Dog and Bone: user instructions

Perhaps, there is nothing more iconic in history than dog and bone. But the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is opposing this well known image and warning pet owners that bones might be dangerous and life threatening for dogs.  However there are some people and dog owners who dissagree with such harsh statement. After all there has to be a reason this iconic duo is so famous and closely related (how many of you are guilty for choosing drinking bowl, accessories or ID badge for your pet with a little bone on it).

 Although it is reasonable to be careful while feeding your dog bones, howerver, is it really that dangerous as it is stated?

Why bones are good?

Dogs love gnawing on the bone for its taste and mental stimulation. Raw bone chews keep dogs, especially puppies or adolescent, occupied. While spending energy on bone, dog is less likely to get descructive towards your favourite couch or a table leg. For young puppies, bone is a great target to relive its frustration and possibly pain related to teething. Bones can serve as an activity for anxious dogs, as long as most of them suffer more when they have noting to do while you are out (although not all dogs can be trusted to be left alone with the bone).

One of the benefits of giving your dog bones is that they serve as a good teeth cleaning and the best part is, all you have to do is just supervise your dog as it cleans its teeth with joy and enthusiasm. While chewing on the right raw bone, the dog brushes off plaque buildup and strenghtens its gums and jaw. Good oral hygene is a very important element in order to keep your puppy healthy and happy. Strong gums are less likely to get infected and clean teeth does not become breeding base for microbs.

Feeding bones helps to strenghten the muscle layers of the stomach. Ingesting small amounts of tough food also helps to improve digestive efficiency. Dogs, which are fed a raw diet and occassional bones are less likely to get bloating, thanks to the muscle strength and digestive efficiency.

While organism passes digested bones through digestive tract, rough bone particles cleanse intestines, which strengthens overall imune system and health of the dog.

Moreover, bulky substance created from digested bones encourages healthy bowel movements, which prevents anal gland problems. Harder bowel movements helps to express anal glands and relieve them from toxins.

Another pro in favour of raw bones is that they are a natural and highly digestive source of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals. Natural nutrients are easier to absorb than sintetic vitamins in packaged foods. However, based on the HairQ Test results, feeding bones is not enough to provide all of the needed minerals. You need to feed your dog a regular diet alongside the bone chews.

What bones are good?

What bones are good for your dog depends on the size and chewing habbits of your pet.

Bigger dogs will need bigger bones as you want to avoid dog swallowing the whole thing in one gulp. The best bone for a big breed is a joint of a deer, cow or sheep. Make sure you are bringing home a joint which is bigger than your dog’s mouth, so it would not be able to swallow it. For the agressive chewer it is advicable to give just a joint with a hard bone part removed, you can ask the bucher to chop off the dangerous part, as this piece is harder than your dogs teeth. Other option is to buy a shank bone of a lamb or calf, as the bones of the young animals are softer. In case if your dog is not an agressive chewer you can give the entire bone to nibble on.

For a smaller pets you can offer a spine, neck or the smaller joints of a cow, sheep or deer. Although, in case your middle sized or small dog is an agressive chewer, better stick to the joints of a grown up or bones of a young animal. The spine and neck is a great game for the dog which likes to nibble on the bone. It provides a great mental exercise, as it is much more work to get tasty meat out of complex maze of a spine. This part does not fit to the agressive chewer, as it might try to devour the whole thing and due to its construct, it is easier for the dog to swallow a huge chunks of it.

Buy your bones from the bucher you know, as raw meat and bones can be a breeding ground for germs and contain some illnesses. Buy bones which are fresh and if they are older than a day make sure they were stored in a freezer. Avoid buying bones from pet shops, especially if the bones are dried or clearly went through a thermal or even chemical process, dried bones lose part of their strength and shatter easily, if they are not stored correctly they might be very dangerous and infected with bacteria or even rotten.

Try to avoid buying pork or poultry bones. Even though they do not pose such a huge threat as cooked ones, however they tend to shatter easier and to sharper peices than cow, sheep or deer bones.

There are some of the substitutes to give instead of bones. Bulky sticks or hard dental treats are great, but avoid giving rawhide production. Rawhide does not dissolve in intestines, so if the dog will swallow huge chunks of it, it might result in a mandatory visit to the vet. Even though, rawhide bones are one of the most popular substitute for bones or bulky sticks, the manufacture of it is not regulated, so you might be puting your dog in danger by giving low quality product. There have been reports of pets contracting salmonella and getting sick because of chemicals used in processing these rawhide chews.

User instructions

First things first. Never give bones to a hungry dog. The main reason is that such a pet will not enjoy nibbing on the bone, rather it will try to devour it, which will increase a chance of a disaster and will not really serve the purpose. Second reason why you want to feed your dog before giving it the bone is to prevent from blockage happening, with a full belly dog will not be eager to eat as much bone as it can and the particles of a chew will mix with a usual food so it will make a mass which will pass through intestines easier, without creating a blockage or constipation.

Prepare the place for your pet to work on a raw bone. Although, for your dog – it’s a dream come true, it is a messy business to tidy afterwards. Put some towel or other easily washable piece of material in place you want your dog to stay while enjoying the treat. After your pet is finished, gather the messy and probably bloody blanket and wash it imediately. Believe us, it is not the thing you want to keep overnight as it starts to stink quite strong in a short period of time. Do not leave a dirty cloth in your dogs kennel, remanings of raw materials not only smell bad, they tend to become breeding place for all sorts of nastiness which can infect your pet.

Do chose the right kind of bone for your dog. If you do not know weather your dog is a nibbler or an agressive chewer start from the least risky version – joint of a right size. That way you will see how your pet is reacting and act accordingly the next time.

Be careful if you have multidog household. It is better to separate your pets before giving them bones. Raw meat is, usually, a high value treat and dogs might start fighting over it. It is best if you have your dogs crate trained. That way you can be sure you, your kids and your dogs are out of danger from each other. Also it is a great way to limit your pets, so they would not scatter bone particles all over the house while trying to hide from other household members.

Let your dog work on the bone 20 minutes a day 2-3 times a week. Bone is a great exercise for the jaw muscles, but too much of it might toughen up the jaw to much and it might become painful or even restrict our dog’s mouth movements. When you decide that it is enought fun for the day, exchange the bone with a tasty treat or a little piece of meat. Rinse the bone and put it in the freezer. Consider soaking bone in vinegar before refrigerating, to kill bacterias. You can use the same bone for up to 3 days, discard the old chew if it exeeds that time, as it is no longer safe to be used. If your dog is impatient, and can tear the bone appart less than in 20 minutes, take away the remaining piece when it is the size of a tennis ball, in small dog’s case, when it becomes small enough for the pet to swallow it. That way you will prevent some of the possible dissasters (dog swallowing huge chunk of bone or bone looping over dog’s jaw). NEVER try to take the bone directly from a dog – your pet might missunderstand your intentions and bite you. If you do not trust your dog’s “leave it” command, put a harness with a leash before offering the bone and when it is time to take it, lead the dog away and just than take the bone.

It is not advicable to give bones to the dogs which has had restorative dental work/crowns. Their teeth are sensitive and way softer than natural dog teeth and might not handle bone well. It is better to avoid, yet another, expensive dental fix.

Feed only raw bones!

Last but not least, never leave your pet unsupervised. In case your dog will get into trouble while working on the bone, or starts the conflict over the chew with other family member you will be there to prevent it.

Only bone diet

As it was mentioned before, giving only bones to your dog is not a good idea. Bones might be rich in some certain minerals, but might have lack of other necessary vitamins your dog requires in order to be healthy. HairQ test results show that dogs which were fed bones without suplements or additional balanced diet had certain level of mineral deficiency. The main reason is that soils have been exploited to the point where essential minerals are abscent. As a result, herbivorous animals which are the source of bones for your dog, do not manage to acumulate enough minerals, from grass in their bones to provide 100% of needed elements for your pet.

Possible risks

Even though bones have a lot of good qualities that every dog can benefit from we need to mention some of the possible risks related to this chew treat. Although it is not a “must happen” rule but it is wise to know all ups and downs.

2010 FDA released a list of possible risks associated with giving your dog bones:

  1. Broken teeth. This risk is asociated with bones or hard chews you give to your dog. This may call for expensive veterinary dentistry.
  2. Mouth or tongue injuries. Some small injuries does not pose a threat but in case of a serious tongue injury you might need to see your vet as it is quite bloody.
  3. Bone gets looped around your dog’s lower jaw. This can be frightening or painful for your dog and difficult to remove.
  4. Bone gets stuck in esophagus, the tube that food travels through to reach the stomach. Your dog may gag, trying to bring the bone back up, and will need to see veterinarian.
  5. Bone gets stuck in windpipe. This may happen if your dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of bone (note that this can happen with any food particles or pieces from toys). This is an emergency because your dog will have trouble breathing. Get your pet to your veterinarian immediately!
  6. Bone gets stuck in stomach. If your dog swallowed a big peace of bone it might not pass from stomach to intestines. Depending on the bone’s size dog might have to undergo a surgery in order to remove it.
  7. Bone gets stuck in intestines and causes a blockage. It may call for surgery.
  8. Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require help of the vet.
  9. Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous.
  10. Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.

Note that if your dog is healthy, stomach acid usually is strong enough to digest the bone with no problems and the only problem which occurs more often is the constipation, but if bones are given correctly it is also avoidable.

Absolute NO – NOS!

Feeding bones to dogs is controversial and there are so so many issues that supporters and adversary will never agree upon. However there is one big NO which bouth sides consider dangerous without exeption – processed bones. 

In this case the FDA warning is completely reasonable. During the process of cooking or boiling, bone loses part of its stucture. It becomes more brittle, which increase the likelihood it might splinter and cause internal injury to your dog.

Moreover, processed bones no longer posses nutritious and mineral value. So there is no longer a reasonable sense to give it to your dog.

  Remember, the bone can be very good and beneficial for your pup, although it comes with its risks. It is always advisable to consult your vet regarding this chew option as a lot depends on general health of your pup. But, otherwise, if your dog is healthy, you do not need to totally condemn perfectly fine and natural toy, for some of its dowsides, as most of possible disaster points can be avoided by choosing the right bone for your dog and investing some time in observing its chewing habbits. After all, chew toys have the same danger potential as a bone if you leave your pup to play with them unattended.

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