If you are trying to decide what to leave Fido to play with when you are gone, there dosen't seem to be anything more natural than a bone, does there? Unfortunately many dogs die each year from complications from eating bones, not because the owners were not paying attention but simply because they were unaware of the danger of feeding dogs different types of bones. Understanding the right and wrong types of bones to feed your dog can save you huge vet bills and will ensure your dog stays healthy and happy.
The Benefit Of Real Bones
Real bones, in the raw form, are a natural part of a dog's diet. Wild canine species such as coyotes, wolves and even foxes continually chew on bones to both add calcium and other minerals to their diet as well as to help keep teeth clean and dental problems at a minimum. Dogs that are provided good quality, well selected raw bones will have cleaner teeth, better breath and less likelihood of tartar build up and early tooth loss.
Real bones also help the dog stay occupied during times when he or she is at home alone. If you have ever watched a dog with a bone you are well aware that they will spend literally hours chewing, licking and carrying around their new prized possession. For dogs that become destructive, loud or anxious when owners are away, a bone can help make the time pass faster and may help to relieve anxiety and problem behaviors when combined with training and additional exercise and attention.
What Are Ideal Real Bones For A Dog?
An ideal real bone for your dog depends on several factors. The first factor to consider is the size of your dog, specifically the size of your dog's jaws and mouth. The larger the dog and the dog's jaws, the larger the bone has to be. There is no point in giving a toy or small dog a huge bone as they will not get any benefits since they cannot actually chew the bone. A good example of this would be providing a Toy Poodle with a knuckle bone from a cow. The bone would be larger than the dog!
The reverse of that is also true, a large breed such as a Mastiff should not have a bone that would be suitable for a small breed like a Shih Tzu. The Mastiff would simply swallow the bone, either whole or broken, resulting in the very real possibility of choking and internal damage.
The right sized bone is small enough to allow the dog to get the bone into his or her mouth, at least enough to chew on, but not small enough to be swallowed. The bone also needs to be large enough that the dog cannot simply break the bone and then ingest the smaller parts, this can result in life threatening conditions including the bone cutting the esophagus or lodging in the digestive tract. These types of injuries require surgical removal of the bone or bone fragments and often have very lengthy recovery times.
Most advocates of raw bones encourage dog owners to use a variety of bones including raw beef knuckle bones. These are the rounded joint bones that are very tough and hard to break. In addition some of the BARF (bones and raw food) diets also include raw chicken neck bones and rabbit bones as part of the diet options. There are always risks involved in feeding these smaller bones as they can easily be swallowed by larger breeds and pose the choking and blockage problem discussed above.
What Kind Of Bones Are Not Safe?
There are actually more bones that are unsafe for your dog than there are bones that are safe. The general guidelines include not feeding any type of raw pork bones or raw goat or sheep bones to dogs, as this can cause parasite problems if the animal was infected. Raw fish bones should not be fed in any large numbers to dogs for the same reasons.
Never feed any type of cooked bone to a dog, no matter how large it may be. This includes the lovely looking joint bones from hams, beef roasts or any type of wild game. Once a bone is exposed to heat through the cooking process it becomes brittle and loses natural elasticity and moisture. When your dog chews on the bone it then splinters, leaving a huge number of very fine bone shards in the dog's mouth. Some of these shards are very small and will simply pass through the dog's digestive system without a problem, but other slightly larger ones can stick into the tissue of the digestive tract, mouth or throat, causing serious complications. Splinters can also lodge beside the teeth, similar to what happens when people eat popcorn. This will irritate the tooth, leading to gum problems and possibly even tooth loss. Chicken and poultry bones become especially brittle and need to be disposed of where your dog will not accidentally get into them. Since dogs have great noses they often seem to know what is in the garbage, so avoid this temptation by bagging the bones and either keeping them in a closed trash container or freezing them for later disposal.
Bones that have been cut by a butcher with a saw should not be given to a dog. These are usually the long marrow bones or rib bones and they can easily splinter or be chewed into small pieces by the larger breeds of dogs. These rib bones may be acceptable for smaller breeds, ask your vet if you are not sure.
A good rule is to only provide your dog with bones when you are there to keep an eye on the animal. If you are leaving the dog alone with a bone use only large joint bones and remove them within one or two days, even if they are still in relatively good condition. Raw bones will attract bacteria and can be a cause of digestive disorders and parasites if they are allowed to sit around outside or even in your house.