I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about feeding bones to one’s dog. Most people want to know how to introduce raw, as a dental supplement and treat. Others want to transition to purely raw. Alarmingly, I found one of my puppy homes routinely is feeding the dog cooked chicken bones.
So, here’s a break down of feeding bones to dogs.
First of all, cooked bones are a hard line that should not be crossed. They can splinter, cause a blockage, or cause digestive upset due to grease, sauces, and such that may be on the cooked item. Keep cooked bones of any kind far out of reach of any pets, until they can be safely thrown away outside of the home. If your dog does manage to steal some, don’t panic. Keep a close eye on the animal for the next few days.
If you want to give your dog a raw bone as a treat, I highly suggest frozen beef marrow bones. They are sold at many grocery stores. The biggest risk with them is the dog getting his lower jaw stuck in the opening of the bone. This isn’t common, but keep it in mind and consider supervising chew time with these bones. They are otherwise very safe, and can also be stuffed with peanutbutter, like a kong can, once the dog eats all the marrow out of the bone.
If you’d like to introduce the dog to raw bones, like chicken leg quarters, I suggest going slowly. Dogs that are not used to this diet can get an upset stomach. I usually start with a few spoonfuls of ground turkey in the food. If that goes over well, I might feed a drum stick. If your dog won’t eat it, try running hot water over it for a minute or two.
As a weekly treat, a leg quarter will be loved by your dog, and it does indeed help keep the teeth clean. Raw bones break as the dog eats them, but not in the same brittle, dry, sharp way that cooked ones do. They also aren’t covered in grease and other things we cook with.
Feeding an entirely raw diet is also something that works well for a lot of dogs, but it is an undertaking to feed a truly balanced diet this way. Some companies make pre-prepared, balanced raw diets, which work well if one is able to afford it.
Since I get asked a lot, my own dogs eat a variety of kibbles, from Purina to Taste of the Wild, depending on the day and the dog, and generally get raw meaty bones at least once a week. I also do feed safe table scraps, and I train with treats. If your dog is in fit, lean condition, and digesting his food well, there’s nothing wrong with a treat here and there!
I also wean/raise litters on both kibble and raw, so any dog I bred will be well adjusted to eating either or both when it goes to a new home.
Here is Rigby, pictured at 13 years of age. He remained fit and healthy, with clean teeth that needed no formal care, well into his teens, living to 16.5 with no major issues. I believe raw food given weekly or more is a lot of the reason why.