Which Bones are Safe for Dogs?

beef knuckle bone for dogs

Your dog's "puppy eyes" may make it hard to say no when you've just finished your nice rack of ribs. What's the harm in throwing them a bone or two?

But you might want to think twice about doing so, no matter how tempting it is.

Not all bones are good for dogs, which the FDA has warned us about since 2010. In fact, some bones can actually cause severe injury. But when given safely, bones can be a healthy and enjoyable part of your pet's diet.

In this article, we explain what bones dogs can eat, and which they should stay far away from. We also cover guidelines to safely feed your dog bones, so that you can give in to the "puppy eyes" without worry.

Which Bones to NOT Give Your Dog

No matter how tempting it gets, it would be best if you never fed Fido the following bones:

Cooked Bones

Cooking turns bones brittle, making them easy to break and splinter. According to the FDA, giving your dog a cooked bone is associated with risks such as:

  • Broken teeth
  • Mouth or tongue injuries
  • Bone gets stuck in the esophagus, windpipe or stomach
  • Constipation due to bone fragments
  • Severe bleeding from the rectum

Along with the injury risk to your dog, feeding cooked bones doesn't make much sense from a nutritional perspective, either. The cooking process removes minerals from the bone, so they have no nutritional benefits.

Note: After you're finished eating your meal, make sure to dispose of cooked bones in a way that your dog cannot reach them. Closed top garbage cans or disposal in outdoor trash cans may be a good option.

Rawhide

Rawhides are one of the most popular types of bone for dogs, and dogs love their natural flavoring, but they are not always the safest option.

To begin with, they are treated with chemicals and artificial flavors, which in the short-term can lead to stomach upset, and potential long-term health complications, which may include cancer.

Additionally, rawhide is supposed to weaken and break apart into chewy snacks after being chewed on for a while. If your dog has a strong bite, it could easily break the bone before becoming chewy, turning it into a choking hazard.

Inappropriately Sized Bones

You should feed your dog only bones large enough that they can't swallow. They might choke on them or, worse, perforate their bowel or cause a blockage, which can only be solved through surgery. Note that giving your dog too hard a bone could lead to a slab fracture if they chew aggressively. It's about finding a happy medium.

For example, a beef shank bone is an excellent choice for a small dog. For a large dog breed, knucklebones are perfect.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't give your dog any bone smaller than its muzzle or head so they cannot swallow it whole.

Bone Marrow

Bone marrow isn't something you need to totally avoid; just be wary of the amount you're feeding. If your dog isn't used to it, you need to ease them into it.

Bone marrow is extremely fatty. If your dog eats excess bone marrow, its digestive system could become overwhelmed, leading to an inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can lead to symptoms such as severe vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can even be fatal in some cases.

The BEST Bones to Give Your Dog

The only safe bones for dogs are raw. They are much safer than cooked bones because they don't splinter easily.

There are two types of dog bones: edible and recreational raw bones. Edible raw bones include chicken wings and neck and turkey neck. They are the hollow bones of birds that don't bear weight and can be crushed in a grinder. Edible raw bones provide the critical nutrients and should be a part of your dog's balanced diet.

Recreational raw bones are meant to be gnawed on, not chewed up and swallowed. They include hip bones or big chunks of beef or bison femur. They are great for your pup's oral health because their teeth get the equivalent of brushing and flossing when gnawing. This prevents buildup and reduces the risk of gum diseases.

Some raw bones you could consider include:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Bison

Why Your Dog (& You) Love Bones

Chewing bones has several advantages for you and your dog. These advantages include:

Bones Satisfy Their Innate Urge to Chew

Dogs have an innate urge and need to chew. Younger dogs may do it to relieve themselves of teething pain, and older dogs may do it to work through anxiety, frustration, or boredom. They may also chew just for the sake of it.

Bones can satisfy your Fido's natural urge to chew and keep your favorite pair of shoes or socks safe.

Chewing on Bones Improves Oral Health

Although bones aren't a substitute for regular teeth cleanings, they can help improve your Fido's oral health.

Regularly chewing on bones prevents plaque buildup by removing tartar and scraping away bacteria from teeth. This keeps the gums healthy and reduces the chances of bad breath and gingivitis, among several other teeth and gum conditions.

Bones Can Be a Good Source of Minerals

Raw bones are a good source of several minerals, such as phosphorus and calcium. Calcium is a vital nutrient because it helps your dog's proper bone development.

Bones Keep Them Busy

If you want your dog to be preoccupied while doing something else, a great way to keep them busy is using bones. You will be able to handle your tasks in peace while the little guy is busy with their bones. Just keep them close by so you can supervise while they gnaw.

To Recap: How to Safely Give Your Dog a Bone

Even with all the precautions in the world, your pup is still at risk if you give them unrestricted, unsupervised access to their raw recreational bones.

How can you enjoy all the benefits of raw bones without risking your furry friend's health? Follow these guidelines below:

  • Supervise your dog closely as they are working on the bone. You will be able to notice and react immediately in case of an accident, such as choking or biting it too hard. You will also notice when they have gnawed all the way to the hard, brittle part of the bone and making splinters.
  • Split your dogs, especially if they can get territorial, to prevent fights.
  • Do not feed your dog bones if they have had restorative dental work or crowns.
  • Don't feed your dog ribs, pork, or bones that have been cut. They are more likely to splinter.
  • You can give a bone to your dog after a meal because they are not hungry, making them less likely to chew too hard and swallow it quickly.
  • If they have never had a bone, don't give them for a long stretch of time. Give them in 5-10 minute intervals.
  • The size of the bone should depend on the size of your dog. The larger the dog, the bigger and stronger the bone should be.

Final Thoughts

Dogs love bones. Bones provide minerals necessary for proper growth and better oral health. If not for those reasons, do it just to see their eyes light up and their tail wiggle in appreciation as you give them the bone.

Besides, it's either that or your favorite pair of shoes because dogs have an innate urge to chew, and trust us, they will fulfill it.