Can Dogs Eat Bones?

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It can be hard to resist your dog’s puppy eyes and whines for food while you chow down on a nice, hot meal. You may want to quite literally throw them a bone to keep them happy.

After all, dogs and bones practically go hand-in-hand, right?

safe bones for dogs

As it turns out, not all bones are good for dogs. Let’s go over what bones are safe for dogs and what to do if your dog accidentally eats the wrong kind.

Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Yes, they can! Bones are a great source of minerals and other vital nutrients that your dog needs, and it can hold them over until their next meal. Chewing on bones can also prevent gum disease and plaque buildup.

Even still, your canine friend can’t eat just any old bone. Crunched-up bone shards can easily block your dog’s intestines, lacerate the inside of their mouth and internal organs, or even lodge painfully in their throat.

Therefore, it is crucial to know which kinds of bones are suitable for your dog to chew on.

Can Dogs Eat Beef Bones?

Only if they are large ones. Beef bones are much harder than other animal bones, which makes it difficult for dogs to break down.

Can Dogs Have Pork Bones?

Nope. Pork bones of all kinds (including rib bones, ham bones, or bones from pork chops) tend to splinter very easily. They’ll choke or otherwise harm your dog if ingested.

Can Dogs Eat Chicken Bones?

Not at all. Just like pork bones, chicken bones break easily and the shards may lodge in your dog’s throat or somewhere along their gastrointestinal tract.

The same goes for turkey bones. Overall, do not feed your dog any sort of poultry bones, cooked or raw.

Are There Any Safe Bones for Dogs?

Lamb bones are the only other type that’s safe for your dog to consume, due to their density, which is nearly as thorough as beef bones.

You can give your canine raw lamb bones, but double-check if they are large and thick. Even a dense bone, if small enough, can harm your dog.

You should never feed your dog cooked fish, pork, or chicken bones. They break apart very easily, creating sharp bits that will injure your dog’s throat or digestive system.

can dogs eat bones

Introduce It Slowly

If you decide to introduce bones into your pet’s diet, you need to do so slowly; this provides their gut enzymes, stomach acid, and flora with time to adapt.

Start off with putting ground bone in their food, rather than introducing them to whole bones right off the bat.

This helps prevent them from accidentally ingesting the entire bone or tearing off huge chunks that might hurt them.

Watch for Changes

Their stool will change once they become accustomed to eating the ground bone.

A good stool will be pretty small, glisten, pass through them easily, have a low odor, and may become pale when it dries due to the bone material that has broken down in their system.

If this type of stool has become normal for your dog, then you can consider feeding them non-weight-bearing whole bones for one or more meals throughout the week.

However, if you don’t want to risk feeding your dog a whole bone, continuing to give them ground bone in their meals. After that, provide them with good chew toys that keep their teeth and gums healthy; they won’t know the difference!


Dangers of Dogs Eating Bones

Rebecca Ashman, a senior vet with Britain’s leading veterinary charity, advises against giving bones as treats too often.

Many veterinarians and nurses find that most dogs who come in with digestive tract damage and blockages have swallowed splinters or larger pieces of bone; these become stuck somewhere in their throat or gastrointestinal tract.

In these cases, your dog will need surgery to remove these shards. However, in some unfortunate cases, the damage can be so severe that it is fatal.

You should always speak with a veterinary surgeon about the risks of feeding your dog raw bones first, so as to confirm how often you can feed your dog a bone (if at all).

can dogs eat chicken bones

The Dangers of Chews

Louise Lee of the Blue Cross animal welfare charity also warns that large chunks bitten off of rawhide chews (chew toys made from the skin of an animal) can remain stuck in the mouth, the bowel, or the esophagus.

Chunks stuck in the esophagus are especially worrisome, as they can be hard to remove and the blockage can even kill your dog if not dealt with quickly.

Rawhide chews also pose the additional threat of being made with harmful chemicals. These include bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and – in some cases – even arsenic.

The Dangers of Bone Treats

The FDA also warns that you should not give your dog commercially available bone treats too often. These treats are processed differently from other kinds of bones and have the potential to cause many issues.

This is because the companies that produce these treats often smoke their products, with the intention of drying or baking them, and later add preservatives, seasoning, or smoke flavoring.

Back in 2015, the FDA received 35 separate reports of dogs suffering from conditions related to ingesting commercially available bone treats. Their conditions included:

  • Gastrointestinal blockage.
  • Choking.
  • Cuts inside the mouth or on tonsils.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Death (with 8 out of the 35 reports).

Here’s a video with more information on safe bones for dogs.

Are Bones Good For Dogs?

They are. However, again, it depends on the type of bone you give your dog and how often you feed them bones.

Dangers of Cooked Bones

You should never feed your dog cooked bones. This includes discarded bones from your lunch or dinner and those you can buy at the store.

Heat makes bone brittle and more likely to break into tiny, harmful shards in your dog’s mouth. This is why you should give them raw bones instead – those about the size of their head.

This oddly specific size reduces the likelihood that your dog will break off and accidentally swallow a large chunk or shard that could harm them.

Length of the Bone

If you’re struggling to determine if a bone is a proper length, simply measure the bone against your dog’s muzzle.

If the bone is slightly longer than the length of the muzzle, then it is okay to give to your dog, as it will be impossible for them to swallow the bone whole on accident.

Just make sure the bone isn’t too big for them to handle, as these can actually break your dog’s teeth. Veterinarians regularly see dogs for slab fractures after they have been given larger bones to gnaw on by their owners.

Though the general consensus is that it is best to feed your dog raw bones, veterinarians will still warn against feeding your dog large, raw bones.

Is It Unfair to Avoid Bones?

After learning about the dangers, you may consider avoiding bones altogether. But is that depriving your dog of their primal need to chew bones?

Though chewing on bones might be a favorite pastime of domesticated dogs, wild dogs actually leave bones alone in favor of consuming the meat off the carcass they kill.

They only chew on bones if food is scarce, so this bone-chewing behavior is not actually a natural instinct. Instead, it’s a way for your dog to pass the time when they are not eating or doing other things.

are bones good for dogs

Essential Nutrients in Bones

Bones provide dogs with mental stimulation, as well as contain vital nutrients that will help keep them happy and healthy.

Bones contain calcium, which helps keep your dog’s teeth clean and strong. Your dog’s food should consist of 1 to 1.8 percent calcium.

Bones also contain phosphorus, another important nutrient. In fact, both calcium and phosphorus are so important that all commercial pet foods approved by the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials contain bone meal. That’s essentially a mixture containing these two crucial nutrients.

Keep in mind that they get these nutrients from ingesting the attached soft tissues on the bone such as meat, cartilage, fat, and other connective tissues. They do not get this nutrition from eating the bones themselves.

In fact, while bones are perfectly fine for your dogs to chew, they should never be fully ingested. To ensure they don’t get greedy and try to eat the whole bone, it’s best to give them one after a meal.

Be sure you take it away after 10 to 15 minutes and then keep it in the refrigerator. Dispose of it after three or four days.

Bones and Chew Toys

Most dog bones, treats, and chews you can buy at your local pet store will generally be safe for your pet to gnaw on.

One of the best (and healthiest) chew toys for dogs is the bully stick. These are sticks shaped like bones, but they are softer in texture, tastier, and much easier for them to digest.

There are even chew toys made specifically to improve your dog’s dental health. They’re designed to lessen the risk of being swallowed or broken apart, while still allowing your dog to grind down plaque or spare food from their teeth.

Of course, whether your dog will prefer a chew toy over a real bone (or vice versa) will depend on their own personal preference. Try out both options to see which of the two your dog likes best.

If you do purchase a chew toy made out of plastic, rubber, or nylon, just make sure that they don’t swallow any pieces that come off of it.

A Few More Guidelines

If you’re unsure, then it’s wise to consult a veterinary nutritionist before treating your dogs to bones. This will help confirm the right size and amount of bone your dog needs.

Giving your pet too many bones can be just as dangerous as providing them with too little. It’s all about keeping a healthy balance.

You should also follow proper food hygiene to minimize any food-borne illnesses. If you give them raw bones from your own food before you cook it, they can still become sick from bacteria, so proceed with caution.

can dogs eat bones

What to Do If Your Dog Eats a Bone

You should always watch your dog while they eat or chew on a bone. This doesn’t mean you should sit there and stare at them the entire time. That would be uncomfortable for both you and your dog.

Just be sure you check in on them every now and then if you know they are gnawing on a bone.

Though you should never feed your dog any poultry bones, due to their easy splintering potential, your dog may try to eat these anyway. If you catch your dog trying to eat a whole bone, take it away before they manage to swallow it.

Even if you are certain that they aren’t choking on any bone pieces, you should still call your veterinarian to hear what they have to say.

Be sure you watch your dog carefully during this call and to ask your veterinarian about the signs and symptoms of internal bleeding or blockages. Check to see if your dog is showing any of them as your vet lists them off.

If your dog doesn’t show any visible signs of pain or discomfort now, continue to watch them and their stool for the next few days. If you do not see any bone fragments in their stool within 72 hours, it’s best to visit your veterinarian.

They can ascertain if the bone fragments are stuck in their intestine, esophagus, or throat.

Additionally, you should seek out veterinary help if you notice your dog:

  • Is lethargic.
  • Is constipated.
  • Straining while they go.
  • Has bloody stool.
  • Is vomiting.
  • Appears bloated in their abdomen area.
  • Isn’t eating.
  • Seems generally uncomfortable.

This video goes into more detail on safe bones for dogs.

Conclusion

Finding safe bones for dogs can be quite the hassle, especially now that you know the dangers.

Just be wary of the kinds of bones and chews you give your dog, and talk with a veterinarian before introducing them into your dog’s diet.


What are your favorite safe bones for dogs?

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