Dogs need to chew. When they chew shoes, furniture, and other forbidden objects, they’re working their jaws and cleaning their teeth, just like nature intended. Giving your dog appropriate bones to chew on is the easiest way to break down plaque and provide mental stimulation. And yet, not all dog bones are safe. Some are more dangerous than others.
Here’s what you should know about feeding your dog any type of bone:
Some Dog Bones Are ALWAYS Dangerous
You should steer clear of hard plastic or nylon bones such as those from Nylabone.
It says right on the package that, as your dog chews, during NORMAL use, the plastic will form bristles that “clean your dog’s teeth” and that it’s NORMAL for the dog to swallow pieces “no larger than a grain of rice.”
The problem? Your dog shouldn’t be eating plastic, even shards that are smaller than a grain of rice.
You should also avoid cooked bones from the dinner table. Once cooked, chicken, beef, pork and other bones become hard and splintery.
Even those smoked bones sold in stores are not safe for dogs, though their packaging will deceive you to think otherwise.
Rawhide bones, bleached white, flavored, and twisted into fun shapes, are also unsafe for dogs. Most are made of indigestible animal skin which is bleached and glued together. Rawhide becomes soft and gummy as your dog chews, so it does not actually clean their teeth.
The truth is, any types of bone can injure or even kill your dog, no matter how “safe” it is.
Dogs with powerful jaws can break off a piece and swallow it whole.
Some chews are too hard for your dog to break, but can actually fracture your dog’s teeth. They’ll need to go to the vet for emergency dental surgery.
Always, always, always supervise your dog when they chew any kinds of bone. Watch for bleeding, choking and pawing at the mouth. Take the bone away if your dog starts biting off large chunks.
The Safest Bones For Dogs
All chew bones you give your dog should be completely edible and digestible.
Packaged, edible chews are typically made with ingredients like potato starch, tapioca starch, preservatives, gelatin, and cellulose. These aren’t necessarily toxic ingredients, but they do not offer any nutritional value. These chews should not be given daily because they can cause your dog to gain weight. Some are better at removing plaque than others. Virbac dental chews contain enzymes that break down plaque, and they’re one of the few dental chews approved by veterinarians.
Himalayan Yak chews are made of milk, lime juice, and salt, Himalayan Yak Chews contain no preservatives and are completely edible. They are one of the best and safest options. Get the right size chew for your dog to prevent choking.
Antlers are very hard, so they last a long time, and it’s unlikely an aggressive chewer will break off chunks. In rare cases, a Deer Antler can break a dog’s teeth if they bite down too hard.
Raw meaty bones are the best bone for your dog, even if they’re not always practical. You’ll need to let your dog chew a raw bone on a towel, in their crate or outside. Raw bones are completely digestible. In the wild, wolves and feral dogs consume the bones of their prey. Raw bones are soft enough for your dog to chew into small pieces and safely digest. When your dog eats raw bones, the fragments are broken down by their stomach acid, and you’ll often see white, chalky poop the next morning; this is normal.
The enzymes in raw meat actually break down plaque. That’s why raw-fed dogs have the whitest, cleanest teeth. You’ll have to get raw meaty bones from your butcher. Poultry bones are the softest and carry the smallest risk. Necks, wings, backs and feet are all good for most dogs. Feed turkey bones to large dogs, and chicken and duck to small ones. Rabbit, lamb and pork bones are generally safe, cow bones are too hard and can break teeth.
Raw bones provide calcium and phosphorus but cause constipation if they make up too much of a dog’s diet – aim for one bone per week if your dog eats kibble. Like all bones, raw bones can cause internal bleeding, tooth breakage, and digestive issues if they’re eaten too quickly, though injuries are rare.
How To Get A Broken Bone Away From Your Dog
Some dogs are prone to resource guarding behaviors. They may turn away, growl, show stress signals, or even bite if you try to take away a precious item like a yummy bone.
This is a problem if your dog’s bone is becoming splintery, or if they’re biting off big chunks and swallowing them. You should avoid giving your dog any bones if they tend to become aggressive. However, some degree of resource guarding is normal and can be kept under control.
Whenever you take a bone away from your dog, follow these steps:
- Grab a very smelly, very tasty treat, like lunch meat, hot dogs, cheese or tuna.
- Talk to your dog in a happy voice; a stern command will only make them defensive.
- Ask your dog, just once, to “drop it.”
- Toss the treat right next to your dog. Praise them when they gobble up the treat. Then, toss some more a few feet away.
- Quickly grab the bone while your dog is eating treats.
- Praise your dog again, then reward with more treats.
It’s best to practice “drop it” to increase the chance that your dog will happily give up a bone when you don’t have treats.
Choosing To Go Bone-Free
Some veterinarians say that you should never give any types of bone to your dog. All bones come with health risks, and they can also increase the occurrence of resource-related bites towards family members.
If you choose to give your dog bones, know that no bone is 100% safe. If you don’t think your dog can handle bones, they can go without. You can keep your dog’s teeth clean by playing tug with rope bones or by brushing their teeth. Filled Kongs and puzzle toys can entertain them in a safe way.
Do you give your dog bones? What’s their favorite kind? Share in the comments!