Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Key takeaway

While it’s okay for dogs to chew on some bones and even eat them, it’s important to know which types of bones you should feed your dog. You should never give your dog any cooked bones and, ultimately, it may be best to talk to your vet before you feed your dog any bones.

Everybody knows that dogs love bones, but can dogs eat bones? In general, the answer to this question is yes as long as you’re talking about the right type of bones and with the approval of your vet. 

Not only can dogs safely eat some types of bones, but some bones may also be very beneficial for dogs. Bones are covered in cartilage, fat, and connective tissue that’s full of nutrients that your dog can get by chewing on a bone. Even better, chewing on tough objects such as bones can help work some of the plaque off of your dog’s teeth, which can help with oral health.

Alternatively, some bones may be dangerous for dogs, and it’s important to properly prepare a bone before you feed it to your dog. Your vet may also recommend against bones depending on your dog’s oral health or other medical conditions they may have.

If you’re thinking about feeding your dog bones, here’s what you need to know first.

Safe & Unsafe Bones

The first thing you need to know as a dog owner is that there are both safe and unsafe bones for dogs. Choosing the right type of bone for your dog is an important part of avoiding intestinal obstructions and making sure they aren’t getting sick from eating bones. It’s also important to prepare a bone properly before you feed it to your dog, rather than feeding it to them fresh off the animal it came from.

First off, you should never give your dog cooked bones. Cooked bones are hard and brittle, which makes it easier for them to splinter into sharp smaller fragments that your dog can swallow. If you decide to give your dog a bone, make sure you only give your dog raw bones. If you cook meat with bones in it or make a bone broth, make sure you toss the bones in the trash and take it outside so your dog doesn’t get to them.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are certain types of bones that you should simply never feed your dog no matter the circumstances. So, what bones can dogs eat? You should always stick to larger bones if you want to give your dog a bone. Small bones such as fish bones are easy enough for your dog to swallow whole, but they can become lodged in their throat or digestive system and lead to serious medical issues. Chicken bones should also be avoided as these tend to splinter more easily and can also become easily lodged in the throat. Bones should also only be chewed on in short sessions of 15 minutes or less per day. This helps to decrease excessive wear on the teeth and oral trauma.

While some bones are safe, it’s best to talk to your vet if you want to give your dog bones. Your vet can tell you which bones are safe, how to prepare them, and more.

Potential benefits of dog bones

Potential Benefits Of Dog Bones

While there’s conflicting information about whether or not dog bones actually provide health benefits, there are definitely some potential benefits to giving your dog bones. Even if these health benefits are overstated, you can ask your vet about giving your dog bones simply for the fact that they enjoy them.

Nutrition is one possible health benefit of feeding your dog bones. The truth is, there’s probably no real nutritional value that your dog is getting from chewing on the actual bone, but that doesn’t mean there’s no cartilage, marrow, or meat on that bone. The tissue that’s leftover on a bone even after it’s stripped-down may provide some important nutrients for your dog, so that’s definitely something worth considering. That being said, bones aren’t a substitute for healthy dog food.

Chewing on things can also help your dog work some of the plaque off of their teeth, so bones may help promote healthier teeth. While this can be a benefit for your dog, you probably don’t want to give your dog bones if they’ve lost teeth or had other oral problems previously.

Finally, giving your dog a bone to chew on can offer some mental and physical stimulation. However, there are many other ways to engage your dog without bones — playing fetch, going to the dog park, or giving them a puzzle toy are all great alternatives if you don’t want your dog to chew on bones.

Potential drawbacks of dog bones

Potential Drawbacks Of Dog Bones

Like most things, dog bones have both benefits and drawbacks to consider before giving them to your pet. In fact, some vets feel that the risks of dog bones outweigh the potential benefits. Some of these risks are outlined by the FDA:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction (blockage in the digestive tract)
  • Choking
  • Cuts and wounds in the mouth or tonsils
  • Fractured or severely worn teeth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Death

Before giving your dog a bone, definitely check with your vet. Your vet can help you make the decision within the context of your pet’s individual health and evaluate their potential risk factors.

Dog bone do’s and don’ts

Dog Bone Do’s And Don’ts 

If you and your vet do decide it’s ok to give dog a bone, keep these basic do’s and don’ts in mind:

    • Don’t feed your dog cooked bones of any variety
    • Do opt for raw meat bones
    • Don’t give your dog small or fragile bones that may become a choking hazard
  • Do supervise your pet while they’re chewing on a bone
  • Don’t give your dog a bone if they’re experiencing stomach problems
  • Do dispose of bones after 3-4 days, storing them in the refrigerator between chewing sessions
  • Dog Bones: Frequently Asked Questions

    Can dogs digest bones?

    As strange as it may sound, dogs can actually digest certain types of bones just like lots of animals can. However, that doesn’t mean you should feed your dog whole bones all the time. It’s also important to remember that smaller bones, such as fish bones, can become lodged in your dog's throat and intestines and lead to serious medical problems. If you’re going to feed your dog a bone, you should talk to your vet first and make sure it’s a type of bone that they can safely chew on and digest.

    Which bones are safe for dogs?

    Some of the types of bones that are safe for dogs include turkey, lamb, and beef bones. While these bones are generally safe for dogs, you should avoid giving your dog smaller bones because they’re easier to swallow. Large bones that your dog can simply gnaw on are best because they are less likely to get lodged in their throat and digestive system.

    Just because certain types of bones can be safe for dogs doesn’t mean you can pick and choose which bones to feed your dog. Before you feed your dog any bones, talk to your vet to learn more about which bones are safe and get tips for feeding your dog bones.

    Which bones are not safe for dogs?

    It may be safe for your dog to eat some bones, but can dogs eat cooked bones? Absolutely not. Cooked bones are more brittle and become easier for your dog to chew and split apart, which creates small fragments of bone that your dog can easily swallow. If a piece of bone gets stuck in your dog’s intestines, it can lead to serious medical issues and expensive vet bills.

    Fish bones are also a big problem for dogs because they’re so small and sharp. You should never feed a dog fish bones because they don’t know how to chew them properly.

    What to do if a dog eats bones?

    While it’s normal for dogs to chew on bones, your dog shouldn’t actually eat bones. Bone fragments can get stuck in your dog’s stomach or intestines, where they can cause obstructions and cause serious damage. If your dog eats bones, especially fish bones or cooked bones, you should monitor them closely. If you notice any signs of intestinal obstruction or some other medical emergency, you should take them to the vet right away.

    In many cases, dogs are completely fine after eating bones, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. A vet can use imaging tests to figure out whether your dog has an obstruction, so you can rest easy knowing your dog is healthy.

    Dog chewing plastic bone

    Final Notes

    It’s not unusual for dogs to eat bones, and it may be alright for your dog to eat certain types of bones. However, you should talk to your vet before feeding your dog bones to make sure you’re feeding them the right kind. Your vet can also teach you what warning signs to watch for and when to call a vet.

    If you want to learn more about feeding your dog bones, Dutch can help you find a vet in your area. Telemedicine for pets makes it easy to connect with vets online and get professional advice and treatment plans. To find out more about feeding your dog bones, try Dutch and connect with a vet today.

    References

    1. T. J. Dunn, DVM. “Can Dogs Eat Bones? Raw & Cooked Bones for Dogs.” PetMD, PetMD, 11 Feb. 2021, https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_raw_bones_or_cooked_bones

    2. Commissioner, Office of the. “No Bones (or Bone Treats) about It: Reasons Not to Give Your Dog Bones.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/no-bones-or-bone-treats-about-it-reasons-not-give-your-dog-bones