Can dogs eat cooked bones? Understanding the dangers
If you’ve spent any time on the internet searching for the answer to what seems like a straightforward question you will realise that you often end up with more questions than you started with. So we are here to give you the low down on can dogs eat cooked bones.
Bones are one of those subjects that divide opinion and create a lot of passionate debate. We are not talking about a RAW diet here, just about bones that you may want to give your dog on occasion or as a treat.
Hopefully we can give you the pro’s and con’s of the bone world so that you can make up your own mind as to whether your four legged friend gets to enjoy one or not.
Whats the big deal about cooked bones?
In theory our dogs are designed to be able to digest raw bones. As scavengers they would have eaten whatever they could find. This makes their digestive system very robust.
When we cook bones the structure of the bone is altered. The bone dries out and becomes more brittle, increasing the chances that the bone will splinter as your dog chews.
Splinters of bone are the main issue with cooked bones. They can cause serious injuries including cuts to the mouth and esophagus, blockages in the throat and stomach and intestinal issues including perforations and severe constipation.
Most sources agree that cooked bones are not safe to feed our dogs.
What are the benefits of raw bones?
The benefits of raw bones are still not without controversy. You will find just as many people for giving dogs raw bones as against. Although raw bones are less likely to splinter, it has been known to happen and cause similar issues to cooked bones, however they are generally seen to be a safer alternative.
- Bones are a great source of minerals
- Gnawing on a bone helps to clean a dog's teeth naturally
- Raw bones satisfy your dogs love of chewing
- Giving your dog a raw bone keeps your dog occupied and provides enrichment
- Bones can splinter and cause injuries
- Bones are hard and cause tooth breakages
- Raw bones can harbour bacteria that can affect your dog's health
- Fatty bones can contribute to pancreatitis
So what type of bones can I feed my dog?
It’s useful to think of bones belonging to two different categories:
- Edible bones
- Recreational bones
Edible bones are hollow, soft and pliable. Typically these will be non weight-bearing bones like chicken wings, turkey necks or oxtails. They don’t contain marrow and will give your dog a short opportunity to chew before being eaten.
Recreational bones are often the ones we think of; big chunky bones filled with marrow that our dogs can gnaw on for hours. They are not designed to be eaten.
Your dog will gnaw the meat and marrow from the bone and it will keep him entertained for a long time. Think of these types of bones as more of a play date for your dog. Typical recreational or non-edible bones are beef hip bones, femurs and leg bones.
How do I choose the right bone for my dog?
The most important thing to remember about feeding raw recreational bones is they have to be appropriate for the size of your dog.
Bones should be large enough so that your dog would find it impossible to swallow it whole. The larger the dog, the bigger the bone.
If your dog is not used to having raw bones then it is advisable to give him the bone after he had had his breakfast or dinner. Most dogs get very excited over a bone and if your dog is hungry then he is more likely to try to eat it rather than chew it.
Things to consider
- Always supervise a dog with a bone. It may be tempting to leave them to it but bones present a choking hazard
- When the bone has been chewed to a size that your dog could swallow, throw it away. If your dog is possessive swap the bone for something as equally tasty while you remove it
- The bone can be stored between chewing sessions by rinsing under cold water and storing in a plastic bag or container in the fridge
- Periodically check for blood around your dog's mouth or on the bone. Dogs can get sore gums from gnawing
- In a multi dog household, separate your dogs to prevent resource guarding
- Protect carpets and furniture as bones are smelly and somewhat 'gooey'
- If your dog has pancreatitis, steer clear of raw bones and choose a specially designed low fat chew instead
Can dogs eat cooked bones?
The general consensus of opinion is no, the risks outweigh the gain. Cooked bones present very real health risks including choking, and damage to the mouth, throat and stomach. The nutritional gains are minimal and as the bones lose their structural integrity after cooking they are not much of a workout for your dog’s jaws.
Raw bones on the other hand are a matter of individual choice. There are many people that not only feed their dogs a completely raw diet but also champion the benefits of regularly providing a recreational bone.
Recreational bones are not designed to replace a well balanced diet but can supplement it and provide your dog with a good teeth cleaning and chewing workout.
If you do decide that you want to give your dog a treat then we advise caution. Supervise your dog at all times and if in any doubt then take the bone away.
If your dog has never had raw bones before do monitor him closely. Not all dogs tolerate raw bones well, so start with a short chewing session first and if there are no adverse effects you can extend the time on the next session.