When it comes to treating your furry friend, bones often come to mind as a natural and enjoyable option. However, the question arises: Can dogs eat bones safely? The answer is yes and no, depending on the type of bone and how it is given. Understanding the nuances of giving bones to dogs is crucial for their health and safety.

Can dogs eat bones?

Bones can provide your pup with essential minerals and nutrients while satisfying their appetite. Chewing stimulates saliva enzymes, helping prevent plaque buildup and gum disease, and may deter undesirable behaviors like excessive scratching or licking. However, many veterinarians warn that allowing your dog to chew on bones comes with serious health risks.

So, what bones can dogs eat safely? Are bones good for dogs? Are cooked bones bad for dogs? Let's look at the pros and cons of giving bones to dogs to answer these questions and more.

Can you give a dog a bone?

Yes, you can give a dog a bone, but it's crucial to follow certain guidelines to prevent any health risks:

  • Supervise Your dog: Always supervise your dog when chewing on a bone to prevent choking or accidental ingestion of large pieces.
  • Choose the right size: The bone should be large enough that your dog cannot swallow it whole or fit it in its mouth.
  • Avoid weight-bearing bones: Weight-bearing bones from large animals, like beef femurs, can be too hard and may break your dog's teeth.
  • Limit chewing time: Limit the amount of time your dog spends chewing a bone to about 10-15 minutes at a time. This prevents excessive wear on their teeth and reduces the risk of injury.
  • Store properly: To avoid bacterial contamination, store raw bones in the refrigerator and dispose of them after three to four days.

The Pros of Giving Bones to Dogs

Many people argue that allowing dogs to chew bones is a natural pleasure that they have enjoyed for centuries. There are certainly some benefits to this practice.

Dental Health -Many people give bones to their dogs to promote dental health. Gnawing on bones can help remove plaque and tartar buildup, preventing gum disease and promoting healthier teeth. The abrasive action of chewing on bones can act as a natural toothbrush for your dog.

Mental Stimulation - Chewing on bones can provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom for dogs. It is a natural and instinctive activity that keeps them occupied and entertained. Bones can be a great way to alleviate anxiety or redirect destructive chewing behaviors.

Nutritional Value - Bones can be a source of essential nutrients, especially raw ones. They contain marrow, which is rich in fat and can provide dogs with additional calories. Furthermore, bones are rich in calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals, contributing to overall nutrition."

The Risks of Giving Bones to Dogs

Nonetheless, if you plan to give your dog natural bones, it's important to understand the very real health risks involved. Here are a few points to consider:

Dental Injuries - While bones can help maintain dental health, chewing on bones can cause dental injuries. Dogs may crack or fracture their teeth, leading to pain, infection, and the need for dental procedures. Hard bones, like weight-bearing bones from large animals, are particularly risky.

Choking & Obstruction - Bones, especially cooked bones, can splinter and break into sharp fragments, posing a choking hazard. If swallowed, these shards can also cause intestinal obstructions, leading to a life-threatening emergency. Small dogs, aggressive chewers, or dogs prone to gulping are at higher risk.

Digestive Issues - Bones can cause digestive problems in some dogs, such as constipation, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. Fatty bones like marrow bones can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and sharp bone fragments can damage the digestive tract. Dogs with sensitive stomachs or a history of digestive issues should be monitored closely.

Are cooked bones bad for dogs?

Yes, cooked bones are bad for dogs. Cooking bones makes them brittle and more likely to splinter, which can cause serious injuries such as choking, blockages, or tears in the digestive tract. Never give your dog cooked bones, including those from table scraps.

What to Do if Your Dog Eats a Cooked Bone

If your dog accidentally eats a cooked bone, monitor them closely for signs of distress such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or abdominal pain. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your veterinarian immediately.

What options are there for allowing my dog to chew?

While bones can be a treat for dogs, they are not the only option. Various alternatives provide similar benefits without the associated risks.

Here are some safe chewing options for your dog:

  • Raw Bones - If you give your dog bones, consider raw bones instead of cooked options. Raw bones are less likely to splinter and cause injuries. Always supervise your dog while it chews on any type of bone.
  • Synthetic Chews -There are plenty of safe synthetic chew toys available on the market. These products are designed to be durable, non-toxic, and less likely to cause dental or digestive issues. Look for options like rubber chew toys, nylon bones, or specially designed dental chews.
  • Vet-Approved Treats - Consult with your veterinarian to find appropriate treats that promote dental health and are safe for your dog's specific needs. Dental chews or treats specially formulated to support oral hygiene can be a safer alternative to bones.
  • Frozen Treats - Freeze dog-safe fruits like blueberries, or use ice cube trays to create frozen treats with yogurt or broth. It is especially good for teething puppies or dogs who enjoy cool treats in hot weather.
  • Interactive Toys - Mental Stimulation - Toys like puzzle feeders and treat-dispensing toys provide mental stimulation and help prevent boredom. They require your dog to work for their treats, offering both physical and mental exercise.
  • Carrots and Other Vegetables -Raw carrots and other hard vegetables like celery can be great low-calorie chew options. They provide vitamins and minerals and help clean your dog’s teeth naturally.

It's important to provide your dog with safe and suitable chewing options to maintain its dental health and overall well-being. Always supervise your dog during chewing sessions, and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the best choices for your pet. By offering various safe and engaging chew options, you can keep your dog happy, healthy, and entertained.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you unsure which chew option is best for your dog? Contact our vets in Vancouver for personalized advice and recommendations.