By Debra Manfield, Owner
Benefits of feeding raw bones to dogs
Raw meaty bones, introduced properly into your dog or cat’s diet, can become an important part of your pet’s health.
Raw weight bearing bones, like the femur or knuckle, are considered recreational bones. They provide the best in dental hygiene, especially if the bone still has cartilage, tissue and muscle meat on it. Macerating meat and bones massages teeth and gums cleaning away food residue and tartar buildup. This in turn prevents plaque formation, bad breath, cavities, and gingivitis thus making teeth cleaning and scaling unnecessary.
Another benefit of recreational bones is that when chewed, they provide mental stimulation and increased serotonin levels, making for one very happy dog.
Should you feed dogs chicken and poultry bones
Do not feed chicken or poultry bones to dogs on their own. They can splinter and perforate your pet’s intestines. And never serve cooked poultry or chicken bones. Only the hollow, non-weight-bearing raw bones of birds can be carefully fed if they are ground up with meat. Your pet can receive digestible calcium and other minerals which are vital for bone health.
How do I begin feeding raw bones
The first thing to understand is that overly processed dry food, especially those high in carbs, grain, and plant protein, cause the gastric PH to rise, making the stomach more alkaline. When that happens, the acidity levels decrease making it difficult for your pet to digest raw bones and meat. This rejection shows up as vomiting, diarrhea, and general gastroenteritis. This reduction in acid also diminishes your pet’s ability to ward off potentially pathogenic bacteria like salmonella and E Coli and greatly slows down your pet’s stomach emptying ability.
So if you want to give your dog or cat the benefits of raw bones and if they don’t already eat a raw diet, start giving them a little raw meat every day for about 7 – 10 days. This addition to their daily diet will lower their PH thereby raising the acidity levels so they can break down raw bone and meat.
Feed your dog an appropriately sized bone and let him chew on it for about 20 minutes then take it away and refreeze it to give another day. The second or third time you give a bone, continue to restrict chewing time until after the fourth or fifth bone session then let them have it for however long they want. Usually it takes my border collie about one to two hours to get at all the marrow and the meat. After that she doesn’t want it any more so I just toss it!
Raw Bones vs cooked bones
NEVER EVER feed your dog or cat cooked bones. I cannot stress strongly enough the potential damage you can do to your pet internally if you feed cooked bones. Bones become brittle and can splinter, causing perforations in the intestinal track and stomach causing Peritonitis. This can kill your pet.
Slow Roasted marrow or femur bones offered by some pet manufacturers, while okay to give to your dog, offer none of the benefits of raw bones. Your dog might chew off a large chunk, something more easily done with a cooked bone, swallow it and not be able to digest it causing gut pain (colic), scarring of the gut lining and bleeding, choking, impaction, even death. NEVER feed a knuckle or marrow bone that you have cooked at home….those will definitely splinter and cause harm.
Feeding Pork and beef rib bones to dogs
Do not feed raw pork bones, as they splinter too easily. Only feed beef or bison rib bones to very small dogs. Most medium to large dogs will run into trouble if you let them have rib bones because they tend to consume too much bone which can result in impaction or, because the rib bone can be broken into smaller pieces, it can become a choking hazard.
Should you feed raw or cooked lamb bones to dogs?
Raw lamb bones are as safe to feed as recreational bones like beef or bison. I would not, however, feed a slow roasted lamb bone to dogs as I’ve personally seen too many splinter due to the narrow shank. And of course NEVER feed a cooked lamb bone, EVER.
Should I feed raw bones to small dogs or puppies?
Size the bone right. Small dogs can handle raw bones. Just make sure they are sized appropriately. No bone should easily fit inside a dog’s mouth. The bone should always be oversized. You want your pet to have to move their mouth around the bone versus moving the bone inside their mouth!
Puppies should only be fed raw, edible bones that have been ground up. Raw femur or knuckle bones can easily break off a puppy’s tooth. Once their adult teeth have emerged, you can then feed recreational bones.
Large dogs can handle large bones like 5” or larger marrow bones, and large knuckle bones. Do not give a large dog a small bone ever. They tend to want to try and swallow the smaller bones and they can become lodged in their throats or they can get bones stuck across the roof of the mouth or behind their molars.
Other health issues to consider
If your pooch has a predisposition to pancreatitis, withhold raw marrow bones as they are too rich. You can, however, scoop out most of the marrow and feed a “low fat” bone to that pooch so they can enjoy the other benefits.
Do not feed recreational bones to dogs that tend to break their teeth when chewing or to dogs that have had restorative dental work. My little, 20 lb. schnauzer fractured two molars chewing on raw femur bones, so just watch your pet and be aware of potential hazards.
If you have aggressive chewers at home, find a nice knuckle bone and make sure it’s about the size of their head. That way you’ll be more confident that they cannot break off a big chunk and swallow it. Knuckle bones also tend to be softer than femur bones, so dogs are less likely to suffer fractured teeth.
Handle raw bones carefully
Always refreeze or refrigerate bones that still have marrow and meat left on them. Put the bone in the refrigerator if giving it back the next day or refreeze it if several days will pass before the bone is given again.
Do dog bones go bad?
Toss old raw and roasted bones away that don’t have any marrow or meat left. Even though your pooch might enjoy gnawing on it, they can become brittle and break apart.
Don’t forget kitty!
Cats are obligate carnivores and, as such, require high-quality animal protein, muscle and organ meat, plus raw meaty bones. Cut up a turkey or chicken neck, removing most of the skin, and let them have at it. Once accomplished, the pieces can be larger. Sometimes, cats prefer starting with the softer chicken bones, including backs, wings, and legs.
Again, NEVER cook these products as the bones will become brittle and splinter causing very serious injury to your cat. Get them started young. Your cats will soon be begging you for raw bones and you’ll be rewarded with seeing brilliant feline fangs!
Supervise your pet when feeding raw bones and manage your pack if you have a multi-dog household. Bones are high-value resource and fights can break out.
Knowing the benefits and precautions of how to feed raw meaty bones will keep you pets happy, healthy and chewing!