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Are bones good or bad for your dog?

In short – yes, bones can be very good for your dog. The mechanical action of chewing the meat off a bone helps to remove plaque, which then minimises the formation of tartar (calcified plaque). Giving your dog bones regularly can increase the time between dental cleans at the vet and keep your dog’s teeth cleaner and healthier for longer.

Having said that, every dog is different, so choosing the right type and size of bone for your dog is critical.

What type of bone should I feed my pet?

  1. The bone should always be raw:

NEVER feed your pet cooked bones! These can cause gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhoea and vomiting or pancreatitis in some dogs. Cooked bones are also more likely to splinter and can push through the wall of the stomach or intestine, this is known as gastrointestinal perforation. This is an extremely dangerous situation for your pet and they will likely require surgery.

  1. The bone shouldn’t be too hard:

The bones need to have plenty of meat on them so there is something for the teeth to sink in to and out of repeatedly. It is important to take the bone away once they have eaten the meat. Dogs chewing inappropriate large, solid bones with no meat on them, or hard objects such as plastic toys, deer antlers or hooves can result in. The most common dental fracture we see in dogs is a ‘slab’ fracture of the upper carnassial broken teeth tooth (large molar tooth) caused from biting down on hard objects.

  1. The bone should always be fresh and lean

It is important to give your dog fresh human grade meat as this is less likely to have issues with bacterial contamination (such as Salmonella). Animals, just like us, will get sick from eating spoiled meat.  It is also important not to feed your dog fatty off cuts of meat. It is a misconception that animals do not get sick from eating large amount of fat. Chicken or kangaroo are often leaner cuts of meat. Lamb, mince and some cuts of beef can often be fattier and can cause pancreatitis in some dogs.

  1. The bone should be the right size for your dog:

Different dogs have different chewing behaviours, so what is safe and effective in one dog may be dangerous or ineffective in another.

If the bone is small enough that your dog tries to swallow it in one gulp, not only does it defeat the purpose of chewing the meat off the bone to clean the teeth, it can also become a choking hazard or gastrointestinal obstruction risk. Smaller dogs may enjoy chewing on large pieces of meat without the bone, such as cheap cuts with sinewy, fibrous tissue (chuck steak, gravy beef, ox hearts). 

How often should I feed my done a bone?

As a general rule, one to two bones a week is a good place to start.

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog’s faeces. If the faeces become hard or crumbly your dog is likely eating too many bones. If you see shards of bones in your dog’s faeces, it is likely receiving the wrong type of bones.

It is important your dog doesn’t put on extra weight when adding bones to the diet.  Ideally aim to swap your pet’s dinner for a bone rather than adding in bones on top of their normal meal throughout the week.

What age can I start to give my dog bones?

It is recommended that dogs are not given bones before 6 months of age. This is mainly due to the fact that puppies will not develop their adult teeth prior to this time.

Can I leave my dog alone with a bone while I am out?

It is always recommended that your puppy or dog be supervised when chewing bones and that they are not left alone during this time, especially if there are multiple dogs in the household- bones are often a source of fighting.

There are other methods suitable for alone time such as ‘’Kongs’’. This is a rubber conical shape chew toy that you pack with treats or your pet’s normal dry food.  It is a great way to enrich your dog’s time alone and much safer than leaving them along with a bone. We have these at the clinic and they come in different sizes- ask a nurse for the appropriate one for your pet at your next visit.

Can I give my cat bones?

Yes you certainly can! It just depends if your cat is interested. Offering your cat a chicken neck or chicken wing (always raw as explained above) a few times a week is a great way to help keep their teeth as healthy as possible. It can also be a great source of enrichment for them.

Again, this should always be supervised and can replace their dinner some days.  

For further questions on this topic please don’t hesitate to contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable nurses on 94994010. Or pop in to see us as we have many options at the clinic available for your pets and would be happy to help!