Bones…. Wow! What a contentious topic! There are many who strongly advocate feeding raw bones to dogs (myself included) and then there are others who are dead against it. These opinions are often formed from prior experience and so there are a few things to go over first.
The Risks Of Feeding Bones
There will always be a small risk of complications with feeding bones. Some bones can get stuck in the mouth. Some bones are not well digested and can cause obstruction or perforation of the intestines. Some dogs do not tolerate raw bones and may vomit or have diarrhoea. Some dogs may even develop severe constipation when fed bones.
However, if your dog or cat does not eat raw bones, they will definitely suffer from dental disease. Very few dogs will have good oral health if they do not chew on raw meaty bones. Dental disease is a painful, debilitating condition where the body is in a constant state of inflammation, trying to rid itself of an infection that will never go away. This is a terrible disease to suffer from and is a huge reason that pets suffer a poor quality of life.
How To Safely Feed Bones To You Pet
So, how can we feed bones safely? How can we ensure good oral health whilst minimising the risk of dangerous complications? By looking to the pet’s evolution and respecting what they would naturally be eating.
To clean teeth and gums well, dogs and cats should be chewing through soft bones, cartilage, ligaments and meat. Dogs and cats if in a feral state would naturally predate birds, lizards and small mammals such as rabbits, possums, rats and mice. They would not naturally hunt a cow and eat the entire leg bones! These are far too dense and hard and can break their teeth.
So since your cat and dog are domesticated and don’t have ready access to the bones of small prey animals, what type of commercially available bones should you feed? Raw chicken is the most readily available source of bone that is a biologically appropriate size for both cats and dogs. Equally appropriate sized bones would include rabbit, quail, turkey, kangaroo and some lamb bones.
Chicken frames or carcasses are the best to feed as they are a large wonky shape that take a bit of time to chew through and they have a lot of cartilage in them. Cartilage is immensely beneficial to gums, joints and guts. Chicken necks are only appropriate for cats and small dogs.
You can also feed your dog beef brisket bones (the sternum of the cow), lamb rib flaps, lamb necks, kangaroo tails and roo front legs. These bones although belonging to larger animals are not dense as they do not bear weight and so are still soft enough to chew through.
What Bones Should You Avoid?
The bones to avoid are those bones that bear the weight of the large animals. Pork leg bones, beef leg bones and some lamb leg bones are all too dense and can fracture teeth. If you choose to feed these to your dog, you should be feeding them as a recreational bone only. These are not a nutritional bones. Once the soft ends have been gnawed away, leaving the hard shaft of bone in the middle, you should remove and discard them.
I do not recommend feeding pork trotters, smoked bones from pet shops or marrow bones that have been cut. These are a great source of pain and distress in dogs and a good source of income for vets like me! Cooked bones should never be fed – these are no longer digestible and will form obstructions.
There has also been much press recently about the risk from feeding raw chicken bones to pets of contracting polyradiculoneuritis which is a paralysis condition possibly linked to campylobacter. If you are concerned or would like more information regarding this topic read our facebook post on polyradiculoneuritis.
My favourite bones for most pets are chicken frames and wings, turkey necks and wings, kangaroo tails and beef brisket bones.