Ah the age-old question…Can baby puppies eat raw, meaty bones? I’m really glad you asked….
Cause the answer is a big, meaty RESOUNDING YES. They can and they really should!
I know it can seem scary, and what about the risks!? There are a few that you need to be aware of. But let me take you step by step on how to SAFELY feed your precious angel puppy raw, meaty bones.
First of all, lets address the WHY - Why do dogs need to eat bones?
There are 3 main reasons:
There is nothing better for their long-term dental health than regularly chewing on raw meaty bones. Nothing! (And dentals are expensive and require a full general anaesthetic to be done properly - ain’t nobody got time for that!). Think of bones as nature's tasty toothbrush.
2. Raw, meaty bones are the foundation of a healthy, balanced raw diet. They provide a natural, digestible source of calcium which is important for pretty much everything - particularly at the puppy growth stage.
3. Chewing bones provides mental stimulation for your dog and keeps their minds and body busy - do not underestimate the power of enriching activities for your dog's mental health.
Okay so now we know why we need to give puppies raw meaty bones, but how do you even start?
There are a few guidelines to follow when starting to offer raw, meaty bones to your baby.
What's the correct age to start feeding your puppy raw bones?
Technically speaking puppies can begin chewing raw bones as soon as they get their little teethies - which is around 4 to 5 weeks of age. At this tender age it's best to macerate the bones a little for them and stick with soft, small poultry bones.
So if you’ve just got your puppy and they have teeth - now is the time to start!
It is a myth that you need to wait until a puppy gets its adult teeth before feeding bones. Having their adult teeth just means you can now move onto bigger and better chewing bones to keep those pearly whites pearly and white!
What kind of bones can I feed a puppy?
Essentially there are two kinds of bones: edible and recreational. Edible bones are bones that can be eaten in their entirety like most poultry necks, wings and frames. Recreational bones are bigger bones for “chewing” and “gnawing” like lamb necks, beef ribs & roo tails.
Its best to start with small edible bones and poultry bones are softest.
Here’s a couple of suggestions:
SIZE OF DOG
TYPE OF BONE
Chicken neck; duck foot
Duck neck; chicken frame
Turkey neck; duck wing
Is it safe to feed a puppy bones?
Like with everything, there are risks. But these risks can be managed by following some common-sense rules:
-Always supervise: never leave a young puppy unattended with a bone.
-Only feed raw, meaty bones (never cooked).
-Choose size and age-appropriate bones (more on this above and below).
-Start with small edible bones and work your way up to recreational bones as they get older.
-Never feed multiple dogs bones together.
-Take what left of the bone away after a short chewing session in the beginning.
Okay, so what are the risks?
Being aware of the risks will help you to make good choices for your puppy. Keep these things in mind when choosing how & when to give your puppy a bone.
-Bones Can Be A Choking Hazard!
Bones can definitely be a choking hazard, don’t allow your dog to be left with a “swallowable chunk” if they are the kind of dog that will attempt to scoff it down.
-Quality over Quantity
Bones are an important part of your dog’s diet but too much of a good thing can cause problems. Over doing it with bones can cause constipation.
Weight bearing bones can be too hard for overzealous chewers which can result in broken teeth. I once gave Lulu a very hard camel bone and she broke a canine and had to have it removed under general anaesthetic. I thought Lulu was a pro bone eater and would never have an issue eating bones. I now know that we are always learning about our dogs and sometimes it takes making a mistake to do better next time. Every dog is different and it's up to you as their pet parent to learn what is best for your dog. We can manage risks but never completely avoid them.
As a vet nurse I saw the result of many dog fights when working in a vet hospital. More often than not the fights started over food. Bones are high ranking and some dogs will protect them fiercely. The easiest and safest way to avoid a fight is by never feeding multiple dogs’ bones together. Even dogs that have eaten with other dogs their whole life might feel the need to protect a new bone one day, so its not worth the risk to find out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “they have never done that” (until they did, that.)
Dogs have “super stomachs” that can digest bone when it is raw. More about that here. Cooked bones cannot be digested as easily and can cause blockages and stomach upsets. Never feed your dog cooked bones of any kind.
Okay so we now know the why, what and how to feed raw meaty bones, but I know you have more questions…
How often should I feel my puppy bones?
Puppies can have small edible bones daily, but you can start out with 3 times per week while they are learning.
As they get older, edible bones can be offered daily (i.e. my dog has a duck wing or neck for breakfast every day) but recreational bones should be about 2-3 times per week. Every dog is different so again, this will be about learning what suits your dog and your lifestyle best.
How long should they chew on a bone?
Some things there isn’t an exact answer for, because every dog is different. You will be able to decide this by observing your dog, but as a general rule- start off with 5-15 minutes chewing time and build up to 30-60mins as they get older. Adult dogs can continue with the same bone for days if you let them, but its best to dispose of what’s left after a couple of days. This is personal preference and completely up to you as to the level of risk you are comfortable with, knowing what you know about your dog.
Can all dogs eat bones?
I would love to say yes to this but technically speaking, bones aren’t suitable for some dogs. Its rare, as most dogs are intuitively great at eating bones. I always tell people to “know what kind of a bone eater your dog is and feed them accordingly”. For example, if your dog is an overzealous “scoffer” or “swallower” they have an increased risk of choking on bones. For these dogs it is best to go with huge bones bigger than their head that can’t be swallowed.
If your dog is a “hider”, you may not have found the right bone for them yet. If it is considered high ranking, they may just want to bury it. Try a smaller or different bone until you figure out what’s perfect for them to eat now (rather than later).
Then you’ve got the “marinators” (I’m looking at you Jayce the greyhound!) and my dog is who is a “magician” – as in she makes the entire bone disappear inside her!
Some dogs will resource guard bones so it may not be safe to have bones around, particularly if you have children in your house (I am acutely aware of where my children are when Lulu is eating a bone and have reinforced from a very young age that we leave Lulu alone while she is eating). To read more about dogs and babies here are some "do's and don'ts".
Then you’ve got your “chewers” and “lickers” which are generally all good to manage most bones.
I think we have covered the majority of the information you will need to safely offer your puppy raw meaty bones, but I will finish with a few more tips and some extra reading and resources if you want to get even more knowledgeable about all things bones!
Tidy Tips For Optimal Bone Eating
-Nominate a bone eating location on a mat or towel. If you start this from a young age it will set you up for a lifetime of good (and tidy) bone eating!
-If your puppy is very young, help them by bashing the bones a little with a meat cleaver first.
-You can help by holding the bone for your puppy while they are learning to chew (this can also reduce the risk of swallowing big chunks).
-Always supervise puppies and dogs eating a new kind of bone they haven’t had before.
-Size matters! Choose the right sized bone for your puppy.
-Limit chewing time and dispose of anything that’s left after they have had a good chew.
For more reading on feeding bones- check out these pages:
This is also a great book if you wanna get real comprehensive!
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