Can Dogs Eat Bones? A Veterinarian's Answer May Surprise You
Many people assume bones are safe for dogs, but a veterinarian explains the dangers of giving them to your pup.
We're constantly looking for great uses for food scraps to avoid waste. You can turn lemon peels into candy, potato skins into chips, and beyond. But if you're considering letting your dog chew on leftover bones, think again.
To learn more about the safety of different types of dog bones, we turned to a professional for advice: Dr. Hunter Finn, a general practice veterinarian and the founder of Pet Method. The information he shared was invaluable—and will make you think twice about sharing your scaps with your furry BFF.
Can Dogs Eat Bones?
So let's get down to it: Can dogs eat bones? Dr. Finn has no hesitation in his position on the matter, stating animal bones—both food scraps and the kinds you can buy in stores—should never be given to your pup.
"I tell all my clients to avoid bones at all costs," says Dr. Finn. "Yes, dogs love to chew on them—and they especially love the added flavors to some types of bones. But I can't tell you how many broken teeth I, as a veterinarian, have had to extract every single year because the dog liked to chew on bones."
This might come as a surprise to some dog owners. Why would so many stores sell them if they could be so frequently and dangerously damaging? But it's true, and even the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has published information cautioning consumers against bone treats on their website for years.
"In my opinion, there's no safe edible bone," Dr. Finn reiterates. "There are treats that are edible in the shape of bones, but I don't recommend you allow your pet to crunch up and swallow bone."
With all of this coming to light, is there any difference at all then between raw and cooked bones? "Raw bones are less brittle and at a lower risk for GI obstruction or perforation, but they're also a much higher risk for microbial overgrowth, which causes its own array of issues," Dr. Finn says. As for cooked bones, he says they splinter much easier, making the chance for GI injury much higher. Therefore they should never be given to dogs under any circumstances.
Sadly it's a lose-lose situation—there's no entirely safe option when it comes to giving dogs real bones as a treat.
The Dangers Associated With Bones
Dr. Finn explains that when dogs break off shards of bone and swallow them, they're at risk for GI upset, obstruction, and perforation—which is the tearing of the intestinal tract. Sounds pretty painful, right? It's easy to see why it might be best to avoid a toy or treat that could lead to that outcome.
Additionally, the chewing of such a hard bone often leads to broken teeth and gum laceration. But why do some dogs have worse outcomes than others? Dr. Finn says it all comes down to your dog's chewing style.
"The issue is that depending on your dog's chew style, they are at a much higher risk of breaking molars and canines or lacerating gingiva," he says. "There are some dogs whose chew style may never break a tooth on a bone, but you will see the occasional gum laceration and you will see some wear on the teeth that's not necessarily good."
So for the safety of your furry friends, don't risk it. Consider switching to a softer, more healthy option that doesn't include bone.
Better Options for Your Pup
The good news is there are so many alternatives to choose from, both store-bought and homemade. Dr. Finn offers some helpful guidelines, sharing, "As a general rule of thumb, anything that's too hard for your fingernail to make an indent in, or too hard for you to slap against your own knee, it's too hard for your dog to chew on."
There are hundreds of recipes available online for creative and fun dog treats that your dog could end up loving. Alternatives that will keep them occupied and happy without the risk of injury. If you choose to make treats from scratch, just be sure that the ingredients are 100% dog-safe before serving. If you're not sure, your veterinarian will be happy to help.
Alternative Uses for Bone Scraps
Luckily, not all hope is lost when it comes to using up those leftover bones from cooking. Instead, consider making a delicious bone broth that's packed with nutrients for yourself.
To get started, simply boil the bones in a pot of water—and don't forget to add in any vegetable scraps you have around the kitchen. At the end, strain out the veggies and enjoy!
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