The image of a dog chewing a bone is such a familiar sight. Whether in cartoons, films or TV shows, it’s something we see time and time again – so often that many of us don’t think twice before shovelling leftover bones into our dog’s bowl. But could you be doing more harm than good feeding bones to your dogs? Can dogs eat bones and if not, why not?
Find out if bones are good for dogs in this article.
Can dogs eat bones?
If you’re looking for information about feeding bones to your dog, you’ve probably discovered that there’s lots of conflicting advice out there! This is because bones provide some benefits for dogs, but they also carry risks too. Since some of the risks are very serious, we don’t advise feeding bones to your dog.
One of the biggest risks is that sharp splinters of bone might damage your dog’s digestive tract. This can lead to a range of problems, including:
- Tongue or mouth injuries.
- Damage to the throat or oesophagus.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Peritonitis (a bacterial infection of the abdomen caused by stomach or intestinal punctures).
Sometimes these problems can be very obvious, but in other cases the signs can be quite subtle. If you notice that your dog is unwell or uncomfortable after they’ve got hold of a bone, it’s best to contact your vet as soon as possible.
If your dog swallows a larger piece of bone, there’s also a risk that it may cause a blockage of the digestive tract. In this case your dog may be uncomfortable and off colour, and might develop vomiting or diarrhoea. Again, it’s important to contact your vet if any of these signs show up.
As if digestive problems aren’t enough to worry about with bones, there’s also the risk of choking! If your dog chews off a piece of bone and it goes the wrong way, it could be a serious choking hazard.
What’s more, some dogs can break their teeth by chewing on bones. And finally, since bones can’t be completely digested, your dog can develop constipation if they chew on bones too much.
In light of all these risks, we don’t recommend feeding bones to your dog at all. So if you’ve been asking yourself ‘can dogs eat chicken bones?’, ‘can dogs eat lamb bones?’, or ‘can dogs eat pork bones?’, you now know the answer to your question!
How about cooked versus raw bones for dogs?
Cooked bones are particularly dangerous for dogs as they have been weakened by heating, so they can more easily break and splinter. So if your dog manages to get their paws on a cooked bone, it’s really important to watch them carefully afterwards for signs of illness.
Raw bones are stronger, but they can still splinter so it’s not recommended to feed them to your canine companion. Plus, they come with their own risks as well! As the bones are raw, they’re more likely to be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella. This can lead to diarrhoea or vomiting for your pet, and it also means that your dog’s poo might contain higher levels of harmful bacteria that could potentially pass to humans. This means that it’s important to avoid feeding a raw bone to your dog as well.
The meat from the bones also needs to be carefully considered. For more information read our article on whether to feed your dog pork.
Aren’t bones good for dogs?
It’s true that raw meaty bones do contain some nutrients, particularly in the soft tissues attached to the bone – the meat, cartilage and fat. However, if you feed your dog a complete and balanced dog food, they shouldn’t need any extra nutrients from bones.
Another reason why people give bones to their canine companions is to support dental health. Having a good chew can be great for your dog’s teeth as it can crack off tartar and prevent plaque build-up. Chewing also stimulates saliva flow, releasing some antibacterial agents that can help improve oral hygiene. Luckily, there’s a whole range of chews you can give to your dog to keep their teeth nice and healthy, without having to deal with the risks that come with bones! For example, some dental chews have great cleaning action.