Talk to ten different vets, and you will get ten different opinions on whether dogs should chew bones. The confusion arises from the fact that there are both benefits and risks to chewing bones.
First off, the Good. There are few things quite as good for cleaning a dog’s teeth than chewing bones, as the mechanical action helps to prevent the build up of plaque. Plus, there’s a good reason for the idiom, “like a dog with a bone
;” they provide a great source of stimulation and environmental enrichment.
On the other hand, bones – especially the central ‘marrow’- can be very fatty. It’s very easy to underestimate how many calories a bone can contain, so it’s important to be aware of how much is being fed. And if a bone has been sitting in the back of the fridge for days - or worse, in the garden somewhere – it can be a common source of bacterial gastroenteritis.
And all too frequently, bones can be downright dangerous. Bones are easily hard enough to fracture a dog’s tooth, and it’s not uncommon to see a nasty “slab fracture” where a tooth has come off second best against a bone. Also, swallowed fragments of bone can cause potential emergencies such as blockages and pancreatitis.
A good takeaway summary is that the right bones
are wonderful for the right dogs
Bones should be:
- fresh (something you’d consider eating yourself, and never cooked)
- an appropriate size (just right for gnawing on contentedly with the back teeth)
- picked up after a few hours and discarded, not buried or left in the garden to rot.
- cleaned of fat by scraping the marrow out with a spoon
And if you discover that your dog thinks of herself as a hyena – trying to break bones in half and swallow them – then the risks probably outweigh the benefits, and bones are not for her.
And of course, the most important thing to remember is to call if you have any concerns. We are always happy to answer any questions you might have.