As a dog owner, you've probably heard many different stories about dog bones. You've probably even wondered whether or not to give your own dog a bone.
Often, owners of dogs will buy a bone to reward their pet, either for good behaviour or obedience, or purely for the dog's enjoyment. This may be done with the best of intentions, but it is necessary to learn about bones in detail before giving any to your pet.
Why give my dog a bone?
Typically, good quality dog food will provide your animal with the nutrients it needs for good health. However, it's also nice to give your animal a little something extra to enjoy from time to time - whether as a treat or for good behaviour.
Dog bones are a good source of phosphorous and calcium, and while the nutritional benefits should already be covered in your dog's daily diet, a little extra from time to time isn't a bad thing.
Additionally, bones are a great way to help avoid boredom in your dog. Chewing on one can be stimulating and entertaining for your dog, especially when it involves a game of hide and seek!
Confusingly, dog bones have the reputation of improving dental hygiene and the breath of your pet, however, too-frequent chewing of even the right bones can also damage your dog's teeth. As such, it's important to understand bones and dogs before delving straight in and throwing them a bone.
How to choose a bone for my dog
If you decide that giving your dog a bone works for you and your pet, here's a few things to consider to ensure you're not putting your dog in any danger.
A real bone
Always stick with a real bone. You can buy these from the butcher or a pet shop. Poultry, pork or beef are the most popular choices, although beef is recommended due to its strength and the likelihood it won't break into small pieces.
In the pet shop, you will also have the choice of purchasing raw or smoked bones. Raw bones are less advised if you know your dog won't eat it all at once - it will likely be dragged along the ground and accumulate bacteria between feeds. However, raw bones have a higher nutritional value than smoked bones.
In a pet shop, you will also be able to find industrially-produced bones. These are typically sold in the treats section and can be given to your dog instead. You should, however, pay attention to the composition of these.
In general, lower-priced treats are made with flour, grains and vegetable oils. This means they contain limited nutritional value for your dog. Instead, try choosing a bone treat that contains meat. It's best to read the list of ingredients and choose one where meat is the first ingredient listed.
It's also worth noting that terms like 'meat-based' on product labels can be misleading and mean the treat will likely contain many other ingredients that are nutritionally poor (such as flavourings or flour).
Raw or cooked bone?
Whilst raw and cooked bones contain the same nutritional value, cooked bones can be both unhealthy and very dangerous to dogs.
The cooking process tends to make bones brittle, thus leading to a greater chance of the bones splitting while being chewed and lodging into your dog's gums, mouth or worse oesophagus or stomach. It is therefore recommended to give your dog only raw bones that contain meat.
Also, bones cooked for human consumption will typically be seasoned and far too salty for your dog to consume. Again, you're better to stick with raw, meaty bones that your dog will be able to tear into with its canines and crunch with their molars.
Those fake bones you find in many pet food shops often seem easy and ideal for dogs. However, you should take care not to hand these out too frequently. Excessive consumption of these bones can give your dog constipation. You're better off treating your dog to a raw bone once or twice a week, although this will also depend on the breed of dog. You can check with your vet to be sure.
What are the dangers?
Both the right and wrong dog bones can cause many problems for your furry friend, but especially the wrong ones.
Among the bones to avoid at all costs are those of sheep and rabbit, even chicken for some dogs. Small bones, or fragments of the bones, can get stuck in your dog's teeth or mouth, or cause serious lesions in their digestive system. Again, cooked bones can be cause for such dangers, so stick with raw bones to avoid any horror stories. It's not uncommon for vets to treat jammed jaws thanks to small pieces of bone!
Finally, be aware that bones with marrow can be dangerous for dogs. While loved by a many a canine, the marrow's fatty content makes it difficult to digest and can cause gastrointestinal problems for your furry friend.
Do you give your dog bones?