Raw, not cooked, bones are an important part of your dog’s diet. They are an important source of calcium and provide a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, bones are a natural “toothbrush” for your pet’s teeth. Dental problems can lead to organ disease, immune system issues and other serious medical conditions. Lastly, bones help dogs and cats express their anal glands by providing the natural roughage found in the diets of carnivores. In the wild, dogs naturally consume raw food that they have hunted. As they munch away on their meal, bones are broken down and often swallowed. Depending on the size of the animal, these bones are perfectly safe for digestion and a natural part of the animal’s diet.
Where pet owners need to be careful is in understanding the difference between raw bones and cooked or processed bones. A cooked bone is significantly different from a raw bone and can be much more hazardous to your pet’s health and safety. Cooked bones have a tendency to break apart, forming sharp shards that may be fatal if swallowed.
In the wild, it is natural for a dog to continue chewing on a prey’s bones after the meat has been consumed. The marrow and cellular components provide valuable nutrients and are easily broken down and digested. Try to provide your dog with bones that may still contain meat and tissue for them to chew off.
Bones are an important aspect of your dog’s diet and lifestyle. There are many positive aspects to providing your dog with bones to chew on. However, it is critical that you ensure the quality and type of bone you give them is healthy. Supervise your dog when they are chewing on their bone but don’t interfere or disturb them. This is an important moment of relaxation and mediation for your dog – let them enjoy the moment!
Below is an easy-to-follow guide on how to feed bones safely and how to choose the best ones for your pet. Bones are a staple when feeding a balanced raw food diet and important for dental/skeletal health but there are many types of bones to choose from. We have a large variety of sizes and shapes to fit the needs of all types of dogs. Certain bones may not be appropriate for certain pets. This guide will help you to decide what kinds of bones will suite your animal best.
Consumable Bones vs. Non-Consumable Bones
Consumable bones are any bone that can be fully eaten by your dog or cat. These bones include chicken necks, turkey necks, lamb necks, chicken carcass, chicken wingettes, and turkey wingettes. Knuckle (joint) bones can also be consumed for the most part but sometimes include pieces of femur which should not be ingested. Consumable bones should only be given to animals that are raw fed and have been taught to chew bones. We do not recommend that whole consumable bones be given to animals until they have been on a ground raw diet for 3-4 weeks or longer. Animals that do not eat raw have a different gastro-intestinal environment compared to raw fed animals so it’s best to ease your pet into eating whole bones after a switch to raw. This is one of the best ways to avoid impaction.
Non-consumable bones such as femurs and ribs must be given only as recreation and for short periods. You must monitor your animals closely. These types of bones are not suitable for all pets so please read this whole article before deciding to feed these types of bones.
Breed and Size
The breed of your dog will help you to decide which types of bones will be most appropriate. The size of bone you feed should be large enough that the animal must chew them down into small pieces that can be swallowed. Do not offer any bones that could be consumed in one gulp. Your dog’s snout shape will also determine what types of bones will be best. For example, if your are feeding a short-snouted breed such as a Pug, Boxer or a Bulldog, they may need to stick to poultry necks and small to medium knuckle bones. At Dog Food, we cut our bones into various sizes to accommodate all shapes and sizes of dog.
Cats tend to do well on small consumable bones such as chicken necks/wingtips and whole/chopped quail. We also have chicken neck bites for kittens and cats that are new to raw.
Bones are meant to save you the cost of veterinary dental bills. That being said,when it comes to dogs, you must be aware that some dogs have a stronger bite than others and some dogs are more voracious eaters. Breeds such as pitbulls, mastiffs and other strong-jawed dogs may be able to chew weight-bearing bones (such as femurs) to the point of fracturing their own teeth. Certain dogs will have “softer” or more gentle mouths than others. Which type of chewer is your dog?
Your dog’s voracity will help you to determine whether or not to feed weight-bearing bones. If you have a breed such as a Labrador Retriever who devours food like a Hoover vaccum cleaner, you may wish to avoid weight bearing bones altogether or limit the amount of chewing time they have with these bones. The marrow from femur bones is highly nutritious and should not be left out of the raw diet so you can either choose to give your dog a short, monitored chewing session with a femur or simply push out the marrow and feed with a meal. Do not leave femurs out for hours for any dog to chew. Let them lick as much of the marrow out as they can and then help them eat the rest. Then discard the rest of the bone in a safe garbage can that cannot be ransacked by your dog.
A raw diet is meant to enhance your dog’s overall digestive health. To ensure that intestinal health is maintained, you must be aware of how often to feed bones and to balance bones in a healthy way. There is such a thing as too much bone and constipation or impaction can occur. This is one of many reasons not to feed consumable bones to kibble-fed animals. Raw fed pets can also receive too much bone. They may become constipated and have hard, yellowish or whiteish stools. If this happens, you will need to asses why. It is possible you are feeding too many consumable bones. Consumable bones will provide calcium, phosphorus, condroitin other trace minerals and will bulk up the stool. Femurs will provide marrow, high in fat and other important minerals. Marrow generally does not cause constipation.
Bones must ALWAYS be fed raw. Cooked bones can splinter and cause impaction, perforation of the gut and even death. Never allow your dog to bury bones in the yard for the same reason and to avoid bacterial contamination.
Healthy teeth and gums – Never pay for another unnecessary dental bill again! Pets that chew RMB’s have natural defense against plaque buildup. Chewing bones increases enzyme activity in the mouth, acts as a natural toothbrush for scraping unwanted bacteria from teeth and provides calcium and other minerals that allow for teeth to stay strong and healthy.
Overall physical health – Pets of all ages will benefit from the minerals and vitamins found in raw bones. These nutrients promote healthy, bones, nervous system, blood cells and cardiovascular function.
Healthy milk production for mothers – Pets that are pregnant and nursing will reap the benefits of RMB’s. The rich nutrient content of bones allows for proper milk production and development of young in utero.
Healthy bone growth for pups and kittens – Bones are an essential part of raising healthy pups and kittens. Youngsters need high density nutrition packed with calcium and phosphorus in order to develop their bones, nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Mental well-being – Pets that chew bones enjoy it as an extracurricular activity. Chewing stimulates endorphins in the brain, decreasing stress and providing pets with a task. Chewing bones is natural for carnivorous animals which creates an overall sense of well-being.
*Disclaimer: Our bone guidelines are meant only as a guide to provide the safest and healthiest raw diet possible, in our experience. Always check with your holistic veterinarian for the final say on which bones to feed your pet if you are unsure.
Raw meaty bones provide the following essential nutrients:
An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules which create free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start the chain reactions that occur in cells, causing damage or death to the cell. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibiting other oxidation reactions.
Calcium is a necessary mineral for life. It helps build healthy bones and teeth, aids in exocytosis for muscle contraction and neurotransmitter release and in the electrical conduction system of the heart. Calcium deficiency can cause an array of serious health problems. The main source of calcium in a raw diet is raw bones. Puppies and kittens will need bones every day to ensure they receive enough calcium during the crucial growing stages. Pregnant and lactating mothers will also need lots of calcium to carry their young to term and produce adequate amounts of milk for their young.
Enzymes are biological molecules responsible for thousands of chemical processes in nature that sustain and support life. Most enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for all types of metabolic reactions in the mammalian body. They play a major role in the digestion and absorption of food. Complex starches and proteins are broken down into smaller molecules that can be digested by the intestines. Enzymes can form metabolic pathways, each one working in a specific order to get different jobs done. Enzymes help maintain the homeostasis of the body and if there is a mutation, change or termination in production, disease can occur. It is important to provide your pet with live enzymes every day for a body that functions at its best. Cooked and commercial foods contain little to no live enzymes. A raw diet is rich in live enzymes that allow that body to easily maintain a healthy rhythm.
Phosphorus is a mineral found in every cell in the body. The main function is to form bones and teeth but it also is involved in the utilization of carbohydrates and fats, formation of ATP, synthesis of proteins and growth and maintenance of cells. Additionally, it works with B vitamins and is involved in kidney function, regulating heart rate, nerve impulses and contraction of muscles.
Silica is an essential nutrient that acts to improve bone density and the health of skin, hair, nail, teeth and gums. It also helps the body maintain and repair collagen and connective tissue and plays a role in healing bones and wounds.
Sodium regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH. A raw diet has a well-balanced level of sodium unlike human diets that are often too high.
Sulphur is essential to all living cells. It is present in connective tissue, nerve cells, skin, hair and nails. Cysteine and methionine are amino acids that are present in plants and animals. These amino acids exist in all enzymes, proteins and polypeptides. Sulphur is present in countless metabolic processes in the body including glucose metabolism.
Vanadium is needed in small amounts for the growth of puppies and kittens and in reproduction and pregnancy. It has been suggested that it can aid in increasing insulin sensitivity in diabetics but more research is required. It may also provide cancer fighting properties, reduce cholesterol formation, prevent heart disease and prevent tooth decay.
An essential trace mineral, zinc is involved in many metabolic processes, triggering enzymes, building proteins and creating DNA. It is necessary for healthy bones, muscles, kidney function, liver function and maintenance of the neurological and reproductive systems. It also serves as a structural component in proteins. It is needed for growth and pregnancy. Interestingly, it is required for proper taste and smell.
Raw meaty bones (RMB’s) are the mainstay of a balanced raw food diet. To ensure you have the best possible experience while feeding a natural diet, follow these important safety guidelines.
Ground bone only when switching – Only feed ground bone, raw bone dust and/or bone meal for the first month of switching your pet to raw. The digestive system needs time to adjust to the new diet and it’s best to give a one month adjustment period. The pH of the GI tract will change as well as enzyme production, liver and kidney function. It’s important to offer easy to digest meals to aid in making the transition as easy and stress-free as possible.
Teach Pets How to Chew – When introducing whole bones to dogs and cats, be sure to purchase bones large enough that they cannot be swallowed whole by your pet. This is especially important for highly enthusiastic pets that are new to bones. Some pets have never had experience eating and chewing raw bones and they need to practice. You may also wish to hold the bone while your pet chews for the first few times until they get the hang of chewing. Carnivores have a natural instinct to chew bones so the learning curve should be quick and easy.
Practice Taking and Trading Bones – To avoid any possibility of developing possessive behavioural issues, practice taking bones from your pet and trading them for a second bone, treat or toy and then giving back the original bone. This ensures that your pet will understand that you will give the bone back if it is taken away or will be traded for something else they will enjoy.
Supervision – Always supervise animals when feeding whole bones.
Feed Fresh – Feed bones within 48 hours of being thawed. Never feed bones that have been left to dry out. Do not let your dog bury bones in the yard to dig up and chew on later.
Feed Raw – Feed bones thawed and straight out of the package. Never cook raw bones.
Vary Bones – Do not get stuck feeding the same bones all the time. Different bones offer different nutrients and should be rotated frequently to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Monitor Bone Intake – Be sure that you are not feeding too much bone in one day. You will notice your pet may have harder or crumbly stools if too much is fed. To avoid this, do not offer whole bones on days when you feed meat with ground bone. Instead, offer them on days when red meat (with no bone) is fed.