Co-sponsors of the 2021 Winning Out Certificates

Or think again...

Dogs naturally love to chew bones and we know that they are a good way of keeping canine teeth and gums healthy. Picking a good dog bone is not as easy as it sounds. By choosing the right dog bone - whether it be a real bone or a commercial  alternative - you provide greater safety for your dog while also granting him the supreme satisfaction of chewing. Before giving the dog a bone, follow these few simple rules to learn how to reduce the risk of bad consequences from chewing dog bones. So what are some safe options for your dog?

Unlike humans who brush their teeth regularly, dogs use bones to scrape the tartar and debris off their teeth. The bones help dogs stay in good physical and mental condition. Plus, bones are fun to chew!

For years, however, we have treated our dogs to a beef or lamb bone oblivious to the risks of doing so. Research from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually warns us that bones can be seriously damaging towards a dogs health and could lead to a vital trip to the vets. Animal bones in particular can break into shards which can cause mouth cuts and tongue injuries. Bones could get stuck in the oesophagus or lodged in the windpipe leading to fatal consequences.

Raw bones, not cooked bones
Never feed your dog cooked bones because the cooking process greatly complicates digestion of the bone. There's a far greater chance of bowel obstruction when the bone is cooked. Raw bones, still with a layer of meat on the bone but with as little fat as possible, are a safer choice for a dog treat.
Veterinarians agree that the one of the safest bones you can give your dog is a shinbone.

Dogs can handle raw meat bacteria better than humans, though there is still a chance of minor illness. If you don't want to risk bacterial illness, the only advisable cooking method for homemade dog bones is boiling.

What size?
The bone should be large enough that your dog can't swallow it or fit the whole dog bone in his mouth. Dog bones this small can spell trouble; it's possible for bones to get stuck in your dog's throat or for fragments to lodge themselves in the mouth.

Don't give your dog bones that have been sawed or cut. These dog bone treats are much likelier to splinter badly and cause health issues.

Proper training
Obedience is an important part of dog bone safety. If your dog is chewing too long and hard on a bone - or somehow gets hold of an unsafe, cooked bone - you need to be able to take the bone from him. An untrained dog, half-crazed with lust over the delicious bone, isn't going to let you remove it. You should train your dog from a young age to be obedient.

Even with a safer raw bone, you should still supervise your dog as long as he has access to it. Dogs all chew bones at different rates. Moderating your dog's chewing requires that you keep watch on him.

When to discard the bone
Any raw bone should be thrown away after two days at most.

Symptoms of a problems
Even with the safest real bones, there will always be some risk in the form of obstruction, choking, bacterial illness and tooth chipping. If, after chewing a dog bone, your dog begins to lose appetite, become lethargic, vomit, or have bloody diarrhea or difficulty going to the bathroom, then you should take him to a vet immediately.

Alternatives to real bones
Your dog's natural instinct is to chew bones but, as a responsible owner, you're understandably hesitant to let it. You don't have to give up on dog bones yet, though. You are in luck as there are a number of safe, easily digestible alternatives in all sizes available on the market. These alternative dog treats aren't made from real bone but they do contain flavouring ingredients that dogs love including rice, cornstarch or nylon! Maybe not as good as the 'real' thing but at least you don't have to worry about splintering or bacteria. Though obstruction isn't a concern with these dog bones, observe the same precaution about size.

One of the safest choices is the alternative dog bone that isn't made of real bone at all. The best advice would be for you to try these non-bone dog bones first. If your dog hates them, then you can explore other options. But if it likes the dog bone alternatives, then here are some of readily available choices!

Bakers Jumbone
The clever combination of a harder chewy outer layer and a deliciously meaty centre that tastes fantastic. It is something your dog can get his teeth into whilst pleasantly discovering the inner treat.

Rawhide Knuckle Bone
Rawhide knuckle bone dog chews are made from high quality pressed layers of rawhide. They are brilliant at naturally cleaning a dog's teeth and also being high in protein and low in fat.

Pink Birthday Bones
These dog treats are created for any dog birthday or special occasion. They are like human peanut butter crunch dipped biscuits that are handmade and free from salt, sugar and artificial preservatives.

Pointer High Protein Large Biscuit Dog Bones
Pointer Large bone-shaped biscuits are crunchy, oven baked snacks that your dog will love. They include added oils which prolong a healthy coat and fibre which helps with the doggy digestion system.

Pet supplies

Large Smoked Knuckle Dog Bones
Your dog will love these smoked bones which are a natural treat, smoked for extra flavour. They are made up of several layers and will keep your dog stimulated for a long time. The bones are made of 100% dried beef hide. As only complete layers of skin are used, the bones will not splinter when chewed.

Nylabone Dog Bone
If your dog is an intense chewer then maybe these are the right kind of bones to purchase. This nylon chew is completely edible and has a digestible mouth watering flavour. The bones are gluten-free with no artificial preservatives, salt or sugar and are full of vitamins and minerals for a delicious and nutritious treat. When the Nylabone is chewed into a stump, throw it away and buy a new one to prevent a choking hazard.

Chocolate Mini bones
If your dog is a chocolate fiend, then why not try these mini sweet treats. They are made from the highest grade materials that are pet-friendly instead of being harmful like human chocolate. They can also be used as a training aid when encouraging obedient behaviour.

These are just a few of the bone alternatives that are available so it is no longer necessary to let your dog devour the remains of your cooked joint. As a rule of thumb, always observe your dog's behaviour with a new treat. If you think it may be dangerous for your dog to chew, go with your gut instinct and take it away. Better to be safe than sorry. If you think sensibly your dog will stay healthier and happier for longer.

Sources: How to do things (Google) and Heather Hickings who is an expert in dog health and pet insurance.

From Rebecca Rowe BVetMed MRCVS
As a veterinary surgeon of 13 years experience, I am concerned about the advice on your page from Christine Bailey that in her opinion the risk of salmonella due to feeding raw meat and bones is small. We know that by owning a pet the risk of contracting campylobacter is increased, especially in children. We also know that dogs can carry campylobacter without clinical signs i.e., they seem well to the owner and do not necessarily have diarrhoea or other problems.

In addition, where several dogs are owned there is a much greater risk of dogs carrying these bacteria. Feeding raw meat and bones is cited as a method of transmission of campylobacter as well as many other organisms transmissible to people, such as salmonella and virulent E.coli. Whilst there are a very few supporters of the raw meaty bones diet amongst the veterinary profession, most vets advise the feeding of commercial diets (and only some in particular) for well-balanced nutrition and a decreased risk of disease in both the dog and the other members of their household. I know of no expert opinion leaders in the veterinary field who advise the feeding of raw meat or bones. I myself have seen several deaths as a result of feeding bones and many more dogs with pieces of bone stuck in their mouth.

In addition, allowing dogs to gnaw at bones often leads to significant wear on the teeth and where the pulp of the tooth becomes exposed, this is a significant risk for development of abscesses and jaw bone infection. We all know of stone-chewers with teeth that are half the length they should be due to obsessive behaviour and this is no less of a risk when giving bones to chew. Nylabones are much safer and less likely to lead to tooth damage or bacterial contamination. They can also be washed!

I think it is important that advice is based on sound scientific research rather than preconceptions held by dog owners and anecdotal evidence. Many supporting documents can be found in the Veterinary Record and other scientific veterinary journals and in the World Health Organisation campylobacter fact sheet. 28/07/10

Response from Christine Bailey...
I simply can't see why anyone feels the need for 'sound scientific evidence' to feed their dog any more than to feed themselves. We know we are omnivores. We know dogs are carnivores. Surely it is simple common sense to feed both species appropriately. You wouldn't feed a 'sound scientifically-prepared diet' to a child!

I trust Rebecca would consider Christopher Day, MA VetMB VetFFHom MRCVS a suitably qualified member of the veterinary profession. Chris states in his Feeding Dogs Ė The Natural Way that Salmonella can be a killer to cats, but that 'dogs are pretty resistant to this infection.' He also advocates feeding raw bones. Iím sure Rebecca has also heard of Ian Billinghurst and Tom Lonsdale, probably the most well-known vets promoting  a natural raw diet for dogs. I believe most zoos feed their wolves a raw diet, which must indicate something!

I don't understand why any risk to humans should be greater than the risk involved in handling raw meat for our own consumption. We wash our hands after touching raw meat. We wash our work surfaces and utensils. Thatís surely basic food hygiene, whether we are preparing a meal for ourselves or our dogs. Children, of course, need to be taught this.

It is true that most vets advise feeding commercial diets. Let's face it. Most vets make a profit selling them! Many owners feel happier feeding a prepared diet, and that is their prerogative, although as far as Iím aware nobody has ever proved any necessity for dogs to have much in the way of carbohydrate in their diet at all. Itís simply much easier and cheaper to prepare a kibble that way.

I understand that Rebecca is responding out of a desire to prevent injury, and it must be awful to witness an animal suffering in this way. I did state in my original post that chewing on hard bones can break teeth. This is why I prefer to offer my dogs fully edible meaty bones. Accidents can happen, with anything in life, though I suspect that most problems caused by bones are actually caused by cooked rather than raw ones. A raw chicken carcass is flexible. Cooked it becomes very brittle and easily splintered. Nylabones might offer a bit of fun but they don't offer any nutrition! 02/08/10

From Christine Bailey...
In my opinion, as a raw feeder of many years, all cooked bones should be avoided. This includes those you have boiled at home as well as the smoked cooked bones you can buy at pet stores. Yes, feeding bones carries a risk, but it is possible for a dog to choke on kibble, or for that matter, a child on a peanut. A dog belonging to somebody I work with had to have emergency surgery to remove pieces of smoked bone she had bought from a reputable large chain pet store.

Dogs should be supervised with any sort of chew. Don't use those rawhide chews unless the dog chews them thoroughly. They are very easy for the dog to soften a little and swallow whole and can then cause problems.

Yes, the bone should be appropriate to the dog. Beef bones are too hard for all but the largest dogs. This is the only type of bone Iíve ever had a problem with and yes, they can break teeth. The best bones are fully edible ones. For my dogs which weigh just over 20 kilos, these are lamb breast and lamb and pork ribs, rabbit and chicken wings.

I canít see that there is any more risk feeding a raw bone than feeding raw meat, and that risk is very low. Dogs are generally highly resistant to salmonella which I believe can also affect kibble-fed dogs and their digestion is designed to cope with raw food. They are carnivores, when all is said and done.

Please avoid ALL cooked bones and always supervise your dogs with any chew. 22/06/10

First published 20/06/10


© Copyright Agilitynet