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.
Bones offer nutritional value and satisfy your dogs' need to chew. In ancient times, camp dogs commonly cleaned up after their humans by eating leftovers from meals, including cooked bones. The modern debate about dogs and bones pits those who believe dogs can have raw or cooked bones with those that think dogs should never have the opportunity to eat bones. In between are those that think only raw bones are safe for dogs and only under certain circumstances.
What should you do if you have a leftover bone and your pup is gazing lovingly at it? Is it okay to give the leftover bone to Fido?
Let's find out!
Here are a few positives on why bones are good for dogs:
- Bones can help satisfy a dog's appetite
- Bones are a source of minerals and other nutrients
- A dog with a bone will leave his paws alone instead of chewing, scratching, or licking them
- Chewing is key to the production of enzyme-rich saliva, helping to prevent plaque build-up and gum disease
- Raw bones digest easily
If you decide these are enough good reasons to allow your pup to chew on a bone, there are several things to keep in mind. The first is that cooked bones are not healthy for dogs, no matter what.
According to Robin Downing, DVM at VCA Hospitals, chewing on bones is not a necessary activity and can be dangerous to the pup–and you. 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.
There's a long list of other reasons to withhold bones from our dogs. Here are a few:
- Bones may spoil in just a few days, even when kept in the refrigerator.
- Bones cut in smaller pieces can cause choking or risk an intestinal obstruction
- 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. Large, hard bones can damage teeth.
- The pup may need surgery if the bone and its shards damage the esophagus or stomach
- Some round bones can get looped around the lower jaw
- A severe infection in the stomach lining (peritonitis) is a complication of bone lacerations in the stomach or intestine
1. Give the dog the wrong kind of bone. Chicken bones and cooked bones are the most dangerous
2. Allow the dog to chew the bone into smaller pieces that can get caught in their throat
3. Give bones to dogs with stomach problems
4. Give your dog a bone to chew on if another dog is visiting
1. Offer raw meat bones
2. Take the bone away after about 15-20 minutes and put it in the refrigerator
3. Dispose of the bone after three or four days
4. Give large breeds large bones
5. Be an educated consumer and research the origins of bones at your market
6. Consider alternatives that dogs can chew besides bones
While the marketplace offers processed bones for dogs, these may have a lot of sodium and artificial chemicals in them. Other kinds of chews are available as well, such as chewable nylon bones and dental chews. These are suitable alternatives for bones, and most don't carry the risk of pathogens. Chews must match the size of the dog to avoid injuries or choking, swallowing, or obstructions. Smaller pups should have a chew that's large enough to prevent them from getting the whole thing into their mouth. Take it away if they chew it down to a small size.
Rawhide is another chewy treat that dogs love. These processed pieces of beef or other large animal's hide can sometimes be brittle and break. To avoid that, choose a rawhide that's as thick as possible and big enough to prevent choking. Avoid the rawhide chews with knobs or knots on the ends. These rawhide chews can be chewed or pulled apart and cause lacerations in the mouth or obstruction of the windpipe (trachea.) Many people will only purchase rawhide and other chews from companies in the United States. The caveat here is that sometimes U.S. companies buy foreign ingredients and only assemble them in this country. The origins of organic and non-organic components should be clear.
Dental health chews are popular among veterinarians. Many are infused with enzymes that prevent decay and plaque, along with herbs that improve the dog's breath. When shopping for dental chews, be sure to look for a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council and a U.S origin for all ingredients.
Pig or beef hooves are popular with some people who see them providing Fido with a hard surface that will encourage the pup to chew. However, the problem with this part of an animal's foot is that it's not safe because it might splinter and transmit diseases. In addition, they're so hard that painful broken teeth may result.
Many dogs enjoy chewing on toys like stuffed or rigid plastic or nylon animals, rings or sticks. While dogs can chew toys into small pieces with sharp edges, they won't be as likely to stay in their mouths and be swallowed. Other toys made of hard rubber filled with treats can occupy a dog for hours and replace bones in their downtime.
While the debate about bones rages on, it seems clear from the number of different and sometimes passionate opinions that people with dogs will ultimately make up their own minds on this thorny question.
As generations of people roll out, more dogs' humans seem to be concluding that bones do more harm than the satisfaction they give to dogs would warrant. Letting your pup gnaw on a bone may provide both of you pleasure, the inherent risks should give you something to chew on, too.