Not to be taken in the place of veterinary advice. Consult your vet if you’re concerned your dog is suffering from a bone-related illness.
Dogs and bones are a legendary duo. While it’s true that dogs may enjoy chewing on bones, that doesn’t mean bones are good for dogs. Actually, most bones are bad for dogs, and there can be bad news if your dog gets their paws on one.
To make matters more complicated, there’s so much opposing information on the internet. Really, there are both good and bad things about dogs eating bones. Some vets argue that eating raw bones can improve your dog’s dental health and their ancestors have been doing it for generations. While this is true, it doesn’t take into consideration the consequences of giving your dog such a treat, not to mention the high cost of emergency vet care if such an instance should occur.
There’s no need to put your tail between your legs if you’ve given your dogs bones before. Luckily, you can easily educate yourself of bone treat safety by reading through this guide!
photo by JChuck on Pixabay
Why bones are dangerous for dogs
The reality of the matter is that raw bones splinter. And consuming bone fragments is bad news for your dog. When the chewed up bone splinters, it travels inside your dog until it gets lodged in the intestines or stomach. This results in a painful experience for your pup, and a big vet bill for you.
It has been proven that chewing on (safe) bones can improve dental health and mentally engage dogs. But swallowing or otherwise consuming bones is where the danger occurs.
Bone treat-related illnesses reported to the FDA include the following:
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
- Cuts and wounds in the mouth or on the tonsils
- Bleeding from the rectum, and/or
As you can see, giving your dog the wrong kind of bone can result in serious consequences. However, by educating yourself on the different types of bones that are good or bad for dogs, you can promote bone treat safety and avoid some major pitfalls.
Bones to Avoid
Do not give your dog the following types of bones:
- Cooked bones. This includes anything that can sit out on a shelf or in a bin. Unfortunately, it also includes a lot of bone treats found at your local supermarket.
- Bird Bones. Yep, chicken and turkey included. They are hollow, making them even more likely to splinter.
- Anything you cook yourself or have leftover from dining out
- Raw bones from your own kitchen (especially because touching them can give you salmonella)
- Raw bones from the butcher. These are by-products of other meat cuttings, not designed for doggies.
- Really, if it’s not a bone designed especially for dogs, don’t give it to your dog.
Store-Bought Bone Treats
It’s easy enough to pick up a bone treat in your local grocery. But are they actually good for dogs? It depends. Some treats are processed with chemicals or smoked for flavor. In a 2017 report, the FDA reported 68 bone-treat related incidents. “Bone-treats” are specifically those that are processed and packaged to sit on a grocery store shelf for a long time. Not all food labels necessarily include processing information. What food labels tend to include is what they don’t include, which is usually the bad stuff.
If you are going to buy a store-bought bone, buying a raw, frozen bone such as Tucker’s might give you the biggest bang for your buck, while reducing worry about splintering. Since dogs are pretty much hard-wired to like raw meat, they’re likely to enjoy a raw bone. You should look for an indication of precision cutting, usually used with a band saw or similar high-powered blade. If you see a bone with freezer burn, ice crystals, or mold, leave it behind.
photo by Chris Jarvis via Unsplash
With so many products available to dogs, it’s easy to find a safe and healthy bone alternative.
*Tip: If you’re in it for the nutrients, try making a bone broth instead, and putting it in your dog’s food or freeze it for a tasty treat. They still benefit from the nutrition, without the worry of splintered bone!
Etta Says Mega Chews | Ok, this isn’t a bone. But it is a rawhide treat that has been a big hit among our Club members over the years. Their products are available in a range of chewing styles and flavors. Your dog still gets nutrients, something to chew on, and hours of entertainment. Plus, they can happily enjoy and eat their treat.
Himalayan Chews | Made from dehydrated cow milk, Himalayan chews provide a similar texture as bones, without the splintering. Once the treat is nibbled down enough, you can put it in your microwave: it will expand and create a more porous, wafer-like treat for your dog!
Frozen Treats | It’s not exactly a bone, but if you can freeze large cubes of broth or water and hide treats at the center, dogs will spend hours licking to get to that treat. It’s mentally engaging for your dog and so easy to make yourself! Additionally, you can freeze a rope toy dipped in broth. Your dog will love licking the broth off the rope toy, and their mouth gets a workout from chewing on the rope.
Greenies Dental Chews | These treats are made with natural ingredients and designed to freshen breath and overall dental health. They are also loaded with vitamins and minerals that your dog can benefit from. The best part? Greenies actually freshen dog’s breath! These bone alternatives come in a range of sizes for all dogs to enjoy.
Puzzle Treats | Often times, dogs get their kicks because whatever they are chewing on provides mental stimulation. There are lots of cool products out there that intrigue dogs. Some of our favorite companies include West Paw and Kong.
How to practice bone treat safety
• Never, ever leave a dog unattended with a bone. Once it becomes small, they can easily swallow and choke on it.
• Your dog shouldn’t be able to fit the entire bone in their muzzle. If your dog can fit the whole bone in their mouth, they can easily choke.
• If you have multiple dogs, separate them when distributing treats. Resource guarding is a common thing among dogs, so separating two eating dogs is never necessarily a bad thing. And of course, don’t leave your dogs alone with the bone treats. Bone treats are not a “social item.”
• You may be careful about not giving your dog a bone, but remember, dogs are resourceful. Simple actions like leaving a platter of wings unattended or throwing cooked bones in your garbage can tempt your dog. If you know your dog fiends for bones, take out the trash, put the platter out of reach, and seek out a more appropriate alternative.
We hope you can practice bone treat safety so that you and your dog enjoy many happy years ahead!
Thanks to Jeff from Tucker’s Raw Frozen for answering my questions about bone-cutting and processing. Check out their website here!