Should I Give My Dog Bones? What is the Verdict?
We all know that dogs love to chew and they love bones. When I was a kid we would give our family dog, Tippi, bones quite frequently and most of the time those bones were cooked. Today we dog owners are much wiser about pet nutrition. But even with all the information and education many of us still wonder … is it alright? Should I give my dog bones?
Giving a dog a bone is still a very controversial issue. You can find veterinarians and organizations that wholeheartedly embrace feeding bones and others that believe feeding any type of bone is extremely bad and detrimental to your dog.
There certainly are different viewpoints on this topic and I will summarize for you what I have learned.
Are They Beneficial?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) believes the right kind of bones can be beneficial. Many sources believe that bones can be a great treat and diversion for dogs. Bones are a great way to keep your dog busy and keep them from chewing on things they shouldn’t. They are also a good source of calcium and phosphorus; can strengthen the jaw, and can help satisfy a dog’s hunger.
Chewing also stimulates the production of saliva enzymes which helps ward off gum disease and plaque buildup (this is true even for us humans).
Which Bones Are Strictly Off-Limits?
All sources including the AKC, FDA, and PetMed Express agree that any type of cooked bone is strictly off-limits. This includes bones that you cook at home or that you can purchase. Cooked poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) bones are super off-limits because they are extremely brittle. Cooking bones causes them to become brittle and they can easily break into small sharp pieces that may severely injure your dog as those pieces are swallowed and pass through the intestine. These bones splinters could be deadly to your dog.
Purchasing packaged bones is also risky. Between November 2010 and September 12, 2021, the FDA received nearly 70 reports of pet illnesses due to “bone treats”. The bone treats were processed and packaged for sale and included items described as Ham Bones, Pork Femur Bones, Rib Bones, and Smoky Knuckle Bones. These items may have also been dried by baking or through a smoking process.
Packaged bones may have been dried or baked, making them a more dangerous choice. They may also contain added flavors and preservatives, which are things your dog just doesn’t need.
Some say raw bones are bad because they are too hard and could result in broken teeth. Broken teeth can lead to abscesses, infection, or even more severe health problems. There is also the potential for raw bones to carry bacteria such as Salmonella, which can cause illness.
What Kind of Bones Are Best?
The consensus seems to be if you ARE going to give your dog a bone, raw meat bones are the best choice. Dr. Karen Becker of HealthyPets.mercola.com recommends matching “the bone size to your dog’s head. There’s really no such thing as a “too big” bone.”
Dr. Camille DeClement, Vice President of an ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) suggests selecting chews for your dog that cannot be consumed in big pieces or too quickly.
Many believe that commercially available chew toys and simulated bones should be given instead.
If you do offer your dog a bone, be sure the bone is an appropriate size to minimize the chance of your dog trying to swallow it and choking. The AKC recommends that bones “be larger than the length of the dog’s muzzle so it will be impossible to swallow whole.”
To the right is a picture of a dog that was seen by Dr. DeClement the AAH in Manhattan. This dog was given a marrow bone that was not an appropriate size and the bone became stuck around her bottom jaw.
Even if you give your dog an appropriate size bone, it is important to keep an eye on them while they work on it. Sometimes things like this picture can happen or small pieces can break off and pose a choking hazard.
What do we do?
You can scour the web and find many different opinions telling you if you should or should not feed dogs bones and if you do, what kind you should and should not give them.
While this blog post certainly didn’t make your decision any easier, I hope it sheds some light on the different viewpoints regarding feeding dogs’ bones. I believe it’s up to each of us to evaluate our own situations and dogs; determine how we feel about giving our dog a bone, and make our own decision.
I do want to add one personal note. I’ve purchased a few synthetic dog bones that are for chewing but are not edible (like Nylabone, Hartz Chew’n Clean, and Petstages) only to notice after my dog had them for a while, she was in fact eating them! The plastic these synthetic chews are made of is non-toxic but is not meant to be ingested. I personally would rather give my dog a natural, nutritious raw bone than have her eat plastic.