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Are Dog Bones Safe?
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Are Dog Bones Safe?

A recent rummage through a Sunday newspaper brought me to an article about dog bones. It was quite an upsetting story about a 2 year old miniature Schnauzer that had died suddenly after being given a dry bone by its owner. Within hours of chewing on the bone, the dog was sick and unable to walk. The owners found out later that the bone had splintered causing fragments to rupture the stomach. The bone in question had been purchased from a pet food store and was being advertised as a “natural product”.

I found the article both shocking and upsetting. But it started me thinking. I have given my Labrador an occasional bone for years, and delight in seeing how much he enjoys the treat. More recently, I have been considering switching him over to a raw diet, which could mean feeding lots of raw bones such as chicken necks and wings.

So what type of bones can you safely feed a dog? In fact, do dogs need bones at all?

Types Of Dog Bones:

Raw Bones - If you are prepared to give your dog a bone it needs to be raw. Large dogs can handle larger bones, like lamb necks, lamb shanks, beef leg bones, whole rabbit, whole chickens or chicken carcasses. Smaller dogs will fare better with chicken carcasses, chicken necks or wings, lamb flaps, brisket bones, and ribs. Just be aware - weight bearing or hard bones can be a problem for some dogs, because there is always the risk of chipping or breaking a tooth.

Cooked Bones – The simple rule is never feed cooked bones. Once cooked, bones become harder and more brittle than raw bones. They are more likely to break into large chunks and can result in your pet choking or sustaining more serious injuries.

Commercial Bones - Most vets recommend not feeding animal bones of any kind. They prefer the more synthetic kind such as the ones listed below:

  • Marrow bones can be bought from pet food stores and supermarkets.They are quite chunky but tend not to splinter.
  • Nylon bones are quite robust and last a long time. If bits of nylon break off and the dog swallows them, there is little chance of any serious injuries.
  • Rawhide bones do have a number of problems. When chewed, the rawhide can become very soft and easy to swallow causing choking.

So what are the pros and cons of giving dogs either an edible bone as part of their diet, or a recreational bone for them to enjoy?

Arguments for giving bones:

• Chewing releases endorphins in dogs which create a feeling of happiness.

• Prevents boredom.

• Stops them chewing other things in the house like the TV remote.

• Dogs are built to chew and consume animal bones – it’s what they did in the wild.

• Bones are a natural source of calcium and phosphorus.

Arguments against giving bones:

• Danger of serious injury or even death if bones splinter and perforate parts of the digestive track.

• Choking.

• Bones can break teeth and cause enamel damage.

• Raw bones don't splinter, but may contain bacteria that cause illness.

Feeding bones is controversial and I suspect nothing much is going to change that. Some dog lovers will always be fearful of giving their pet a bone because of the fear factor and the risk of injury.

However, there are things you can do to minimize the risk of feeding bones to your pet:

1. Know your dog. Do they chew their food or gulp huge chunks? Dogs used to swallowing large chunks are more likely to choke.

2. Never give cooked bones – they are more likely to splinter.

3. Bigger bones tend to be safer because they are less of a choking hazard, so choose a size of dog bone that cannot be swallowed.

4. Don’t leave the bones outside so they can dry out and become brittle.

5. Throw the bone away when it becomes small enough to fit into the dog’s mouth.

6. Keep an eye on them. Let them chew on the bone but under supervision.

Do I switch my Labrador to a diet containing more raw bones? My main interest in feeding a raw diet stems from the fact that the dog is overweight, and has struggled to get along with some of the dry commercial feeds. However, he is a large dog who gulps his food at a fantastic rate, and is more likely to be at risk from being given bones on a regular basis. His chipped front tooth is the only injury sustained from eating bones so far, but it could be much worse!

As with most issues to do with dogs, feeding bones is one which divides opinions. Knowledgeable dog breeders and pet owners believe the risk is minimal and are much in favour. Veterinarians and people with experience of seeing their pets choking or having to undergo surgery, are very much against.

Dogs can survive quite happily without bones in their diet. Therefore, if you are worried that a certain bone may cause your dog to choke, do not feed it to him.

Street Talk

Nice work, I personally prefer to give my dog real bone rather than manufactured junk and chemicals. I give my dog beef marrow bones and I do bake them for 30/40 minutes. to prevent Salmonella poisoning. I also am writing about dogs on street articles.

  about 9 years ago

Hi Frank. Thanks for your comments. I have a Labrador who loves bones and is rather overweight. I have considered feeding him a raw diet but reading the article in the newspaper has worried me a little. I also give my dog beef marrow bones but have never cooked them. Will certainly do so from now on. Thanks for the tip. Best wishes.

  about 9 years ago
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