Dogs and Raw Bones
“There appears to be no better canine sedative than a bone to chew on.” Dr Stanley Coren.
Anyone who has ever owned a dog will know that they are champion chewers. In fact, Chewing is one of their favourite pastimes. Even dogs with few or no teeth will give it a go. They explore their environment with their mouths, pick up objects and decide if they are chewable or not. Boredom and stress can get dogs to chew on anything available. This often applies to dogs that are chronically under stimulated, mentally or physically.
Chewing is good for teeth, gums and jaw muscles. Adult dogs chew to brush their teeth and massage their gums, and to exercise their powerful jaw muscles. Puppies and young dogs chew to relieve the itching and pain of growing new teeth.
As a dog owner you should make sure that you are informed on dog nutrition. Just as you watch what you eat, it’s important that you monitor what you feed your dog. As part of every dog’s diet, it’s a good idea to include a variety of raw meaty bones.
Which bones are best?
- Bones must be raw
- Never feed cooked bones because they can splinter, causing internal damage or intestinal damage – which can cause death
- Only offer human-grade meaty bones
- Freshness is crucial to avoid harmful bacteria
- Refrigerate fresh bones until use
- Ensure that the raw bone is large enough so that the dog cannot swallow it whole or fit the whole bone in its mouth
- Talk to your vet for advice
How many and how often?
Too many bones may lead to constipation. The general guideline is one or two raw bones per week with a few days in between servings. See RSPCA website for more info.
Different bones for different chewers
In my house Memphis gets a smallish raw pork bone most nights. Wolf on the other hand does not chew well and gets the occasional large raw pork shoulder blade bone.
Aggressive-chewers want to consume the bone in its entirety as soon as possible. They often end up with fractured teeth. These dogs should not be given very hard bones. Aggressive chewers are good candidates for big raw knucklebones. They cannot be trusted with recreational bones.
It’s imperative that you supervise your dog’s chewing very closely, because an aggressive chewer can whittle down a big bone in a short time to the size of a ping-pong ball in no time. Once a bone is that small it is not safe and should be taken away. It’s very important to watch your dog closely until such time that you can trust your dog with a bone.
Memphis takes his bone to the same spot on the lawn where I can watch him chew. I now know that I can trust him with any bone.
Important raw feeding mistakes to avoid
You cannot expect a kibble/pellet-fed dog to know what to do with a raw chicken. Some dogs may be fine but a whole chicken and bony meat can be a choking hazard. I know Memphis well and I know if I should offer him a chicken wing he will chew it thoroughly. He does not swallow things whole.
You need to use your head and common sense when you begin to introduce raw meat into your dog’s diet. If you don’t know if he is going to gulp or chew, then you need to grind up the food or buy commercially prepared raw diet food.
Take sensible precautions, like always supervising your pet when he has a raw bone. Don’t allow him to carry it off to a corner alone. You should wean him onto raw bones, remove pieces that are broken off or when it gets too small. Discontinue raw bones if your dog has weak or fractured teeth.
Pork, veal and lamb bones are all softer than bones from fully grown animals. Rib bones are also more likely to splinter than leg bones. These are factors to consider when selecting the right bone for your dog.
In multi-dog households, dogs should be separated before being given any kind of chew or raw bone. A juicy bone can easily lead to “resource guarding” in the meekest of pets.
Pick up all bones immediately after each chew sessions. Memphis always goes back to his chewing spot to check that he did not leave anything behind.
Raw bones can make quite a mess as your dog gnaws on them. That’s why many people send them outdoors or to a surface that can easily be cleaned with hot soapy water.