Can bones be fed to your pet?
Dogs and their bones are a match made in heaven. The natural pair have a long associated history however there’s still a lot of confusion about whether feeding bones is necessary, why it matters and whether it’s safe – so we’re here to help.
Can bones be fed to your pet?
In short, yes! As carnivores your dog (or cat) is designed to digest raw bone matter, it’s in their DNA and it’s a part of who they are. Not only that, bones are incredibly beneficial to their mental and physical health as well.
Feeding raw bones can be a boredom-buster for your pup and a great alternative to chewing up household objects. However there’s also numerous physical health benefits. Bones are natural sources of calcium, phosphorus, glucosamine, chondroitin and bone marrow; all of which all play a part in maintaining joint and bone health throughout life and providing natural sources of important nutrition for your pet.
The act of chewing / grinding on bones is also why they’re often referred to as ‘nature’s toothbrush’. Feeding raw bones can help with the removal of plaque buildup which is essential when trying to prevent plaque from building up that may cause irritation and in extreme cases, gum disease.
So we know bones can help our dogs both physically and mentally, but what type of bone do we feed?! There’s different sized dogs, different sized bones and so many proteins to choose from! Here are some things to consider:
How to feed bones:
Bones should always be fed raw. When cooked, bone can become hard and brittle meaning they can hurt your pup’s teeth or splinter which can potentially harm your dog. Ensuring that the bones you feed are raw and your pup is supervised while chewing are great ways to minimise potential harm.
Size of the bone:
While we have no doubts that the Chihuahuas we know could tackle any raw meaty bone given the chance, it’s important to remember that feeding bones appropriate to the size of your dog can also decrease the potential of them being harmed.
What type of bone are you feeding:
There are two categories of bones that are available for you to purchase:
Weight bearing bones are the bones of animals that bear a substantial amount of that animal’s weight and, because of this, they are incredibly strong. It is recommended not to feed weight bearing bones as they have the potential to crack teeth because of their density.
An example of weight-bearing bones are large beef marrow bones.
Non-weight bearing bones
These bones are considerably softer and, as the name suggests, come from non-weight bearing parts of the animal’s body, making them perfect for your dog’s teeth and much easier when it comes to cleaning the crevices of your dog’s mouth. It’s still important, even with non-weight bearing bones to supervise your pet while they are enjoying a bone. All bones are choking hazards and in the mouth of an overly excited chewer can present a risk.
But which bone do I pick?
There is a LOT of information out there on which bones to feed and why, and as pet parents we understand it can be overwhelming. To make it a bit easier we’ve created a table that we wished we had long ago.
(When it comes to feeding any type of bone, supervision is a MUST so if you’re thinking about feeding your dog a bone, ensure to watch them to minimize any choking hazards. When feeding your dog a bone it is essential that the bone is RAW. Bones that have been cooked or subject to high temperatures can become hard and brittle and potentially injure your pet. Pet parents should steer clear of weight bearing bones as the toughness of these bones has the potential to crack teeth and cause incredible discomfort for your pup, which we don’t want.) – This wording is repetitive as part of the blog, but needs to be part of the chart so if shared in isolation, we are covering ourselves.
Dogs with weight-related or health conditions such as pancreatitis or diabetes should opt for bones from leaner types of protein such as Kangaroo or Venison. As well as this, ensure that the amount of bone in your dog’s diet is appropriate so as to not cause constipation or white stools. If you currently feed your dog a Big Dog Pet Foods diet and are looking to include extra bone for dental health, remember to adjust their Big Dog portions to ensure that they aren’t getting too much bone from their overall diet. Feel free to get in touch with us here if you needed information on how to do that, or had any further questions.
We got in touch with a few members of our team to learn more about how they integrate feeding bones for their pets.
Jean – Hank 27kg 4 yo Kelpie X Labrador and Ringo 18kg 3.5 yo Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
I used to make my boys’ food myself, but after starting working at Big Dog and seeing what goes into our food first hand, I couldn’t justify the time I’d previously spent sourcing ingredients and making their food myself.
When I made their food myself, bones were a critical part of their diet as their primary calcium source as they were growing. Both were extremely food motivated as puppies and chicken necks were only fed until about 16 weeks, when they were close to being able to swallow them whole and they presented a choking hazard. I then upgraded to larger bones; chicken drumsticks and wings as well as turkey necks, which lasted longer and they couldn’t swallow whole.
Now that I no longer make their food myself and they are adult dogs, they eat a Big Dog diet for every meal with the exception of bone days. They get 2-3 bones per week for their teeth and the days they get a bone, this replaces a Big Dog meal, or they have a meat, offal and veg meal to complement their bone.
We found this worked best for them as they are quite sensitive to the overall bone content in their diet and I found giving them an extra bone on top of their Big Dog diet resulted in pale, dry stools.
The routine we settled into gives them a lot of protein variety from their Big Dog meals so I know they’re getting the nutrition they need as well as allowing for bones which they adore.
Bones that are on regular rotation in our house are beef neck bones, lamb neck bones, turkey necks and turkey legs. If they are ever looking a little on the thin side, then a pig trotter goes down a treat for them. We used to source hair-on Kangaroo tail tips which the boys also loved. We haven’t been able to find them in a while but we wouldn’t hesitate integrating them back into the boys’ diet should we come across them again.
Together, rotating these bones which are easy for me to source, these keep my boys’ teeth in great condition from front to back.
Brittney - Cosmo 21kg 9yr old kelpie x, Jellybean 16kg 5yrs old Australian shepherd and Soda 4kg British shorthair cat 4yrs old.
All three are 100% raw fed. I give the dogs a bone every second day replacing breakfast. Tuesday's and Thursday's they get a puzzle toy (Kong) for breakfast which is usually stuffed with a big dog patty and frozen the night before.
The bones they mostly get are beef brisket, lamb necks and turkey necks. I have to be a bit more mindful with Cosmo as he is older now so it's just really soft bones. I also do a poop check daily to keep an eye on how it's "travelling" but they seem happy and healthy. I often get asked what their favourites are but... they honestly don’t have a favourite! Both of them love any food in general...haha.
Now the cat is hard! We try to give her bones but she's fussy. Really fussy. She has had rabbit frames which she has liked, chicken wing tips and drumsticks but she's not much of a fan of these. We try to give her chunks of meat instead; mostly raw rib fillet from dad *sigh*… like I said, she’s fussy.
One of my best tips for bones is to make them last longer chuck them in the freezer the night before especially the lamb necks and roo tails. Feeding bones is not only good for dental hygiene but it's great for mental stimulation, which I've found extremely important for active working breeds.