Let’s face it … most dogs suffer from boredom.
Most dogs lie around the house all day, waiting for us to get home from work. Even if you work from home like I do, your dogs probably still get a lot of downtime.
That’s one of the reasons dogs really (like REALLY) look forward to dinner time! It’s an exciting break in their day … although for most dogs, meals only last for a very short moment and then it’s back to sleeping.
Life often gets in the way and as much as we want to, we often can’t spend as much time with our dogs as we’d like. We all wish we could give them more exercise and entertainment.
That’s where recreational bones come in …
Ripping into a nice big bone is one of the best activities your dog can do! Have you ever gotten caught up in a great book and spent hours devouring it? That’s exactly what recreational bones for dogs are … they’re a relaxing way to spend time and even get some exercise.
Ripping and chewing on bones is a super muscle-building activity for your dog … it builds a strong neck and spine. Bones are also nature’s toothbrush … that chewing removes plaque and tartar from teeth and freshens breath.
But don’t just grab any old bone. The type of bone you give your dog matters … choose the right bone and you’ve given your dog an afternoon of fun activity. Choose the wrong bone and your dog could end up in the emergency room!
I’m not saying this to scare you off bones … in fact, bones are your dog’s best friend! You just need to choose a bone that matches your dog’s size and chewing habits.
Raw bones are an important part of a raw diet. [Read more on keeping it simple here]
So let’s take a moment to help you choose the safest (and most enjoyable) bone for your dog …
Choose The Right Bone Type
There are two types of recreational bones for dogs: long bones and flat bones.
- Long bones are the bones normally found in the legs and wings of animals. These bones are made for weight bearing and because of this, they tend to have a hard, smooth surface along with a center filled with loads of marrow. The ends of these bones are soft and contain a lot of cartilage.
- Flat bones are the bones found in the spinal column, ribs, pelvis and shoulder. They’re softer than long bones and don’t contain as much marrow. They also have more convoluted surfaces.
I prefer giving my dogs flat bones … but I’ll tell you why that’s important in a moment.
Choose The Right Bone Size
The size of the bone (and the dog) determines how edible the bone is. In general, recreational bones are in addition to a balanced diet, so your dog shouldn’t be eating too much of the bone (that would give him a lot more calcium than he needs). Ideally, the bone should be large enough that he’ll strip all the meat off but not eat too much of the bone.
Bones from cows, moose and other large animals are generally good choices for large, aggressive chewers. Some good choices for large dogs include beef neck bones (my favorite), beef rib bones and pelvic bones. If you’re not squeamish (and you’re sure you won’t terrify your neighbors), you can even feed beef, sheep or goat heads (most ethnic markets will carry these).
Small And Medium Dogs
Bones from smaller animals such as deer, goats, pigs and lamb can be eaten by smaller dogs but not by larger breeds, so if your dog is small to medium sized, these would be great choices as an afternoon chew. Safe choices include beef rib bones, lamb neck bones (which are very meaty), pork or lamb ribs and heads.
Poultry bones are mostly edible for all sizes of dogs but while they can be a good meal, they shouldn’t be used as recreational bones.
OK, so let’s talk a bit more about safety …
Chewing bones, although safe, can create problems in your dog if your bone choices are poor. Here are some more tips to help you increase the safety of your dog’s favorite pastime …
Never feed cooked bones of any kind! These bones are hard and can easily break a tooth. Even kibble fed dogs can enjoy a nice raw bone without fear of diarrhea or bacteria if you choose the right bone.
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 that cartilage. The cartilage can accumulate in the bowels and if your dog isn’t used to bones or he really overdoes it, he could end up at the vet’s for an enema 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. Just be aware of these signs or, better yet, don’t feed these types of bones (such as femurs) to large dogs.
Long bones are quite hard on the surface and can break your dog’s teeth. Flat bones are a better choice for medium to large size dogs because they’re much softer and harder to clamp down on.
Flat bones will also last longer because they have interesting, craggy surfaces that hide the meat better than long bones, making them a much more interesting chew.
As bones dry out, they can also become brittle so don’t leave your dog’s bones lying around for days or you’ll be sure to see a cracked tooth sooner or later. Let your dog chew on them for a day or two, then toss them in the garbage or organic bin.
Bones are an important part of total dental care [Find out more on this here!]
Dogs who are new to bones, or dogs eating more bones than usual, can suffer from loose stools. This is normally caused by the rich and fatty marrow inside the bone.
Long bones contain more marrow than flat bones, so flat bones may be a better choice if loose stools are a problem.
Eating large amounts of bone can cause constipation in dogs. You might see white or yellowish, powdery stools or even yellow, runny stools.
It’s important to check on your dog to make sure he’s gnawing on the meat and not chomping down too much bone.
In general, if your dog eats more of a recreational bone than you intended, just feed him more meat and less bone for the next couple of meals (if you feed a raw diet). This will balance out his minerals, including calcium and phosphorus.
Stay away from bones from older animals … they’re more likely to be filled with toxins and pollutants. It’s best to find bones from young, ideally grass fed, animals. Organically raised animals are also a safer choice for the same reasons.
Where To Buy Your Bones
You might be thinking “Yikes those bones in the pet food store are expensive.” And you’d be right! But don’t worry, you can find recreational bones for dogs for free or very cheap if you check out the following places …
- Grocery Store
Larger grocery stores will have whole carcasses and dispose of the bones. Make friends with your butcher and don’t be afraid to ask because most of the time, they’ll give you a bag for free.
Chances are you’ll have to pay for your bones at the butcher but if you’re a good customer, your butcher will be good to you too. Always ask … don’t just assume that, because there aren’t any in the display case, your butcher doesn’t have some bones set aside.
- Ethnic Market
Many cultures love bones and a trip to the ethnic market could result in a windfall of yummy bone choices for your dog!
- Pet Food Store
If money is no object, you can buy your bones at any local pet food store. Make sure they’re raw and stay away from those white, sterilized bones or the smoked bones.
Is there a nice sunny day coming up? Why not give your dog a nice afternoon in the sun, chewing a healthy and delicious treat. You’ll find your dog is tired and happy after spending the day with a bone … and there’s nothing better than a tired and happy dog with a full belly 🙂