It’s a given that dogs enjoy nibbling on a bone. The idea that dogs love bones has been in song lyrics; it has been animated in cartoons, and many sports teams with dogs as mascots often depict the mascot chewing on a bone. The question remains, though—why do dogs like bones?
There are several answers to the question, but the short answer is that dogs love bones because bones can provide rich amounts of nutrition for dogs.
Dogs have always loved to chew on things. If you have ever owned a puppy, you understand that chewing is a natural response. It helps them to break through their puppy and later adult teeth, and chewing provides a means of dealing with stress for dogs.
Dogs were once considered hypercarnivores. That means that at least seventy percent of their diet was protein. Of course, ancient dogs had to kill and eat prey as a chief source of food, and no one was available to strip the dogs’ meal of bones, so dogs ate those as well as the flesh of their prey. When these dogs would eat the bone, they would often eat the marrow inside the bone, which provided the dog with lots of iron. The meat around the bones of the dog’s prey was also high in protein, satisfying much of the ancient dog’s dietary needs.
It’s also important to note that the last point of the carnivore’s prey was the bone. Even in the most difficult of seasons, a starving animal’s bones still had nutrition inside whether the animal was fat or lean, healthy or not. Ancient dogs knew that they could get nutrients from this part of the prey even if there was little fat and protein elsewhere on the animal carcass. It can be attributed to evolution if you like. These ancient practices in our dogs’ ancestors were deeply ingrained in the DNA of the canine, and they still innately recognize that bones have necessary nutrition.
It’s interesting to note that the bone marrow is not only nutritionally rich but also contains fat. Scientific research has shown that we need a certain percentage of healthy fat in our diet. Dogs are no different from us humans in this respect. Fat can serve as a “nutritional multiplier,” and dogs innately know that if they could get to the bones of their prey, they stood a much better chance of surviving hard times than dogs that couldn’t manage this.
Dogs are literally designed to chew bones. We don’t really think about it today, but ancient dogs had very strong bones and teeth. This was a part of their genetic makeup so that the species could survive. Dogs have never lost these characteristics, which is one reason why they crave the nutrition in bones today. Bones provide a lot of high-calorie marrow for dogs. Dogs also get calcium as they gnaw away at the bone. In pursuit of the marrow, dogs inadvertently release calcium into their digestive tract, yielding yet another benefit from chewing bones.
Dogs would often hunt together in packs. Often, these packs would attack large prey by surrounding it and taking prey down as a group. Of course, these dogs would eat everything edible on the carcass of their prey, including bones. Wild dogs today still surround and attack prey just as their ancestors did.
What some modern pet parents fail to recognize is that our domesticated dogs still need the same nutrition their ancestors did. Much commercial food today is based on corn and gluten products, which is not nutritionally sound for our pets. Dogs are still carnivores, and even the most inactive dog still needs protein and iron.
Our human ancestors are also responsible for dogs’ desire for meat and bones. Those who had domesticated dogs would often feed them scraps, including meat and bones. This was a way to keep dogs around for security as well as companionship. Plus, these dogs played a role in cleaning up as our ancestors couldn’t preserve food as we can today. Of course, dogs enjoyed being fed without having to hunt down (and possibly lose prey). This is how dogs became more intertwined with humans and dogs came to rely on humans for dog food.
Somehow, our ancestors also noticed that bones provided mental stimulation to their dogs. Another reason that dogs eat bones is that the act of chewing on bones gives the dog pleasure. It is also soothing to them. Plus, bones taste good to dogs.
Puppies chew for two major reasons. First, chewing helps to relieve some of the pain involved with getting their teeth in. Yes, just like babies, dogs become uncomfortable during the teething process. Chewing is a way for your puppy to relieve some of that pain as well as soothe themselves. For puppies, chewing not only soothes, but it may be an outlet for stress. Dogs, just like humans, can become stressed or overstimulated. As a result, they may chew whatever is available. A bone, a shoe, a piece of furniture. However, a bone is much better for a puppy to chew on as opposed to furniture or a shoe! This is also why pet parents find it necessary to give the best chew toys for dogs.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one other reason some pups chew, and that’s out of boredom. It is always a good idea to have dental chews for dogs or a durable chew toy that young puppies (and some adult dogs) can utilize if he becomes bored. Another great idea is to provide a food puzzle toy that has slots where pet parents can put cream cheese, peanut butter, or another soft treat for Fido. Some dogs may utilize their ancestor’s bone-chewing prowess to get to these tasty treats for the better part of an hour.
Again, it’s always a good idea to supervise your dog when she’s eating a real bone. Most raw bones from raw meat won’t snap and cause harm to your dog, but it’s really best to keep an eye on Fido when you give him a bone. If your dog gets bored during the day while you’re away at work and you notice she’s chewing on undesirable items, then leave a food puzzle toy that will offer her the mental stimulation she’s looking for while you don’t have to worry that she’ll get injured chewing on a bone unsupervised .
Should I encourage my dog to chew bones?
Some vets agree that natural, uncooked bones are actually good for dogs. Bones are a natural means of your dog cleaning his teeth. Chewing on bones helps your dog to lessen the chance of developing gum disease. Bones offer dogs a means of naturally obtaining calcium and other necessary minerals.
Vets also report that chewing and digesting bones can firm up a dog’s solid waste, and this can aid a dog in ridding toxins from the body via its poop. Remarkably, some dogs have digestive issues that prevent them from naturally doing this, and bones can actually help with this problem.
Dental bones are actually recommended by most vets. Dental bones are all-natural (when compared to some packaged bone “dog treats,” which are not). Your dog should be supervised when eating bones, however. It’s also important to provide bones after a meal (think of it as a treat rather than a nutritious staple). When Fido is already full, he won’t be as apt to try to scarf down the bone as he would if he is already hungry.
It’s important to make sure that Fido doesn’t eat the bone in its entirety but that he gnaws away at it. He should eat it in the same way as he would gnaw on a chew toy, working away from the bone naturally rather than eating it in one big swallow.
Vets advise against giving a dog cooked bones. It’s tempting to give a dog a cooked turkey bone after the holidays, but the truth is that is never a good idea. Cooked poultry bones are actually rather brittle, and they can explode into shards that could harm your dog rather than provide health benefits.
You as pet parents are more than welcome to give dogs raw bones or today’s best bones for dogs. Make sure that Fido never eats one of these bones in its entirety in one sitting.
Let’s talk a minute about rawhides. Rawhide bones are made up of the inner hide of horse or cattle skin. They are fashioned into a bone shape, and many unassuming pet owners provide rawhides thinking they are safe. Rawhide bones end up softening and can become misshapen. As dogs tend to do with bones, your dog could attempt to swallow the softer part of the rawhide on which he’s chewing. Many times, dogs will choke on this soft, mushy material. At the very least, it’s disgusting to watch them try to regurgitate the rawhide. They may empty the entire contents of their stomach just trying to cough up the soft rawhide bone.
Unfortunately, rawhide bones that do somehow end up in the dog’s stomach are never digested. They will not break down in Fido’s tummy like food. In fact, they can actually swell up and cause a bowel obstruction. Some dogs can never pass the rawhide that is swallowed, and, if they do, it can still cause issues in the digestive tract. Some bowel obstructions may require surgery, and they can be deadly for dogs. So, if you’re considering cheaper rawhide bones, just put them back on the shelf knowing they can cause some very costly issues for Fido.
If you are considering giving your dog bones, they should always be uncooked. They should be from beef or pork products as they aren’t nearly as brittle as poultry bones. Avoid rawhide bones as they can cause serious issues for your pup. Raw meat bones, natural bones, and dental bones are all good for dogs and they can actually have some health benefits for Fido.
Remember to always keep your dog close by when providing him with a natural bone. Although most natural non-poultry bones will not splinter, it can happen. You want to be able to remove Fido from that situation, clean up the fragmented bone, and prevent any injury in your pup.
1. Why is it good for dogs to chew on bones?
Bones can prevent boredom in dogs, and the act of chewing on a bone actually soothes a nervous dog. However, there is actual nutrition in the marrow of bones, so they are beneficial to dogs in this way. Be sure never to give your dog poultry bones as they can splinter and cause damage. It’s also important to never give your dog a rawhide chew bone as these can be very damaging if swallowed.
2. Is it bad to give your dog a bone every day?
As long as you supervise your dog while he’s enjoying the bone, it is perfectly safe to provide your dog with a bone each day.