Are bones good for dogs?

by Yolande Howell

Feeding bones to dogs is generally believed to be a good thing. Gnawing on a bone is the best way to keep your dog’s teeth clean — and a great way to keep a dog occupied for a good long time.

However, the choice of bone given is of utmost importance. Lean, fresh meaty bones with minimal fat are best.

These can include beef, venison or lamb long bones, while brisket bones are also good. They must be raw or smoked — cooked bones of any kind are more likely to fragment into sharp pieces.

Never feed chicken bones to dogs, also avoid ribs and chop bones, and as mentioned above never feed cooked bones of any type.

Most dogs cope fine with a bone, however all dogs are different.

Many dogs in rural areas are fed bones daily, and never have an issue with them. Other dogs can struggle and may suffer episodes of vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation after chewing on a bone.

The high fat content of bone marrow can in some dogs trigger pancreatitis, a potentially dangerous condition.

If your dog is not used to having bones and your vet suggests trying them, then perhaps offer a bone for just five or ten minutes and then take it away, try again a day or two later. Avoid any sudden changes and if there are any problems just hold off. Once they are used to it, a bone once a month is good.

Marrow bones can be full of fat, so factor this in if your dog is on a diet — to the extent that the day the dog has a bone there is no other food offered to compensate. If your dog cannot cope with bones then there are many commercially available products that can be good to chew on and effective at keeping teeth clean. These include VeggieDents, Greenies, Dentistix and many others.

And then the gold standard for keeping dogs’ teeth clean and healthy — daily brushing.

Nowhere near as daunting as it sounds. There are small thimble type rushes for small dogs, and chicken flavour toothpaste helps too. 

In conclusion — bones are good if your dog can cope with them, and keeping teeth clean is of paramount importance.