Top Dog Tips - Are Raw Bones Good for DogsHappy Sunday readers! It was a busy week here at Top Dog Tips, but I was able to sneak in some research anyway. Last week we were invited to a friend's house and when we got there I noticed her dog chewing on a raw bone filled with marrow. He was loving it, but it made me a little nervous because I've heard a lot of negative things about allowing your dog to chew raw bones. This week I decided to research the topic and find out for myself.

Last week I looked into at-home pet grooming, which is a pretty straightforward topic. This week I found some inconsistent sources, but for the most part the experts agree that it is okay to give your pet bones, you just need to know what kinds are appropriate.

You should take into consideration the size of your dog and the size of the bone you intend to give him. You can do a quick Google search for pictures of dogs with bones stuck around their upper or lower jaw, and it will break your heart.

Clearly these pet parents weren't taking size into consideration when they gave their dogs these bones. If this happens to your pet, you'll either need to put him through some pain while you dislodge it yourself, or take him into the vet and have it cut off. Either way your dog will be put through a lot of unnecessary stress and pain.

There are also certain types of bones that are better for canine than others. Before reading through all these articles and blog posts this week, I thought a bone was a bone, but I was wrong. Some types of bones are harder than others. The harder ones can damage or even break your dog's teeth.

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So are raw bones good for dogs? If not, what type of bones are okay for dogs to chew on and which types should you avoid all together? I know…I ask a lot of questions, and (if you've been following my columns) you know that I want research and explanations for the information that I find. I love learning better ways to care for my dog, but I'm always curious as to why certain things are better for canines or why they are not.

Are Raw Bones Good for Dogs?

In somewhat of a harsh tone, debunks the myth about all bones being bad for dogs. The writer certainly makes the point that cooked bones are very dangerous for canines, which I found to be true throughout my reading. I couldn't find one legitimate source that showed any research stating that cooked bones were safe for dogs.

The writer does back up his statements with research, he just writes in a very gruff voice, which I don't particularly enjoy. Nonetheless, the facts are there, and the information is given in a very matter-of-fact way.

  • Cooked bones are quite dangerous. Cooking changes the structure of the bone, making it indigestible and easily splinterable. Raw bones rarely splinter and are fully digestible, even the collagen proteins that some people claim are “indigestible.” It is mostly the byproducts of the digested bone that form the bulk of a raw-fed animal's feces. Dogs and cats do not need the fiber from grains and vegetables, and feeding such foods only results in the big, soft, malodorous stools everyone complains about.

If you're like me and you'd like something written with a bit of a softer tone, Keep the Tail Wagging is a great site with a beautifully written blog about raw bones. The writer, Kimberly, shares a video of Dr. Bruce Silverman of Village West Veterinary in Chicago, IL, who talks about the dangers of feeding your pet raw bones. She also gives some great alternatives for pet parents who may be interested in trying something different.

  • With all these warnings, there are still people who will continue to believe that raw bones for dogs are perfectly fine.  As Dr. Silverman stated, the dogs who eat raw bones fare better than dogs who eat cooked bones.  I know a local breeder who has fed her dogs raw bones for 20 years as part of a raw food diet and they have had no health issues.  It’s impressive. I have friends who have switched over to a raw food diet under the guidance of dog nutritionist and their dogs are thriving well and enjoy the treat of raw bones.

     For our family, we no longer purchase raw bones because they make our dogs sick.  I        don’t know if it’s because the bones are too rich or if the marrow was turning; either        way, they’re not for our dogs.  I wanted to share the warnings with other dog owners,      because the care and maintenance of dogs (and many of us have several) can be              expensive and if something should go wrong when a dog eats a bone, it could be              spendy to correct.

I also found a link on the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) website about the dangers of feeding your dog bones. The FDA doesn’t make it clear whether their warning extends to all bones or just cooked bones, but by the way the article was worded I assumed they were talking about cooked bones, which includes the packaged bones you can buy at pet stores. You can judge for yourself.

  • “Some people think it’s OK to give dogs large bones to chew on” says Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “But giving your dog a bone might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.”FDA has received about 35 reports of pet illnesses related to bone treats and seven reports of product problems, such as bones shattering when pulled from their packaging. The reports, sent in by pet owners and veterinarians, involved about 45 dogs.

Dr. Karen Becker read the research from the FDA as well. She wrote about it on her website Healthy Pets. Like me, she assumed they were only talking about cooked bones as well, and she goes into great detail about the dangers of cooked bones. She also describes the two types of raw bones that are best for canines and gives a list of guidelines for feeding your pet(s) bones safely.

This article was so easy to read. Dr. Becker writes in a way that everyone can understand, which I enjoy. A lot of the articles I find are full of veterinary jargon and language that I barely understand. She lists the information simply and it's well organized and easy to read.

  • At my clinic, Natural Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend to all our dog parents that they separate bones into two categories:
    1. Edible bones
    2. Recreational bones

    Edible bones are the hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, do not contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder.

    These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which can be an essential part of your pup’s balanced raw food diet.

    Recreational bones – big chunks of beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow — don’t supply significant dietary nutrition for your dog (they are not designed to be chewed up and swallowed, only gnawed on), but they do provide mental stimulation and are great for your pup’s oral health.

Thriving Canine had guest blogger Dr. Greg Martinez write a quick column for their website about raw bones as well, because they too were hearing a lot of rumors. Good to know it's not just me with curiosity and questions about everything related to dogs!

I really enjoyed this blog because it didn't just talk about raw bones, but also the benefits of a better diet in general. I wrote my Let's Talk column on raw dog food diets this week, so my interest was certainly peaked when Dr. Martinez mentioned the benefits of a raw diet. What I really enjoyed was that he didn't push the raw diet idea, instead he talked about the benefits briefly and then went back to the topic of raw bones.

There is also some great information in this blog about how nerve racking it can be to feed your pet raw bones for the first time, and an easier way to ease yourself into it.

  • If raw meaty bones scare you, you can slow cook meat and bones for 12-24 hours with veggies or brown rice. The crumbling bones yield the nutrition of the bones, joints, and marrow. Many hesitant clients started cooking the stew, then graduated to raw chicken wings, and then to larger bones as they felt more comfortable with the practice.Feeding your dog a better diet is really the key to coping with allergies or other medical problems. Skin problems, ear problems, seizures, bowel problems, and bladder problems often respond to different ingredients or type of diet.

Dr. Ihor Basko has a website called Dr. B Holistic Vet which he obviously uses to educate the public about the benefits of alternative medicine. I've found some great information on his site, if you're interested in alternative medicines and therapies, but I was surprised when I found these great tips for feeding your pet(s) bones safely.

His four tips explain how to choose the right size and type of bone and what you should do while your dog is chewing it. One key piece of information that he shares is that raw bones are not good for all dogs. I found this especially interesting since my boxer is a Brachiocephalic breed. He even explains how to tell if your dog is a Brachiocephalic breed if you're not sure what that is.

  • Feeding bones isn’t appropriate for all dogs – certain breeds of dogs just can’t process bones and gain the same benefits that other dogs get from chewing on bones.This has a lot to do with jawbone structure.Brachiocephalic breeds such as boxers, bull dogs, pugs, and shitzu are NOT mechanically designed to be able to chew bones effectively and safely.  A Kong toy might be a better substitute if you have this kind of dog.

     Little dogs and toys with delicate jaw structures and softer teeth should not eat bones.      If your dog is too little to eat bones safely, you can still help maintain their dental            health using a mix of hydrogen peroxide and aloe vera juice.  

     Dogs with gut sensitivities might not process bones well either. If your dog is prone to      loose stools or vomiting, be sure to resolve those GI issues first, and save the bones          for after he/she has recovered. If your dog isn’t used to chewing on real meat bones,        they can sometimes have a bout of diarrhea or soft stool after eating the bones. Over        time, their system will adjust and they will be able to consume bones without issue (if      fed bones on a regular basis).

Finally, I stumbled upon some great information from “the blog that everyone loves.” The Three Dog Blog summed up the information that I've shared quite nicely. They have a bit of everything about raw bones including why they are okay for dogs, what other options there are out there, and what the dangers are if you choose to feed your dog raw bones (or raw food of any kind for that matter).

I love that this blog talks about the positive effects that raw bones can have on your dog's dental health. Many people think that bones will chip and break their dog's teeth, but there are actually some really great dental benefits to chewing raw bones.

  • Now, many people are loathe to give their Dog a bone but basically all raw bones are safe bones for Dogs.Dog owners seem scared to give raw bones to their pets, and to be honest I used to be one of those people. The result was that our poor old Dog Sam suffered from bad breath, decaying teeth and had to undergo serious (and costly) dental work.Oh how I wish that I knew then what I know now.Many think it is natural but it is not natural for Dogs to have bad breath.None of our three Dogs, or even the Cat for that matter, have bad breath at all. They can be right in your face, and who has a Dog that isn’t on occasion, and there is never a whiff of bad breath unless we have been lax and not given them a raw meaty bone for an extended amount of time.How do raw bones clean Dogs teeth?The mere act of chewing, grinding and trying to decimate a raw bone will scrape away any plaque, tartar and the like from a Dogs (or Cats) teeth. The result is a set of teeth many of us would be proud of. The more regular they get them the cleaner their teeth and the better their breath.

As always, I welcome your feedback, questions, and comments. Please feel free to tell us about your experience, or lack thereof, with raw bones. Have you ever had a negative experience? Personally, I've never given my dogs raw bones, but I'm certainly keen on trying it now.

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.