Dogs and bones are a well-known pair—but does that make them a good pair?
The short answer: it depends. Some bones are perfectly safe and even healthy for dogs to chew on. Others, not so much.
With all of the contradictory information out there regarding dogs and bones, it’s important to have a clear idea of which bones are safe and beneficial to your dog, which bones to avoid, and whether it’s worth considering bone alternatives.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
Any dog owner knows that chewing is typical, instinctive canine behavior. If your pup doesn’t have something appropriate to chew on, he’ll probably find the next best thing: your new shoes or fancy furniture!
There are a few different reasons why dogs love to chew:
Chewing can be comforting during stressful or tense situations (hence the destructive chewing that happens when a dog has separation anxiety).
Chewing can be a form of entertainment. It’s great for relieving boredom and acting as a healthy outlet for some of that pent-up energy (though your pooch should certainly be getting plenty of supplemental stimulation, too).
- Chewing is good for dental health. It helps to keep the teeth clean by naturally scraping plaque off the teeth; it keeps the jaw strong; it can even help puppies through the discomfort that comes with teething.
Benefits and Risks of Bones for Dogs
While there are several commercial chew toys to choose from, some pet parents like the idea of giving their dog a traditional bone.
After all, bones do offer some pretty significant health benefits to dogs. Just ask anyone who feeds their dog a raw diet! Raw bones can be a good source of minerals and nutrients, and raw meat enzymes can boost your dog’s dental health by killing off bacteria.
That said, caution is crucial when it comes to dogs and bones. Cooked bones can crack and splinter, leading to choking or internal damage. Even when raw, bones can damage your dog’s mouth, teeth, and tongue; they could also lead to internal injuries or blockages if swallowed. Plus, as with many raw foods, there’s the risk of bacterial contamination.
How to Safely Give Your Dog a Bone
Because opinions are so divided, the decision to give your dog a bone is ultimately up to you as a pet owner. That said, we recommend consulting with your vet and conducting careful research before throwing your dog a bone.
When giving your dog a bone,
ONLY use raw bones.
Make sure the bone is big enough that it can’t be swallowed whole. (As a rule of paw, your dog’s bone should be larger than the length of his muzzle.)
Give your dog his bone after his meal so he doesn’t try to devour it.
Supervise your dog as he chews, monitoring for any signs of choking or injury.
Take away the bone after 10-15 minutes to reduce the chance of injury.
Throw out old, worn-down bones to avoid breaking and splintering. (It’s generally a good idea to throw bones out after a few days, anyway.)
- Keep raw bones refrigerated to reduce the chance of contamination.
Give your dog cooked bones of any kind. Not only can these break and splinter, leading to choking and internal damage, but cooked bones are also stripped of those healthy nutrients. If you want to use your leftover cooked bones, turn them into a dog-friendly bone broth instead.
Give your dog pork bones or rib bones of any kind (even when raw), as these can also splinter and crack.
- Expect your dog to share his bone with another dog. This could lead to aggressive, territorial behavior.
Healthy Bone Alternatives for Dogs
If you would rather not worry about the risks associated with traditional raw bones for dogs, there are plenty of safe, healthy alternatives to consider.
High-quality rawhide (it’s important to note that not all rawhide is safe for dogs, so make sure it comes from a reputable company)
Bully sticks, made from high-protein beef muscle
Antlers (yes, they’re safe for dogs to chew!)
Kongs or other hollow chew toys, stuffed with healthy treats such as ice chips, frozen broth, peanut butter, or dog-friendly veggies.
Raw or frozen full-size carrots (plus your pup can reap the benefits of those rich nutrients)
- Pet Honesty’s oral hygiene fresh sticks! These dental sticks are hard but flexible, with grooves and ridges that help to scrape teeth clean. Plus, they’re made with natural health-boosting ingredients (not to mention tasty flavors that your dog will love).
Try our Allergy Support Fresh Sticks to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and clean while giving him additional immune and allergy support!