always keep a close eye on your dog while they have a bone. Also, if you have several dogs in the house, always separate them before giving out bones so that fights don’t break out. Dogs are not good at sharing their bones.
For your own sake, feed your dog his bone either outside, or if they must stay inside, restrict them to a small space like their crate. This will keep the mess limited and easier to clean up after. Be sure that you take into consideration your dog’s size and the strength of their mouth when picking out a bone for them.
You want to be as certain as possible that they will not be able to break the bone down into sizes that can be swallowed.
Before giving your dog bones with marrow, do a little research into the breed to familiarize yourself with any health predispositions that the breed might have.
If they are prone to pancreatitis, you will want to avoid marrow-containing bones as marrow is rich and can cause a flare up and soft stools, including diarrhea. You also have the option of freezing the bones and then removing the marrow to create a low-fat version that will not cause issues.
Alternatives to Bones
Alternatives include edible dental bones. It is recommended to find dental bones that will hold up to chewing as well as being fully natural with no traces of byproducts, sugars or extra fats, soy, corn or gluten. These will provide your dog with the safest and healthiest alternative to raw bones.