Jul 25

Giving Your Dog a Bone

The discourse surrounding the feeding of bones to our canine companions remains a contentious topic, with varied opinions even among veterinarians. Deciding whether to incorporate bones into your pet’s diet requires careful consideration, as the impact differs for each furry friend. If you do decide to feed bones, do so mindfully and take precautions to minimise the risks associated. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision:

Pros of Feeding Bones:

  1. Enhanced Dental Health: Chewing bones can effectively clean teeth, reducing gingivitis and tartar buildup—a common concern for dogs. While daily tooth brushing remains an excellent alternative, bones offer a natural and enjoyable solution.
  2. Mental Stimulation: Bones provide mental enrichment, offering a means to alleviate boredom and stimulate your pet’s mind. While not the sole source of mental engagement, they serve as a beneficial component of a well-rounded enrichment plan.

Cons of Feeding Bones:

  1. Dental Damage: Chewing on hard bones can result in fractured teeth, a painful condition that often leads to tooth root abscesses requiring extraction under general anesthesia.
  2. Digestive Issues: Spoiled or aged bones, especially those with meaty residue, can upset your dog’s stomach, leading to gastrointestinal discomfort or even constipation.
  3. Weight Management Challenges: Marrow bones are high in fat content, posing a risk of obesity or triggering pancreatitis—a serious inflammatory condition.
  4. Choking Hazards: Bones may become lodged in various parts of the digestive tract, including the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, or intestines, potentially causing life-threatening complications.
  5. Behavioural Concerns: The presence of bones can sometimes provoke aggression between dogs or towards humans, necessitating careful supervision during bone consumption.

If you opt to include bones in your pet’s diet despite the associated risks, it’s essential to mitigate potential adverse effects. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Supervision is Key: Monitor your pet closely while they chew on bones, allowing you to intervene promptly if any issues arise and seek veterinary assistance as needed. When the bone is smaller in size, or has fragmented and there is a risk it will be swallowed – it needs to go in the bin.
  2. Opt for Fresh Bones: Choose bones straight from the fridge, ensuring they have no foul odour, and discard them within a couple of hours of use to prevent spoilage.
  3. Stick to Raw Bones: Cooking alters the structure of bones, making them more prone to splintering and posing a greater risk of injury. Never feed cooked bones to your pet.
  4. Select Soft Bones: Choose softer bone varieties that are less likely to cause dental damage, avoiding marrow bones and opting for alternatives.
  5. Trim Excess Fat: Remove any excess fat from bones to reduce the risk of weight gain and digestive upset. Fat can also cause discomfort when caught in the teeth.
  6. Size Matters: Provide bones appropriate to your dog’s size, for example a small, fragmented bone is a big obstruction risk for a large dog.

About The Author

Claire is a QLD graduate with 19 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of VetChat, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.