We all have a picture like that in our heads: a dog with a bone in his mouth. There is even a famous phrase along those lines. Give a dog a bone, and – you fill the rest. But has anyone ever stopped to wonder, should we give a dog a bone? I think not. This guide is here to fill this gap. Read on to find everything related to dogs and bones.
Can My Dog Digest Bones?
The short answer is that in most cases, yes. Usually evolved from their hunter, meat-eating ancestors to the less wild but still quite meat-eating canine version we all know and love. They are still primarily meat-eaters, and they can usually handle eating bones. This is one of the key points here.
Dogs will be able to digest the bones, provided they eat them properly. If a dog swallows a large chunk of bone, either out of greed or because the animal is not used to that kind of food, there is a high possibility of choking. That is a well-established fact in the veterinary world.
In addition, we should never give cooked bones to dogs. That includes both bones cooked in your kitchen and bones purchased from pet stores. They are too brittle and can break into small pieces. Those pieces can do a lot of damage passing through an animal’s GI tract.
Raw bones are usually the safest option, especially large ones. The larger the bone, the more difficult it is for the dog to swallow it. This way, you can force your pup to chew on it.
In any case, the nutritional value of the bones themselves is quite low. They provide little for a lot of risk and worry. You can get all the bones’ benefits by preparing the bone broth for your dog or serving the bones in powder form.
Most likely, your dog will be able to digest them. However, it is questionable if it is even worth feeding bones in the first place.
You might think that giving a bone to a dog is a good way for the animal to spend some fun time and alleviate some boredom. In this case, you will be pleased to know that are safer alternatives out there, like hard rawhide bones, which soften if ingested.
Nutritional Value of Bones
Bones are associated with having various health benefits for dogs, like strengthening the teeth and joints. Advocates of bone feeding also point to the high calcium and phosphorus content of
bones. There are also claims of the collagen in the bones being a superior nutrient. Let’s break those claims down.
Do dogs need bones?
In reality, bones themselves are of little nutritional value. Most nutritional benefits that seemingly come from the bones can be traced back to the meat, fat, and connective tissues around the bones. The benefits are not really coming from the bones but from the attached parts.
Bones do not have any significant amount of nutrients besides calcium and phosphorus. There is not enough protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, or anything else for that matter, for them to be considered healthy. Even calcium and phosphorus exist in abundance in various meat sources.
Therefore, there is no weight in the claim of those who firmly believe that raw bone consumption is an absolute requirement for dogs. Incorporating bones in powder form would be a good addition if your dog has extra calcium needs, but that is just about it.
Bone broth is a different story
You can prepare a bone broth with different types of bones and tissues for the best results. Broths are rich in dissolved collagen, easily digested, and absorb all the nutrients from the bone marrow and the connective tissues and fat around the bones. Depending on the type of parts used, broths can be a source of:
- vitamins A and K
- fatty acids
So go ahead and make those bones you have been keeping into a broth! Remember not to use any condiments such as garlic or salt since they are not tolerated well by your dog’s stomach.
Are Bones Bad for Dogs?
The prominent problem with feeding bones to your dog is choking. Every veterinarian has had a few stores of dogs choking to tell, and not all of them end pretty.
Cooked bones are off the table (literally!)
Never give cooked bones to your dog. Real cooked bones tend to splinter easily. Shards from them will cause damage to your dog’s GI tract. If ingested, they are supposed to pass through your dog’s digestive system. Contact your vet in that case.
You will have to monitor the stool to see if they did pass through and consult with your doctor for further action.
Not all raw bones are safe
Most raw bones are edible by dogs. Chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef, to name a few, are all pretty safe choices. They are soft enough to chew and digest. Keep in mind that pork bones and rib bones are a bad idea. Those types of bones break into pieces more easily, and you do not want your pup to be swallowing these.
A good rule of thumb to know which bones are OK for your dog is that if the bone is longer than the animal’s muzzle, it should be a safe option. Large bones carry different risks, however. They can, for example, result in broken or infected teeth. It is best to avoid bones altogether if your dog’s teeth are not in the best shape.
Beware of food pathogens
Raw bones can introduce bacteria into the household. We are talking about common dangerous food pathogens like E. Coli and Salmonella. These bacteria can contaminate surfaces that the bones touch and continue spreading around the house.
Be careful how you handle raw bones and restrain from leaving them out for prolonged amounts of time. Freezing the bones for a few days can kill off many of the dangerous bacteria.
Rules of giving Bones to Dogs
If you insist on giving raw bones after everything we have mentioned, make sure you follow these rules to minimize your pup’s risk!
- Supervise chewing. This way, you can control the situation. You can make sure your dog does not swallow any part of the bone, and even the unfortunate happens, you will know it. Make sure to limit the duration of chewing to 15 minutes. Dogs tend to get impatient and are more likely to swallow pieces of the bone.
- Do not give bones to dogs with weak teeth. Weak teeth can result from old age or a recent mouth surgery or dental work.
- Give bones only after a meal, when your dog is the least hungry. The possibility of your dog trying to swallow the bone will be the lowest.
- Make sure the bones are larger than the size of the muzzle of the animal. Also, do not feed bones that are cut lengthwise. This will inevitably make the dog chew on the bone instead of trying to eat it straight away.
- Always refrigerate bones that are not in use. Throw them after 3-4 days in the fridge. Contamination with food pathogens will be very unlikely this way.
FAQs About Bones and Dogs
Can my dog’s stomach dissolve a bone?
Most dogs can digest bones without a problem. The danger lies in choking on a piece of the bone or shards of the bone damaging your dog’s GI tract.
What do I do if my dog swallowed a bone?
Contact your vet immediately. Correct actions depend on the type of the bone, the size, the amount, and the kind of dog involved. In most cases, the first step of action is to monitor your dog for signs of distress.
How long does it take for a dog to pass a bone?
It can take up to 72 hours for a dog to pass a bone. You should check the stool daily for bone fragments.
How can I tell if my dog is choking?
Signs will differ in every case. Vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and evidence of a foreign body in the mouth and throat are the most common and serious symptoms.
How long after eating chicken bones would a dog get sick?
It could take a few minutes up to a couple of hours to see if your dog is choking. However, if you suspect your dog has ingested chicken bones, contact your vet for further advice.
Bones are an ineffective way to balance your dog’s diet. The tradeoff is few health benefits, while there is a high risk involved. When deciding how to add healthy nutrients to your pets’ diet, it is essential to keep in mind that bones can provide the same benefits in powder form.
To take it one step further, you can prepare a nice bowl of bone, meat, and tissue broth, a true superfood for your pup. Keep your hairy friend safe and choose wisely!