Can Dogs Eat Bones? Are Bones Safe or Bad for your Dog?

Many people give their dogs bones to chew to keep them happy and occupied. And in fact, there can even be some benefits of giving your dog bones. However, most veterinarians will advise against this practice.

This is because bones pose a pretty significant choking hazard for dogs and carry various risks to your pet’s health that you need to be aware of.

Yellow Labrador Retriever chewing bone

However, many dogs get hold of bones by accident, leaving their owners wondering if they need to be concerned.

Keep reading to discover more about why bones are so bad for dogs and the risks of giving your dog bones as a treat.

Why Bones Can Be Dangerous for Dogs

Border Collie feeling guilty
A guilty look of Border Collie dog leaning on a chair

Unfortunately, bones in most forms are not safe for your dog to consume, and this is because bones pose a severe choking risk to dogs and can cause serious internal damage.

There are also numerous other risks associated with feeding your dog bones which we will detail below.

1. Bones can cause choking

Unfortunately, there’s always an increase in vet visits around the holidays due to dogs getting hold of bones and table scraps.

Although some bones, like ham bones, look to be the right size and shape to serve as a chew toy for your dog, they’re not suitable for this purpose. They can cause blockage in our dog’s intestines or cause your dog to choke.

2. Bones can cause broken teeth

Tough bones could cause damage to your dog’s teeth. As your dog bites down on these hard bones, his teeth may break off, which is painful for your dog and will make eating more difficult.

Broken teeth may also need to be extracted or have a root canal done to save the tooth, both of which can be pretty expensive.

3. Bones can cause injuries to the mouth and tongue

Dogs that are left unsupervised with bones can gnaw on them too aggressively, which can cause damage to the mouth and tongue as the bones can break off into very sharp pieces.

These sharp pieces can injure the cheeks, soft palate, and tongue. 

Only letting your dog chew bones for ten to fifteen minutes and keeping a close eye on them the entire time will help to minimize injury.

4. Bones can get looped around the lower jaw

Round bones can get stuck around your dog’s lower jaw behind your pet’s canine teeth. This can cause your dog to panic, and he may need to be sedated to remove the bone. 

5. Bones can cause injuries to the stomach and intestinal lining

Sad Labrador lying on bed
Labrador Retriever not feeling well lying on the bed

Giving your pet cooked bones to chew on can be hazardous. This is because bones become soft when they are cooked.

These softer bones can splinter or break apart easily. Small fragments of bone can cause your dog to choke and can cause damage to the stomach and intestinal lining, causing severe harm to your pet. 

6. Bones can get stuck in the stomach

Dogs can swallow bones that are too big to pass through their system could end up with the bones getting stuck in their gut.

This can lead to intense stomach problems such as chronic vomiting. Your vet will need to perform an endoscopy or abdominal surgery to remove these bones. 

7. Bones can cause a blockage in the small intestine or colon

Along with getting stuck in the stomach, bone fragments can get trapped in the small intestine or colon.

This can lead to severe constipation or colon damage which is exorbitantly painful for your pet. An enema may be required, or your vet may need to remove these bones surgically. 

8. Bones can cause contamination with pathogens on raw bones

Raw bones or uncooked meat could carry various bacteria like salmonella, which can end up poisoning your dog, making him very sick. Some types of meat, such as pork, also carry worms which are dangerous for dogs.

Which Types of Bones Dogs Can’t Eat?

Raw pork knuckle for cooking
A big chunk of a raw pork knuckle

Unfortunately, bones in most forms are not safe for your dog to consume. However, certain bones should be avoided for dogs.

1. Pork bones

The pork hock is the part of the body where the pig’s foot attaches to the leg. Also known as pork knuckles, these hocks should be treated like bones.

They are not suitable for your dog when cooked due to the splintering risk and when raw, they could lead to bacterial infection. Either way, they are also a severe choking risk for your dog.

2. Ham bones

As discussed, raw ham is not safe for your pet to consume. Raw ham and ham bones are a breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, and worms and can cause severe salmonella poisoning.

Ham is also very high in fat and salt. Too much fat in your pet’s diet could cause obesity while too much salt will increase your pet’s thirst or lead to sodium ion poisoning.

Are There Any Health Benefits of Bones?

Brown dog laying while eating a bone
A brown dog enjoys eating a bone inside the house

Despite the risks mentioned above, some pet parents argue that there can be benefits to giving your dog bones.

Chewing bones can stimulate your dog’s saliva enzymes which can help prevent the buildup of tartar on your dog’s teeth and gums, leading to better dental hygiene

Bones are also a great source of calcium and other minerals that can help satisfy your dog’s appetite, while dogs that regularly chew bones have been found to lick and scratch less frequently.

Bones can also keep your pet entertained.

Which Types of Bones Are Safe for Dogs?

If you’re considering giving your dog bones to gnaw on, there are some rules you want to follow to ensure your pet’s safety. This includes providing your dog with the right type of bones.

A raw lamb leg meat
A raw skinned lamb leg meat

You know that pork and ham bones are not suitable for your pet, but what bones can you give your furry friend?

1. Raw Chicken Bones

Cooked chicken bones can splinter, but raw bones can cause salmonella poisoning. You also need to be careful of feeding small chicken bones to large dogs, as these tiny bones can easily cause an obstruction.

Sharp chicken bones can also pierce the esophagus or cause damage to the lungs and heart. 

If you want to feed your dog raw chicken bones, opt for hollow, non-weight-bearing bones such as chicken wings or chicken necks, which are softer and can easily be ground down by your dog.

They are also a great source of calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals

2. Raw Turkey Bones

While it may seem tempting to give your dog a turkey leg from your Thanksgiving bird, hard drumsticks can cause a choking hazard for most dogs.

Like chicken, you will be much better off serving your dog the softer turkey necks. These bones do not contain any marrow and so can be readily crushed. 

3. Raw Lamb Bones

Raw lamb bones are safe for your pup to consume as long as they’re big enough not to present a choking hazard.

You can leave some meat and cartilage still attached to the bones you give your dog as crushing this will help clean your dog’s teeth and prevent gum disease.

4. Raw Beef Bones

Raw beef bones are some of the best options if you want to feed bones to your dog. Beef or bison femur bones and hip bones will be filled with marrow which can be a delicious treat for your dog.

These bones are not meant to be chewed up and swallowed and don’t provide any essential nutrients for your dog, but your pet will enjoy gnawing on these bones. 

Summary Overview: Safe and Unsafe Bones

As you have read, there are safe and unsafe bones to feed your dog. Pork, ham, and chicken bones carry the most significant risk of salmonella poisoning and should be avoided if possible.

If you want to feed your dog bones from birds, like chicken and turkey, opt for the softer, flight-based bones, which are easier to digest.

Types of Bones Safe for your Dog?
Pork Bones No
Raw Ham Bones No
Cooked Chicken Bones No
Raw Chicken Wings or Necks Yes
Raw Soft Turkey Necks Yes
Raw Lamb Bones Yes
Raw Beef Bones Yes

That said, large raw bones from beef, bison, and lamb are some of the safest options for giving to your dog.

While these bones don’t provide nutritional value, they pose the benefits of keeping your pet entertained while helping to keep their teeth free of plaque buildup. 

How to Serve Bones to your Dogs?

A Collie dog eating a bone
A Collie dog seriously eating a bone – Image source

Now you know which type of bones are best for your dog, it’s vital to cover a few ways to serve these bones to your pet. Keep reading for some tips on how best to serve bones to your dog. 

1. Always Feed Your Dog Raw Bones

If you’re going to serve your dog bones, raw bones are the best option. Cooked bones are always a risk to feed your dog as they become soft and can splinter, which can be dangerous for your pet as these sharp pieces can pierce your dog internally or lead to blockages.

2. Your Pet Should Gnaw Bones

Bones are meant to be given to your dog purely to gnaw on. If your dog has a habit of actually trying to eat or swallow the bones, instead remove them. Bones that are chewed into smaller pieces can cause blockages or injuries.

3. Serve Bones Alone

Like food, dogs can be pretty territorial over their bones. Don’t give your dogs bones to chew if other pets are visiting, as this could lead to a fight. 

4. Supervise Your Pet

You need to oversee your dog when eating bones to ensure that he doesn’t break them down into smaller pieces. Also, try to limit the time your dog spends with a bone to about 10 or 15 minutes.

Watch your dog if he buries his bones as bones left in the garden can start to rot, and if your dog digs up the bone later, he could get very sick.

5. Store Raw Bones Properly

After your pet is done with his bone, you can wrap it up and store it in the refrigerator. Leaving it outside could attract insects which bring disease. Only keep your pet’s bones for three or four days before disposing of them. 

How Many Bones Can You Feed Your Dog?

Jack Russell Terrier enjoying the big bone
A hungry Jack Russell Terrier dog enjoys eating the big bone – Image source

Ensure to feed any treats to your dog in moderation and follow the 10% rule. This means that any unbalanced treats should only account for ten percent of your pet’s daily calories. 

You will need to consider the extra calories your dog may get from the marrow or leftover meat on the bone but these will be negligible as your dog isn’t meant to actually eat the bones so much as just chew on them. 

When should dogs eat bones?

No particular time of day or day of the week would be better for giving your dog a bone.

Some people wonder if they can give their dogs ham or turkey bones around the festive season, but this practice is ill-advised due to the reasons mentioned above.

Also, try and avoid giving your dogs bones off your own plate. Bones from food prepared for yourself can splinter and likely have added seasoning and ingredients that aren’t good for your pet.

Also, you don’t want your furry friend to develop any annoying or bad habits.

When should dogs not eat bones?

While like risks likely outweigh the benefits of feeding any dog bones, if your dog struggles with weight issues, then perhaps it’s best to refrain from feeding bones to your furry friend due to the excess fat usually found on bones.

Also, be sure not to feed bones to dogs that are chewers or already struggle from stomach problems.

What Happens If Your Dog Eats Too Many Bones?

Veterinarian checking up the sick dog
Veterinarian and the assistant in the veterinary clinic checking the ill dog

Dogs have a habit of eating what they shouldn’t. If your dog gets into the trash and gets hold of bones, be sure to contact your vet. 

Some pet owners report that their dogs are perfectly fine after consuming a bone, primarily due to the number of bones consumed, the type of bone, and the size of the dog.

While all dogs are different, studies suggest that even consuming one or two bones can have fatal consequences for dogs.

No matter the size of your dog, bone consumption should be handled as a serious and urgent matter by all pet owners.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Toxic Bones?

Beagle dog being check on veterinary clinic
An ill Beagle dog is being checked at a veterinary clinic

If your dog ate toxic bones like pork bones, be sure to contact your vet immediately. There is no guarantee of how your dog will react to eating these bones, and he may not react at all or may experience signs of poisoning.

If your dog accidentally gets hold of some toxic bones, you can follow these steps.

  1. Don’t Panic: Firstly, it’s important not to panic. If you’re anxious and scared, you won’t be able to help your dog rationally, and he may pick up on your energy, causing him to become stressed.
  2. Contact Your Vet: If your dog eats bones, be sure to get hold of your vet right away. Your vet will be able to advise on the best course of action for your particular pet and situation. 
  3. Know The Details: Your vet will want to know how many bones your dog ate and how long ago, and it’s essential to record these details.
  4. Follow Your Vet’s Treatment Advice: Your vet will provide treatment based on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and the number of bones consumed. You will likely need to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

How Do I Prevent My Dog From Eating Toxic Bones?

As you can see, toxic bones are hazardous for dogs.

The best way to ensure your dog doesn’t consume poisonous bones is to ensure that any bones are stored in a safe place and disposed of in a container your dog can’t reach or get into. 

Be sure that all family members, including children and staff or workers at your house, are also aware that your dog should never be fed bones. 

What are Safe Alternatives to Bones for Dogs

Golden Doodle having a celery snacks
A Golden Doodle dog having a healthy celery snack – Image source

Instead of feeding your dog bones, there are other foods you can consider that will make a tasty treat for your pet.

1. Cashews: Dogs can eat plain, unsalted roasted cashews or xylitol-free cashew butter. Cashews are a great source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamins K and B6 for dogs.

They also have a high-fat content and are packed with calories, so be sure not to let your pet overindulge on these delicious nuts.

2. Peanuts: One of the most common nuts, dogs can eat peanuts. Peanuts are safe to feed your dog raw or roasted, as long as they are removed from their shell and unsalted. 

Peanut butter can help fight off disease, act as a delicious treat in training or when attempting to medicate your pet, and can supply your dog with plenty of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. 

3. Sweet chestnuts also make a good treat for your dogs. Chestnuts offer your dog about 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams, which can help your dog to build a robust digestive system and reduce constipation or diarrhea. 

Chestnuts are also a great source of omega fatty acids to keep your pet’s skin and coat looking and feeling great.

4. Celery is an excellent alternative to bones. Eating celery is good for your dog’s teeth. Although not a substitute for brushing, feeding your dog celery can help keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean due to its crunchy texture.

Chewing the fibrous texture of celery stimulates your dog’s gum, further reducing tartar build-up.

What’s the Verdict? Can Dogs Eat Bones?

As you have read, while giving your dogs bones to gnaw on can benefit your dog, most vets advise against giving pets bones, and this is because bones pose a significant health risk for your dog. 

If your dog has accidentally got into your trash and consumed some bones, it’s best to consult with your vet, as he will be able to advise the best course of action.

Has your pet ever eaten bones? Please share your experiences in the comments below so that we pet owners can learn from each other.

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