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The Importance of Feeding Dogs Bones

Chewing on raw bones has been part of canine diets for tens of thousands of years, dating back to when dogs first began hunting prey. While some dogs enjoy burying bones in the yard, there are good reasons to ensure your dog regularly chews and consumes them. Specifically, the minerals in bones, especially calcium, are crucial for healthy bones, teeth, coat, skin, muscle function, and even heart health. The marrow and fat also provide important nutrients like copper, iron, and antioxidants such as vitamins A and E. Additionally, giving your dog a whole bone mimics a mini dental cleaning by helping remove plaque while strengthening the gums and jaw.

Despite common misconceptions, not all bones are a health hazard for your dog. While certain types of bones can pose risks like choking, obstruction, and dental injury, these are not the usual outcomes. If they were, we'd be in quite a pickle!

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The Bones to Avoid

When you think of dog bones, you likely envision those long marrow bones. Surprisingly, these are the ones we should steer clear of. Why? Because they're the weight-bearing bones of large animals like cows and are incredibly dense. These bones can chip teeth and create obstruction risks. Our advice is to give these bones a miss unless they're used occasionally as recreational bones under supervision.

 

The Bones to Love

Edible bones, on the other hand, are a delightful treat for dogs. They're meant to be wholly consumed and include the likes of chicken, turkey, duck frames, heads, necks, and feet.

Examples of edible bones commonly available here in New Zealand:

Poultry (Chicken, Quail, Turkey & Duck)

  • Feet

  • Neck

  • Frame

  • Thigh

  • Wings

  • Head

  • Whole bodies if appropriate

 

I recommend you avoid drumsticks as they have a sharp bone in them, but it is up to your personal choice; many fresh food feeders do feed them.

Extra Large animal such as Cow & Horse

  • Brisket

  • Necks - these are harder bones, there is a risk here - some dogs will consume them completely, some will not

  • Ribs - are more likely to splinter, therefore you may like to avoid these

  • Feet/lower end of legs - Avoid due to denseness

  • Head (often cut in half)

 

Pork

  • Neck - these are harder bones, there is a risk here - some dogs will consume them completely, some will not.

  • Tail

  • Head (often cut in half)

 

Lamb/Mutton/Goat

  • Brisket

  • Neck - these are harder bones, there is a risk here - some dogs will consume them completely, some will not.

  • Avoid Feet/lower end of legs due to denseness

  • Head (often cut in half)

 

Rabbit

  • Whole animal if appropriate

  • Head

  • Frame

  • Limbs

 

Fish

  • Whole fish if appropriate

  • Fish head

  • Fish frame

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The Art of Supervision

Like any new skill, dogs need supervision when learning to eat bones, ensuring they consume them safely. Also, remember that not all bones are suitable for all dogs. For instance, chicken necks may be too small for larger dogs, while some dogs might just swallow bones whole due to greediness. In such cases, bigger options like a chicken carcass could be a more suitable choice. If your dog is a fast eater, consider offering frozen bones to slow them down. 

A simple rule is the bigger the dog, the bigger the bone, as it stops them gulping it down.  You might use a chicken neck or wing for a toy breed, a duck neck for a cocker spaniel, a turkey neck or carcass for a Labrador. 

Feeding Frequency

While bones can be a beneficial part of a dog's diet, it is important to feed them in moderation. Feeding bones too frequently or in excessive amounts can lead to digestive issues, constipation, or even blockages. The frequency of feeding bones depends on the size, age, and individual needs of the dog. 

Opinions vary on the ideal amount of raw meaty bones to feed dogs. The calcium a dog needs from bones depends largely on other calcium sources in their diet. For example, if a dog eats whole prey with bones, they may only need 1-2 supplementary bones per week. However, dogs eating just muscle meat and organs need 4-7 edible raw bones per week to meet calcium needs. Monitor stool to ensure bone intake is not excessive. Signs of too many bones include constipation, crumbly stool, or stool turning white quickly. Reduce bone amount if these occur. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to feeding bones. The ideal bone intake depends on the individual dog and their overall diet.

 

Eating in Peace

Dogs, like us, prefer to eat in peace, especially when savouring their prized bones. To ensure a relaxed eating environment, it's best to separate dogs during meal times and never allow children to approach a dog while it's eating. If your dog exhibits food aggression, consider hiring a trainer.

A Final Warning

Never feed your dog cooked, smoked, or dehydrated bones, as these can splinter and cause serious injury. Stick to the safe options, and your dog will thank you for it!

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