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Natural Canine Health Symposium

Recreational Bones For Dogs

As much as we love our dogs and try to provide a loving environment for them, most dogs suffer from boredom. This often makes meal time the highlight of the dog’s day, but with many dogs, meals last only seconds then it’s back to looking for something to do.

One way you can help your dog fight boredom is to provide him with a recreational bone every now and again. Bones are not only a healthy snack for dogs, but they are great entertainment. For a dog, ripping into a nice bone is the same as us relaxing with an interesting book: it’s a relaxing way to spend some time.

The type of bone you choose will depend largely on your dog’s size and chewing habits. When choosing a recreational bone for your dog, consider the following. All bones should be raw, never cooked.

Types of Bones

There are two types of bones:  long bones and flat bones.  Long bones are the bones that are normally found in the legs and wings of animals.  These bones are made for weight bearing and subsequently have a hard, smooth surface and a center filled with loads of marrow.  The ends of these bones are soft and cartilagenous.

Flat bones are the bones found in the spinal column, ribs, pelvis and shoulder.  They are softer than long bones and don’t contain as much marrow.  They also have more convoluted surfaces.

Sources Of Bones

The size of the animal (and the dog) determines how edible the bone is.  In general, recreational bones are an addition to a balanced diet so the dog shouldn’t be consuming the entire bone (that would be a boney meal).  Bones from cows, moose and other large animals are generally good for large, aggressive chewers and most dogs would be able to strip the meat off but not consume the entire bone.  Bones from smaller animals such as deer, goats, pigs and lamb can be consumed by larger dogs but not by smaller breeds.  Poultry bones are mostly edible for all sizes of dogs.

Safety First

Chewing bones, although safe, can create problems in your dog if you are not wise in your bone choices.  Here are some bone related problems you’ll want to avoid.

  • Bowel blockages – long bones have soft ends that are more cartilage than bone.  These types of bones may not be a good choice for large, aggressive chewers as they can tear off a lot of the bony end.  This can cause compactions in some circumstances and may end in a visit to the vet for enemas or even surgery to remove the blockage.  Signs of impaction can include bloating, a hunched over posture and frequent unsuccessful attempts to defecate or vomit.  Watch your dog for these signs or, better yet, don’t feed these types of bones to large dogs.
  • Broken teeth – long bones are also quite hard on their surface and this can result in broken teeth.  Flat bones are a better choice for medium to large size dogs because they are softer and less apt to break teeth.   They also last longer because they have interesting, craggy surfaces which hold the meat better than long bones, making them a much more interesting chew.
  • Loose stools – dogs who are new to bones, or dogs eating more bones than usual, can suffer from loose stools.  This is normally caused by the marrow inside the bone.  Long bones contain more marrow than flat bones, although smaller dogs would have difficulty getting at the marrow in many long bones.
  • Constipation – consuming large amounts of bone can cause constipation in dogs.  The result is white or yellowish, powdery stools.  It’s important to check on your dog to make sure he is not consuming too much bone at a sitting, in order to prevent constipation.  Generally, if you choose the right bone for your dog, this won’t be an issue.  Diets that are too high in calcium (which is found in high concentrations in bones) can cause some health issue with your dog, so it’s best to not let him consume too much bone, unless you balance it out with meat to add phosphorus.  In general, if your dog consumes more of a recreational bone than you intended, simply feed him more meat and less bone if you are feeding a raw diet.  If you feed a commercial food, you won’t have this option.
  • Toxins – beware of bones from older animals.  They can be filled with toxins and pollutants, so it’s best to find bones from young, ideally grass fed, animals.

What To Buy

Here is a short list of bones you might want to try for your dog.

Large Size Dogs – beef neck bones, beef feet, beef pelvis bones

Medium Size Dogs – the above bones plus beef knuckle bones, deer and goat legs and beef ribs.

Small Size Dogs – the above plus pork necks, pork feet, deer ribs – pretty much any larger bone is good for the little guys.

Recreational bones are a good way to spend an afternoon for any dog.  The above list isn’t exhaustive – what do you feed your dog?


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12 Responses to Recreational Bones For Dogs

  1. Sharyn

    Are beef soup bones with marrow from the butcher ok? My dog (Golden mix, 8 mo old) loves the marrow, but I’m concerned about them being so hard and possibly breaking her teeth. Can I ask my butcher for anything better?

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine

      Sharyn, it depends on your dog and how aggressively she chews. If she’s just licking the marrow and maybe gnawing a bit of meat that’s left on the bone, she should be fine, but if she’s an aggressive chewer marrow bones are very hard and may break the teeth. There are lots of other bone suggestions in the article!

  2. Julia Dick

    Don’t forget to pick up bones after several days especially for small dogs. Fresh bones have more water in them and are more pliable, old bones are hard and can break teeth. My dachshund had to have two molars pulled from cracking. Now I pick up old bones and give fresh ones every few days.

    • Julie

      What bones do you feed your Doxie and where do you get them? I have 2 doxie’s and they LOVE to chew on bones. I usually just give them busy bones or regular sized carrots. Any info you could give me would be awesome!! Thanks!!

  3. cyndiann

    The article didn’t mention that bones should be raw and not cooked. Surprisingly a lot of people don’t know that. I feed raw exclusively to my 5 dogs and 3 cats. I buy chicken necks by the case so no matter the size of the animal they have a source of bone. The dogs get assorted pork and beef bones as well.

    • I have been told all my years in feeding dogs bones, never give dogs the long leg bones of chickens as they can splinter and if swallowed can pierce the intestines, true or false?

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine

        It’s generally better not to feed weight bearing bones which tend to be harder, but I do feed my dogs chicken drumsticks and they seem to do fine with them. Backs and necks are softer though so you’re safer using those – and they are more economical too!

  4. Mary

    I feed my dogs raw and love giving them recreational bones. Unfortunately my male hates them. He loves antlers, but is disgusted by bone. He’s very odd.

  5. Sylvie Fortier

    My dog loves beef bones with marow but….dhiaréa follows any suggestions? Thanks

    • cyndiann

      Sylvie I’d have to know what else you are feeding to help you. Too much marrow can cause that but so can feeding kibble. Kibble gives dogs and cats a really weak stomach and it’s not ever a healthy food.

  6. Helena Lane

    I used to feed bones regularly but have become very wary because of warnings given. This article is very helpful.

    No, I’ve never commented before.

  7. Lynn

    My dogs get raw bones either beef ribs or marrow bones and raw hooves usually twice a week, I pick up the old bones as I pick up poop. They go nuts when I bring out the bones, never had any problem and sometimes I feed raw cut up chicken with the bones, no problem there either, I just give the whole leg or thigh after the Honest Kitchen and green tripe. Inside my dogs get Kongs, Nylabone, and antlers to chew. A bored dog is a bad dog, a tired dog is a good dog, same with kids.

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