Can dogs eat cooked bones?
If you’ve spent any time on the internet searching for the answer to what seems like a straightforward question, you will realize that you often end up with more questions than you started with. Giving cooked bones to your dog can be dangerous, and we strongly advise against it, but it’s a subject that’s hotly debated and divides opinion.
So we’re here to give you the pros and cons of feeding your dog bones and why giving cooked bones isn’t a good idea.
The benefits of giving your dog a bone
Giving your dog a bone has physical, nutritional, and mental benefits. Bones are a rich source of minerals that are beneficial to your dog’s overall health. Not only that but chewing on bones provides a physical workout and also helps clean your dog’s teeth and gums at the same time.
What’s more, a bone can play an important part in providing mental stimulation, preventing boredom, and reducing unwanted behaviors. With so many apparent benefits, why the controversy? It comes down to the difference in safety between raw and cooked bones.
It may seem completely natural for dogs to eat bones; after all, as scavengers, they would have eaten whatever they could find, including raw meat and bone, and they certainly love to chew when they get a chance. A dog’s digestive system is very robust and can successfully deal with foods that we certainly can’t. But it isn’t whether a dog can digest a cooked bone or not that causes concern.
When a bone is cooked, its structure is altered. The bone dries out, making it much harder, more brittle, difficult to digest, and increasing the chances that it will splinter as your dog chews.
These splinters are dangerous. They are hard and sharp and can cause serious injuries to your dog’s mouth and throat. Not only that, but there is a risk that small undigested bone fragments may travel further into the digestive system blocking or perforating the stomach or intestinal tract.
Also, because cooked bones are much harder, they are more likely to be a dental hazard. Broken teeth are a common problem for dogs.
Giving raw bones to dogs is still controversial, although they are generally much safer than their cooked counterparts. One of the biggest benefits of uncooked bones is that they retain all the lost nutritional benefits once the bone is cooked. They are also less brittle, meaning they are unlikely to splinter and easier to digest.
Raw bones are safe to give dogs if you’re careful and choose wisely.
So, what type of bone can I feed my dog?
If you want to feed your bones raw, it’s useful to split them into two types of bones:
Edible bones are hollow, soft, and pliable like chicken bones. Typically these will be non-weight-bearing like chicken wings, turkey necks, or oxtails and will be easy to chew up.
In contrast, recreational bones are larger and chunkier, often containing marrow like pork bones, beef rib bone, and femurs that dogs can chew on for hours. This type of bone isn’t mean to be eaten. Think of them as more like chew toys or play dates for your dog.
How do I choose the right bone?
If you want to give your dog a raw bone, the most important thing to remember is that bones must be appropriate for your dog’s size. Chicken bones would be inappropriate to give to a german shepherd, for instance, while bovine rib bones would be an impossible task for a chihuahua. 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.
The only caveat to this is if you feed your dogs a complete raw chicken carcass. Chicken bones are relatively soft and can be eaten (depending on your dog’s size) relatively safely. If your dog is smaller than a fox, however, it’s best to avid whole birds.
Pros vs. Cons of giving bones to dogs
- Bones are a great source of minerals.
- Gnawing on a bone helps to clean a dog’s teeth naturally.
- Bones satisfy your dogs’ love of chewing.
- Giving your dog a bone keeps your dog occupied and provides enrichment.
- Bones can splinter and cause injuries.
- Bones are hard and cause tooth breakages.
- Bones can harbor bacteria that can affect your dog’s health.
- Fatty bones can contribute to pancreatitis.
Feeding your dog bones
If you want to feed your dog safely, there are a few dos and don’ts. If it’s the first time feeding your dog raw meat, let your dog have their breakfast first. Most dogs will get extremely excited by raw chews, and if hungry, are much more likely to try to eat it than chew it.
- Always supervise a dog while they are eating or chewing a bone. It may be tempting to leave them to it, but because bones present a choking hazard, it better to be safe than sorry.
- 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 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 and may need to take a break from chewing.
- In a multi-dog household, separate your dogs to prevent resource guarding and keep them safe.
- 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.
- Monitor your pet carefully for any adverse side effects after feeding raw bones, like an upset stomach
What are the alternatives?
If you want to give your dog a completely safe alternative, there are lots of commercially available chews that are completely safe for dogs. From beef bullies to yak chews to fish skins, there is so much choice there’s bound to be an option that suits both you and your dog.
Can dogs eat cooked bones?
As a dog owner, you want to ensure your dog is safe. 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. So if you want to avoid a costly trip to the vet, don’t feed your dog cooked bones.
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. While they are not designed to replace a well-balanced diet, they can supplement it and provide good teeth cleaning and chewing workouts. Not only that but bones can help alleviate boredom and offer an exciting meat treat.
If you decide that you want to give your dog raw bones as treats, we advise caution. Supervise your dog at all times, and if in any doubt, then take the bone away.