It’s no secret that dogs love bones.
Some of the classic images we hold in our mind of a pet pooch is of happily chewing away on the fireside hearth or the cheeky character calling around to the local butcher to see what bones are on offer that day! It’s in century-old nursery rhymes, common language and even art. We have bone-shaped dog beds, bone shaped dog tags, even artificial treats shaped like bones!
However, a common question we were asked at the recent Sydney Dog Lovers Show was:
Are bones safe to feed my dog?
And you know what, we were surprised by how many vets had advised against it!
It just highlighted the amount of misinformation being spread - so we thought we’d give you the rundown (and as we like it, this is backed by science!).
It’s All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating
First off, as with all arguments for raw feeding, the case for bones has a strong genetic and evolutionary component.
Evolutionary biologists have determined that ancient canines adopted pack-living about 8 million years ago. They realised that the best way to take down larger prey was to work together as a group, with the spoils being shared and nothing going to waste. Their skulls, jaws and teeth evolved to have the ability to crunch through bone, and these more successful hunters were able to pass on their genes.
According to Dr. Joao Munoz-Doran, who lead the study
Domestic dogs have very good evolutionary reasons to enjoy chewing a bone. They have the tools to do that and they want to use those tools
So Why The Bad Press?
Apart from the obvious fear-mongering by a pet food industry that wants to keep you hooked on those bags of kibble, why are we hearing about vets warning against feeding bones?
We like to think most vets have our animals’ best interests at heart (and we know some who definitely do!) but we think a lot of it comes down to this:
COOKED vs RAW, MEATY BONES
Cooked bones are most certainly a big NO.
So, while they may be giving you those puppy eyes for the leftovers of the Sunday roast, please please do not be tempted to give them cooked bones.
- Cooked bones are leached of collagen, fat and minerals. This makes them brittle and liable to splinter
- These splinters can cause damage to the teeth, gums, throat and possible internal injuries
- Peritonitis (an extremely serious, life-threatening condition) can result when one of these cooked splinters punctures the abdominal walls. This will require emergency surgery
We’d wager that vets who advise against feeding bones are those who’ve seen the damage done by cooked bones.
The same applies to those desiccated, heat-treated bones available in pet stores - if it's been smoked, dehydrated or cooked in any way then it's a big no!
Raw, meaty bones are a different proposition entirely as they’re:
- Springy and flexible so won’t splinter into sharp pieces
- Excellent sources of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorous, which are important in bone development, brain function, cellular function, enzyme functions... (so kinda everything!)
- Great for developing jaw, skull, neck and shoulder muscling, and if you think about the increasing incidence of hip dysplasia and joint issues, anything that helps build stability in joints gets a big plus from us
- Perfect (and fun!) relief for young, teething pups
Oh, and while we’re on the matter of dental health, perhaps the best thing you can do for any dog’s teeth and gums is feed raw, meaty bones!
Don’t be swayed by all the propaganda about ‘teeth-cleaning’ kibble or ‘dental sticks’.
Raw, meaty bones are far superior toothbrushes to any of that marketing nonsense (the meatier the better) .
In fact, Marx et al (2016) found an 88% reduction in dental calculus (tartar) after 20 days of dogs being fed raw, meaty bones with NO tooth fractures, intestinal obstructions or any other complications!
THESE are the type of scientifically-conducted studies that should receive widespread attention. However, because it doesn’t suit the corporate narrative, they’re buried and have to be dug up!
Finally, we’d just like to give two important safety messages when it comes to feeding your pup raw, meaty bones:
- We recommend that you always monitor them while they’re eating bones. With regard to size, a good rule of thumb is the larger the dog, the larger the bone that can be fed. However don't go as big as weight-bearing bones from large animals (e.g. beef or venison) as these can pose issues for aggressive chewers. When they have it gnawed down to a size that could become a choking hazard, remove it
- Dry-fed dogs generally have a stomach PH level of around 2.5. Raw-fed dogs have a more acidic PH level of about 1.5, making them more suitable for the digestion of raw, meaty bones. Well-meaning pet-parents of dry-fed dogs may wish to give them a raw, meaty bone as an occasional treat but this does place them at higher risk of some of the complications mentioned above
We would love to hear how you feed raw, meaty bones! Do you substitute one meal a week with them? Do you add them as extras on days you feed a boneless mix? Or are you not sure and want a little more help?
If you don't have them in your regular rotation, you can check out our full range of raw meaty bones here and give your dog the tasty nutritious treats they deserve!