Bones – Good or Bad?

bonesHere are four of my dogs chewing their bones in a companionable sort of way. They will soon be swapping them.

One Christmas a bit later, when I had five dogs, I bought cooked bones from a reputable pet shop chain and all five had the runs for several days. That was  a Christmas well and truly wrecked!

Even though my job is as a behaviour consultant and trainer, I am often asked by my clients whether or not they should give their dogs bones. Their main fear, sensibly, is of them splintering, cutting their dogs or bits breaking off and causing a blockage. They are usually surprised when told that to avoid these problems the bones should be raw, not cooked.

I am a raw feeder (now) and this involves sometimes feeding bones. Raw bones. Some can still splinter so it’s not just any raw bone.

Dr. Becker on the Mercola ‘Healthy Pets’ site goes into full and helpful details under the alarming heading ‘CAUTION: Bones Can Kill your Dog. Find Out Which Ones Are Safe.’

The main danger is cooked bones. I quote: ‘The cooking process makes bones more brittle, increasing the likelihood they might splinter and cause internal injury to your dog. Cooking can also remove the nutrition contained in bones’.

good canine teeth

Dog fed raw and bones

Kibble fed dog's teeth

Kibble fed dog

Dangers of cooked bones include damage to teeth, mouth or tongue, getting stuck somewhere inside the dog which can need surgery and even cause peritonitis which can kill.

Raw bones are both safe and healthy – but not just any raw bones. I remember many years ago when I was a child, the dog poo one saw on pavements (no poo bags in those days and dogs wandered about much more freely) was white – from the dogs being given raw bones.

Dr.Becker lists two types of raw bones – edible bones and recreational bones.

Edible bones are ‘the hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, do not contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder. These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which can be an essential part of your pup’s balanced raw food diet’.

Recreational bones are ‘chunks of beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow — don’t supply significant dietary nutrition for your dog (they are not designed to be chewed up and swallowed, only gnawed on), but they do provide mental stimulation and are great for your pup’s oral health.’  These bones clean their teeth and help prevent gum disease.

Some fairly obvious rules go with feeding bones. Don’t leave the dog unsupervised just in case, my own dogs (in the picture) get on very well but on the whole multiple dogs should be separated to avoid fighting. Avoid feeding small bones or bones that could be swallowed whole. Pork bones and rib bones may splinter.

Importantly, psychologically bone-chewing gives the dog satisfaction, has a great calming effect and provides stimulation.

Here is what The Natural Dog has to say:’The psychological and physiological challenge of tackling large raw meaty bones is invaluable for the dogs general satisfaction, increased vitality and quality of life. Feeding raw, particularly large pieces, gives our dogs the opportunity to really get a mentally stimulating experience as it takes a lot more mental and physical work for a dog to rip and tear meat off and crunch through bones, often they have to stop and work out exactly how to tackle it. Anyone who feeds raw will know the enjoyment alone from watching their dogs eating and enjoying their meal.’

I rest my case!

Here is the story of a dog I visited who found great relief from chewing. To visit my website and many stories, go to

About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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