Are Bones Bad For Dogs?

Fried chicken and backyard barbecues frequently lead to ‘Buddy’ parked at your feet – intently staring at your plate with a dangling string of drool. You diligently attempt to ignore that pitiful face but as per norm, you cave in. The urge to dole out a bone to those loving eyes can become overwhelming. But are bones bad for dogs? Let’s get to the real meat and bones of the issue to shed some light on the confusion.

Bone feeding advocates will argue bones are good for dogs because they provide nutrients, healthy teeth and mental stimulation. While there’s nutritional value in bones from calcium and phosphorus, nutritional benefits prove minimal at best and don’t warrant the health risk of feeding them to your dog solely on that basis.

The much sought after bone marrow consists of primarily fat and blood. Although they contain quality nutrients, their benefit is minimal. Most nutrition is gained through the soft tissue attached to the bone commonly known as cartilage, comprised of 50% collagen. Notably, collagen is difficult for digestion but does have its advantages.

Cartilage helps clean between teeth like dental floss, just as gnawing on bones free the teeth of tartar. But the overwhelming majority of viable nutrients comes from the surrounding raw meat which can be attained without subjecting your dog to the deadly risks bones can impose.

The consumption of raw or cooked bones can cause an array of deadly health risks ranging from intestinal, esophageal and stomach blockage and/or perforation, constipation and rectal bleeding, oral injuries and broken teeth along with an abdominal bacterial infection known as Peritonitis.

Cooked bones should never be given to your pet. Regardless if they are boiled, steamed or baked; cooked bones tend to become brittle and more apt to splinter like from that tasty pork chop, spare rib or T-Bone steak. Basted or smoked bones you see in the local farming or pet store may claim they are ‘safe,’ but err on the side of caution. Many dogs with strong jaws are easily able to break and swallow these bones leaving them to endure painful fates.

Although not without risk, deer or elk antlers are an alternative bone to consider. While they can splinter or damage teeth as any other bone can do, they tend to be a durable alternative for mental stimulation.

If you find yourself throwing caution to the wind and are compelled to throw your dog a bone, then stick with a fresh raw knuckle bone from the butcher shop. These are usually referred to a ‘soup bone’. Be sure the bone is sizable enough that your dog can grasp it but not enough to fully engulf it in their mouth.

The bottom line is to always supervise your dog with a bone and remove it when the bone becomes small enough to swallow. Stay clear of pork bones and ribs because they are known to break and splinter more so than any other bones.

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