Few dog treats are more classic than bones. They’re so common that most people immediately associate them with dogs, but the truth is that not all bones are actually good for dogs. In fact, there are some that are downright dangerous. As such, all dog owners should take some time to look at these classic treats a little more closely.
The best bones for dogs can be more than just a treat; in fact, they can be a great tool for keeping your dog healthy. Not just any bone will do, though, especially if you’re looking for a healthy treat. That’s why it’s important for every dog owner to figure out which kinds of bones are safe for dogs.
What to Avoid
While you may want to figure out exactly what you can give your dog, it’s often an even better idea to figure out what you need to avoid. Not only is doing so a good way to make sure that you keep your dog safe but looking at the qualities of the dog treats that you need to avoid can help you to figure out what makes any given type of bone a problem for your dog.
The good news about ‘bad’ bones is that they fall into only a few basic categories. As a dog owner, you’re going to want to be on the lookout for cooked bones, many store-bought bones, and rawhides.
When most people think about giving their dogs bones, they probably think about giving them table scraps. While this might not fit the image of a cartoon bone, cooked bones are relatively easy to source and they can certainly seem like great tools for those who want their dogs to stop whining about getting food from the table. As normal as the impulse to feed these bones to your dog might be, though, doing so is actually something that can put your pet in danger.
The big problem with choosing to give your dog cooked bones is that these bones very easily break and splinter. Since they’ve been cooked, they don’t have the kind of structural integrity that is needed to stand up to your dog’s mouth. Unfortunately, this weakness also means that they break in a way that can lead to a significant amount of danger for your dog. Cooked bones have an unfortunate tendency to splinter out into very sharp segments, each of which will at least have the potential to cause damage to your dog’s mouth if not to do more damage to his or her throat and digestive system.
If you’re not convinced by the general threat to your dog’s health, you might need to take a look at some of the problems that cooked bones can cause your dog. They can cut up his or her throat, cause intestinal blockage, and even lead to tongue injuries. Shards of these bones can break teeth, cause jaw damage, and can even cause rectal bleeding on their way out of your dog’s system. Most frightening, though, is the potential for peritonitis, a condition that’s caused when the shards of bone puncture your dog’s stomach and lead to a bacterial infection. Peritonitis is a deadly condition that many dogs simply cannot survive if they don’t receive immediate treatment.
Many dog owners already know to try to avoid cooked bones. Unfortunately, many then try to go as far away from those treats as possible by getting various bone-shaped treats from a grocery store or pet store. Unfortunately, these products aren’t as safe as typical dog biscuits and can actually end up causing some problems of their own.
The big problem with most of these treats is how they are prepared. While they might have natural-sounding names like ‘Ham Bones’ or ‘Knuckle Bones’, the truth is that they are often filled with preservatives and ingredients that are meant to give the treats special flavoring. This, in turn, can lead to some issues that aren’t great for your dog’s well-being.
Most of what you’re going to see from this kind of bone are those conditions that you’d see from any treat that’s filled with bad ingredients. This means stomach problems, vomiting, stool issues, blockages. Unfortunately, the bone-like composition also means that you’ll see problems like oral and rectal bleeding, to say nothing of the potential of death from conditions like peritonitis.
Rawhides are another common type of bone-like treat, and like store-bought bones, they tend to be a fairly bad fit for your dog. Again, they tend to be manufactured in a way that prioritizes looks and shelf-life over their ability to be digested, which means that they can have toxic ingredients. Even worse, the low levels of quality control involved with them also make them great vectors for E. coli and salmonella.
Even if the quality control is good, you’re still going to see many ingredients vets would love you to avoid. These include gelatin, which is almost always present, as well as preservatives, sweeteners, and other additives. These ingredients tend to be bad for your dog’s ability to maintain a healthy weight at their best and can even be carcinogenic at their worst.
Raw Bones Are Your Best Bet
With all of the kinds of bones that are out there that need to be avoided, it is nice to note that there are some easy choices to be made that will allow you to give your dog bones without too much worry about their suitability. The secret here is to choose raw bones rather than cooked bones – they’re soft enough to chew without splintering, and still, have some great benefits for your dog.
This isn’t to say that bones are automatically safe, of course. You’ll need to watch out for your dog and talk to your vet about any treatment choice, but cooked bones tend to be popular among most dog owners. With that said, though, there are even options for those who don’t want to take any risks.
Chewing bones or ‘recreational’ bones are big bones that are simply inedible for all but the biggest dogs. These are huge bones – beef hips or femurs, for example – that your dog isn’t going to be able to get through. He or she might enjoy the meat or cartilage that’s still on the bone, but ultimately he or she isn’t going to be in the same kind of danger from one of these butcher-bought bones as he or she would be from one that you buy at a grocery store.
The biggest risk of getting your dog a recreational bone is that all of the non-edible bits can be good vectors for bacteria. You’ll want to make sure that you handle them properly and that they’re safe for your dog before you give one to him or her. Beyond that, you’ll also need to make sure that your dog doesn’t spend too much time with the edible bits, as most are pretty high in fat and calories. Obviously, this isn’t great if you’re trying to help your dog lose weight.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe
If you are going to give your dog bones of any kind, you do need to follow some basic safety guidelines. Doing so will allow your dog to enjoy the treat without putting him or her in danger.
The most important rule is that you should never leave your dog alone with a bone. You need to make sure that you’re there to supervise and to stop any problems before they become serious.
Throw out gnawed-down bones. If your dog chews a bone down to the brittle part, splintering becomes a problem. Additionally, a bone that has been chewed down too small becomes a choking hazard.
From there, it’s usually a matter of knowing your dog. Don’t, for example, give any kind of little bone to a big dog that is going to immediately swallow it or snap it in half. Don’t give bones to dogs who eat too fast either, as the choking risk is greater. In fact, you should generally only give your dog bones after meals so that he or she won’t attack the bones quite so quickly.
You should also think about the bones you give your dog. Pork and rib bones are always to be avoided, as they tend to splinter quickly. Likewise, don’t feed your dog anything that he or she can swallow without chewing. The easiest way to figure this out is to check out how long your dog’s muzzle is; if the bone’s not longer than the muzzle, he or she shouldn’t eat that bone.
Don’t let your dog chew on a bone for too long. Ten or fifteen minutes is enough, as going longer than that makes it much more likely that the bone will splinter or break. Once the bone is ground down and starts to get too soft, you need to throw it out so that you can prevent future breakages. Under no circumstances should you keep a bone for more than three or four days, and even then you should only keep the bones as long as they have been refrigerated. Contamination is always something for which you should be on the lookout, so treat your dog’s bones the same way you would treat human food.
Why Give Your Dog Bones?
With all this said, you might wonder if it’s even a good idea to give your dog a bone. If you’re a person who likes to play it safe, it makes sense that you’d need to see some real benefits before giving your dog something that’s got so much potential for trouble. In reality, your dog does need bones because of one all-important behavior – chewing.
Chewing is a big part of a dog’s life, and according to Anchor Animal Hospital, it can be a beneficial addition to a dog’s dental care routine. Chewing is how they keep their mouths and teeth healthy, and bones that are made for chewing essentially allow dogs to brush their teeth and keep their gums clean in a way that humans simply cannot do for them. Chewing is vital for preventing plaque and cavities, as well as for helping your dog’s salivary production.
Bones are also great for keeping your dog mentally fit. Dogs love to chew on bones because the bones keep their minds occupied. This means less anxiety, less destructiveness, and less of a likelihood of developing conditions related to blood pressure.
In fact, bones even help out with body health. Bones have a lot of great vitamins and minerals in them, which can help to strengthen many different parts of a dog’s body. Dogs who chew on bones even have healthier bowels and anal glands.
Making the Choice to Give Your Dog a Bone
There are some real physical and mental benefits to giving your dog a bone, but there are likewise plenty of potential problems. While it’s certainly up to you as a dog owner to figure out what kind of risks make sense for your dog, the truth is that you can eliminate many of them simply by being attentive and giving your dog the right kind of bones. While these aren’t treats to be handed out likely, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits that a bone can bring your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of bones is safe for dogs?
There are two types of bones that are generally considered ‘safe’ for dogs. The first type is uncooked bones, though it’s always important to avoid poultry bones or rib bones that are too easy to break. The other type of bones that tend to be popular are large ‘recreational’ bones that you can get from a butcher shop, which are too big for your dog to break or splinter but that tend to have plenty of healthy bone marrow and other types of protein attached to them.
What is the safest bone for a dog to chew?
The safest bone for your dog is probably an uncooked, non-poultry bone that’s too big for your dog to swallow without chewing and that won’t splinter into tiny pieces when he or she bites into the bone. This with gives your dog the benefits of having a bone while still allowing him or her to avoid most of the potential problems.