4 min read

Can Dogs Eat Bones?


By Wag! Staff

Published: 10/24/2023, edited: 10/24/2023

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Dogs and bones are an iconic pairing, but have you ever stopped to wonder whether they’re actually a safe pairing? Can dogs eat bones? 

The answer is sometimes — and it depends on the circumstances. While chewing bones can help maintain healthy teeth and provide other nutritional benefits, you should never give your pup cooked bones. You’ll also need to supervise them closely any time you give them a bone.

Keep reading to find out why.

Do dogs like bones?

You only need to offer your pooch a raw, meaty bone to know that the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Most dogs love being given the chance to tuck into a bone for a couple of reasons.

First comes the taste. Bones are more than just bones — they come with meat, fat, and cartilage attached, all of which makes them very palatable to your furry friend. 

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that dogs are carnivores that only eat meat. Dogs are actually omnivores, so they get the nutrients they need from both plant and animal sources. And in your pup’s eyes, a meaty bone is a very tasty snack indeed

The second reason why dogs like bones is because they love to chew. Not only does chewing keep their teeth clean, but it also provides mental stimulation that can help beat boredom. Without an appropriate outlet for their chewing desires, they could turn their teeth to work on the furniture or your slippers, so providing a bone or a suitable chew toy can put a stop to this destructive behavior.

dog eating large animal bone in a grassy field - Can Dogs Eat Bones

Health benefits of bones for dogs

For a long time, people have believed that dogs need bones to thrive. This myth may have arisen because early dog species, derived from wolves in European and Asian countries, hunted, killed, and ate their prey almost entirely, including the raw bones.

The truth is that dogs don’t need bones as part of a balanced diet, but they do provide some nutritional benefits for your fur-baby. The health benefits of bones for dogs include:

  • Thanks in part to the meat attached, bones are a source of protein, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients

  • Chewing is key to the production of enzyme-rich saliva, helping to prevent plaque build-up and gum disease

  • Chewing bones provides mental stimulation, prevents boredom, and can help relieve stress and anxiety 

  • Chewing on a bone also stops your dog chewing on things they shouldn’t, such as their paws or maybe your furniture

Risks of bones for dogs

Despite the potential benefits of bones, whether or not you should actually give your dog bones to chew remains a topic of hot debate. That’s because there are several risks associated with chewing bones, especially cooked bones.

Cooked bones can splinter and cut the inside of the dog's mouth, the tongue, or the GI system when swallowed. Vomiting a partially chewed bone can cause injuries too, as your pup may need surgery if the bone and its shards damage the esophagus or stomach. A severe infection in the stomach lining (peritonitis) is also a complication of bone lacerations in the stomach or intestine, and let’s not forget the risk of choking on bone pieces that get stuck in the esophagus.

In vet clinics, the most common issue seen would be constipation and obstruction caused by eating bones which do not pass through the gut as we would hope. Sometimes, a surgery is needed to remove the blockage.

In addition to mechanical injuries and other conditions that a bone can cause, raw bones may carry pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. These bacteria can cause food poisoning in both pups and humans.

So, if you are thinking of giving bones to your dog, know that there are risks involved and that you should steer clear of cooked bones altogether.

dog eating rib bone

How many bones can I give my dog?

You should only ever give your dog 1 bone at a time, once or twice a week. For smaller dogs, they likely don't need bones so often.

There are a lot of other important rules to remember too, so make sure you stick to the dos and don’ts of feeding bones to your dog:


  • Offer raw, meaty bones

  • Feed human-grade bones sourced from your butcher

  • Make sure the bone is the right size for your dog

  • Always feed your dog a bone under supervision (keep a close eye on them the entire time they have the bone)

  • Take the bone away once your dog has eaten the meat

  • Consider safe alternatives that dogs can chew besides bones, such as chew toys and dental chews. Look for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council

  • Train your dog simple commands like “leave it” and “drop it” to stop them getting into any food items they shouldn’t (like leftover bones) 


  • Give your dog cooked bones 

  • Give your dog pork bones as they are prone to splintering

  • Let your dog chew the bone into smaller pieces

  • Let your dog keep a bone or bury it in the backyard

If you can remember these simple rules, your fur-baby will relish the chance to gnaw away on a big, juicy bone every once in a while.

Can dogs eat leftover bones?

No. You should never feed your dog leftover bones from the dinner table for a couple of reasons. First, as we’ve already discussed above, cooked bones can splinter and break into smaller pieces, making them a choking hazard and also increasing the potential of internal injuries. Second, leftover bones may also have been cooked in herbs, spices, and other seasonings that may not be safe for your dog to eat, such as garlic or onions. That’s why any leftover bones should be consigned to the trash.

Can dogs have rib bones?

No, it’s not safe to feed rib bones to your dog, even if raw, as they pose a choking hazard to your dog. Cooked rib bones should always be avoided too.

Can dogs drink bone broth?

Yes, dogs can have bone broth. In fact, it potentially offers a range of health benefits for our pets, including supporting their joints and helping them maintain their healthy skin and coat. However, it’s important to make sure you only ever give your fur-baby bone broth made with dog-safe ingredients. Bone broth made for human consumption may feature ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as onion and garlic, so look for bone broth made specifically for dogs.

When your dog eats something they shouldn’t, the resulting symptoms can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today

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