It’s an age-old expression, but can you really give a dog a bone?
You’ve heard that dogs love to chew on bones AND you’ve heard bones are dangerous for dogs. With so much conflicting advice online, or overhead at the dog park, it’s tough to know what’s true and what’s not.
Here’s the short and sweet version - cooked bones should not be given to dogs, as these become brittle through the cooking process, and are more likely to splinter and break in your dog’s mouth or digestive system (ouch).
Raw bones are typically safe for your dog (with a few exceptions) and provide protein, help clean the digestive tract, and brush your pup’s teeth too - that’s right, raw bones are nature’s toothbrushes!
To help you become a raw dog bone expert, we’ve put together a simple guide to teach you how to safely prepare raw bones, what to avoid, and how to boost your furry friend’s diet safely.
Raw dog bones myths
You’ve probably heard people say bones are bad for dogs - maybe even vets! But this advice needs to be unpacked a little to make sense.
Raw bones are a crucial part of a dog’s diet, specifically raw meaty bone covered in muscle meat and connective tissue. Adding raw meaty bone to your dog’s diet provides a healthy source of protein, calcium and other nutrients that help with your dog’s digestive system and overall health. For example check out these bones which provide enrichment, plenty of protein, and helps keep pups mentally stimulated too.
Some vets will advise against bones because of the possible risks. These risks include:
- Breakages in your dog’s mouth
- Broken teeth
- Windpipe, esophagus, or gastrointestinal blockages
These risks all sound pretty scary, because you never want to put your dog in harm’s way. But these risks come from cooked dog bones. Remember, the cooking process makes bones sharp, brittle and easily broken, increasing the chances of injuries to the mouth or insides.
On the flipside, raw bones offer a ton of benefits from keeping teeth clean to providing nutrients and stimulating doggy minds, and your dog’s digestive system is designed to handle bone. As long as you’re feeding the right raw bones (don’t worry, we’ll teach you what to avoid) your dog will be, well, as happy as a dog with a bone.
How often should I feed my dog raw bones?
Don’t be fooled by your dog’s pleading eyes, they don’t need raw bones every day.
Each dog is different and each dog’s tolerance of raw bones is different, so you’ll need to slowly introduce raw dog bones into your pet’s diet to gauge their level. For example, certain dogs have sensitive digestive systems and may become constipated if they have too many bones.
As a rule of thumb, raw dog bones should be around 10% of your pet’s diet. If you’re just starting your raw dog bone journey, aim to introduce chewable bones twice a week. That means the bones are large enough to be chewed on, and not swallowed in one go. For example, I give Lulu a chicken wing or similar sized bone most mornings for breakfast (which doesn’t last long as she loves her bones) and a larger bone she can chew on once a week.
It’s important to know your dog and find out what kind of ‘bone eater’ they are. If they love to scoff and swallow food whole, avoid giving bones that can be swallowed. With a little common sense and supervision, the risk of any harm coming from a raw bone is extremely low.
I’m nervous about using raw bones but still want my dog to be healthy
That’s 100% OK!
Bone content is an essential part of a dog’s raw diet, not just for the nutritional value but to help keep your dog’s teeth clean. The chewing action of bones cleans teeth and uses muscles they may not engage with regular walking and play. Plus, who doesn’t love watching a dog devour a bone?
But if you’re concerned about your dog eating raw bones, whether due to their size or a negative experience with cooked bones, you can still give them the same nutritional benefits with mince that contains bone - like our chicken, duck and turkey mince options.
If you’d rather serve up delicious mince that contains bone you’ll need to consider a dental maintenance supplement like Simply Seaweed - or get in there with a toothbrush and clean your pup’s teeth the old fashioned way (yes there are ‘extra’ dog parents who do this and it’s completely normal).
We’ve heard from plenty of pet owners who say raw bones make their dogs vomit too, and this is normal for kibble-fed dogs. A lifetime of eating carb-heavy processed food can disrupt stomach acid, making it hard to digest bones. If your dog’s tummy can’t handle bones yet, but you’re keen to introduce bones to their diet, check out our Good Guts Green Tripe Topper to strengthen gut health and introduce raw bones safely.
Can puppies eat raw dog bones?
Puppies can safely eat bones and should be encouraged to learn how from an early age. It’s best to start with poultry bones as they are the softest and easiest to manage, for example chicken necks or chicken wings.
If your puppy is too young to break down soft bones, it’s OK to bash the bones a little to weaken them further. As your puppy gets older you can move onto bigger bones like duck necks, duck wings, turkey necks, and lamb ribs. Adult teeth start to come through around 6 months of age, so move onto bigger bones when the time is right.
Best of all, puppies have endless energy, which makes a chicken frame a healthy meal and a great way to keep little bundles of energy engaged and stimulated.
Let’s recap what we’ve learnt
There’s a lot of confusing information online about raw dog bones, so let’s recap the important stuff.
- Never feed your dog any cooked bones. EVER
- Always supervise your dog with a bone if you’re unsure
- Start with "easy" bones and work up to different bones over time
- Some bones won’t be suitable for your dog but may be suitable for others and that's okay. Figure out what works for your dog and roll with it
Finally, never feed dogs bones together (even the most placid dogs can become very protective of bones). I’ve seen the aftermath of vicious dog fights that started over food and bones, even from dogs who have “never done that before".
With these tips and tricks in mind you’ll be ready to throw your dog a bone, knowing you’re looking after their health and cleaning their teeth too.
At the Saltiest Dog we’re always here to help, so browse our collection of nutritious bones here. Or, get in touch with your raw dog bone questions - we’d love to hear from you!