Reasons and Rules for Feeding Dogs Bones
If one was asked to imagine, and then draw, what they thought a dog’s favourite or preferred food would be, they are most likely to choose a bone. This is not without reason. The cultural associations between a dog and a bone are huge, and most dogs will enjoy having access to animal bones to chew. As dogs’ wild ancestors, wolves do not solely exist off of lean muscle meat. Instead, their natural diet consists of muscle, organs, fur, and their prey’s bones, as well as small amounts of plant-based matter such as seasonal berries and fruit. More than just being a food or enrichment item dogs enjoy having access to, bones offer significant nutritional value, and are an integral part of any raw diet.
Give a Dog a Bone
Over the years, we have noticed that the dog food industry has effectively allowed the myth that dogs should not be given access to bone-based products to grow, which is nonsense. Bone-based products are so nutritionally useful that not including them in your dog’s diet actually borders on irresponsible ownership once you are aware of that fact. We offer an outline of the benefits that feeding your dog bone can offer, as well as recommendations for how to do so safely.
Bones Offer the Perfect Source of Calcium for Dogs
Animal bones are nutrient rich, and able to significantly benefit your dog once introduced to its diet. Bones are important sources of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, essential amino and fatty acids, vitamins A, D, and E, and copper and iron. Calcium is integral in promoting dog bone and tooth health, and its absence can lead to excessive tiredness and lethargy, muscle twitches, and convulsions. Although dogs will drink milk which is probably the most readily available source of calcium apart from bones, it is not necessarily the healthiest for them.
Offer Bones Instead of Dairy Products
While puppies are able to fully digest and benefit from lactating, adult dogs do not produce the enzymes necessary for this, and giving them dairy milk can result in them suffering from an upset stomach. Conversely, one of the major benefits of ingesting calcium in bone form is how it regulates stool consistently. Providing your dog with a calcium-rich diet has a binding effect on its stool, and goes a long way in preventing diarrhoea. However, an excess of bone may cause constipation. As such, bones should only form approximately 10% of a dog’s diet. When mixed into raw dog feeds, bone’s most common form is a ground powder.
Bones are Great for Dogs’ Dental Hygiene
The other most common form of bone is whole, which dogs are allowed to chew on. Dentally, this offers dogs very significant benefits. Since kibble and other dried products have become the most commonly available types of commercial dog food, the number of tooth-related conditions vets encounter on a regular basis, especially decay, has significantly increased. Canine tooth decay is virtually unheard of amongst populations which routinely have access to whole bones, i.e. wolves and dogs fed a raw diet. A bone can be viewed as the canine equivalent to a toothbrush, and chew bones play a key role in preventing a build-up of plaque and bacteria on dogs’ teeth’s surfaces. Chew bones also allow dogs to exercise and strengthen their jaws, and provide a healthy outlet for the performance of natural and instinctive behaviours.
Stimulate Your Dog with a Bone
The freedom to perform and express natural behaviours is key to mental wellbeing in dogs, and the provision of chew bones is an excellent way of going around this. Contrary to popular belief and widespread urban myths, allowing your dog access to chew bones does not make them more aggressive, and often has a calming effect on them as it allows them to express natural behaviours. While it is true that a dog may appear somewhat possessive if their owner appears as if they are about to remove a bone as it is being chewed, but this is not specific to bones, and would likely be replicated if any food was perceived as being at risk. Dogs often enjoy marrow in bones, but be mindful this tends to have a fattening effect, so you may want to scoop most of the marrow out of a bone before offering it to your dog.
ARE RAW BONES SAFE?
It is also sometimes suggested that bones are dangerous for dogs, and as such should be completely eliminated from their diet. This is nonsense. While bones should be offered with a degree of care and supervision, this does not outweigh the significant health and wellbeing benefits they can offer your dog, which cannot and should not be underestimated. One of the greatest safety concerns owners have regarding their dogs chewing bones is that bone fragments can be swallowed, and may cause their dog some kind of internal damage. While an understandable fear, it is also easy to mitigate the risk it poses. The best and safest way to feed a dog a bone is in a raw uncooked state. Raw bones are relatively soft and moist, so have a good degree of flexibility. In contrast to this, cooked bones harden, dry out, and become brittle which can be extremely dangerous if ingested. To this end, one must never allow their dog access to cooked bones.
Consider the Size of the Dog vs the Size of the Bone
Size must also be considered when offering dogs chew bones. The size of a bone should be in relative proportion to that of the dog, so smaller dogs are best offered items such as chicken wings and duck feet, medium dogs chicken backs and rabbits, and large dogs lamb ribs and turkey necks. Machine-cut bones often have sharp edges which can cut a dog’s mouth and innards, so should be avoided, as are turkey legs (dense and with a tendency to splinter), along with overly dense beef bones which regularly cause tooth fractures. However, beef bones can be healthily benefited from when ground to a powder form. As bones are “high-value” treats, it is best to separate dogs being fed bones to prevent any potential fighting. Dogs being fed whole bones should always be supervised.
Overall, bones offer enormous benefits to dogs when responsibly introduced into their diets. The best way of doing this in a safe manner is through incorporating this into pre-made feeds, which many of ProDog Raw products do as standard. Chew bones are also a valuable source of enrichment, and these are available to purchase in a safe and uncooked state through our website. For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us, and we will be more than happy to help in any way we can.
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