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.
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?