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Feeding bones to your dog

By Sue Armstrong MA VetMB VETMFHom CertlAVH MRCVS RSHom 4 years ago 91416 Views

Bones are one of the most common concerns for owners wanting to raw feed their dogs. Vets often share their concerns about feeding bones, and rightly so as bones can be dangerous for a number of different reasons.

With the correct knowledge about how to feed bones to our dogs they can thrive on a raw diet. Raw bone is a vital part of raw feeding, providing a natural source of nutrition for dogs and cats and is a main source of bioavailable calcium and phosphorus. Bones are rich in protein, fats, minerals and vitamins. Bone also contains marrow, rich in blood and fats that also contain essential nutrients. Raw bones are high in collagen, all these things are beneficial as part of a healthy diet for a dog. Bone residue also acts as an important matrix helping your dog to form a good stool.

Preparing your dogs gut for digesting bone

Dogs who have never had raw bone as part of their normal diet need to be introduced to it slowly as the gut enzymes, stomach acid and flora need to adapt to the ‘new’ substance. Initially we recommend that you only feed ground bone as part of a complete raw diet rather than introducing whole bones straight away. This ensures that there will be no risk of large pieces of bone becoming impacted during the transition period.

Once the gut has become used to digesting the ground bone, the stool will change. A good stool from a dog fed a raw diet with ground bone should be relatively small, glistening, easily passed, low odour and when it dries they become pale due to the broken down waste bone material. Once the stool has normalised to this you can now consider feeding suitable non load bearing whole bone as a replacement for one or more meals for your dog during the week.

Some people never want to take this next step to feed whole bone and provided your dog has ground bone within the diet and good appropriate toys to help them use their teeth and keep the gums healthy, they can do very well without additional whole bone.

Teaching your dog to use their teeth correctly

Dogs who have been fed kibble or cooked food all their lives will often need to be taught how to eat bones safely. They will be used to swallowing their food, as there will have been nothing for them to crush with their powerful back teeth. To help teach them, the first thing to ensure is that the piece of bone and connective tissue is too big to swallow. This is one of the main reasons that we do not recommend giving chicken wings to larger dogs as their first bones, as many will simply try and swallow them. The connective tissue, which is the soft tissue between the bones that holds everything together, is really important and your dog will use their front teeth (incisors) to nip and pull this off the bone and then use their back teeth to crush the bone and macerate the tissue, to prepare it for digestion in the gut. This is an essential step, so initially you need to be sure that your dog is taught to do this. You may even need to hold one end of the bone section to help your dog position it correctly, until they learn how to do it properly themselves.

We would always recommend that you supervise your dog when eating bone so that you can intervene if necessary. Some dogs however can resource guard and initially become very protective of their new found high value possession, so do not put yourself at risk if your dog shows any sign of guarding the bone. You should also be very careful introducing bone into multi dog groups as bones are valuable resources and might induce aggression between dogs. Ensure that there is plenty of space between the dogs and pay attention to body language. If dogs feel under pressure from other members of the group they might be tempted to eat too quickly without properly processing the bone before swallowing.

If you are handling the bone, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Never feed cooked bone

It is very important that any bone fed is raw and not cooked, as when bones are cooked the structural composition of the bone is altered. Raw bone is a spongy matrix and is not sharp in the uncooked form. The cooking process hardens the internal bone structure making the bone sharp and brittle. This brittle substance is dangerous if it is then fed to your pets as the bones can easily splinter when crushed and swallowed which can lead to damage in the mouth or the gut and an increased risk of blockage.

Is every bone a food bone?

There are two types of bone – dietary essential edible bone and non-dietary essential recreational bones.

Essential edible bone comes from parts of prey animals that are non-weight bearing bones, like necks, wings, ribs etc. This type of bone is an essential part of raw feeding.

Non-essential recreational bones are thick dense weight bearing bones, they are not a nutritionally essential part of the raw diet, however they are fantastic for maintaining dental health, providing mental enrichment, the actual motion of chewing strengthens masticatory muscles and assists in inducing a calming effect on the body. (If your dog is predisposed to pancreatitis, simply defrost the bone, remove the marrow and then offer the bone)

Can every dog eat bone?

Tolerance of bone is specific to each individual dog. The best way to assess your individual dogs tolerance to bone is by monitoring its stool. A firm white stool may indicate your dog has a low bone tolerance; in which case a no bone content complete meal like Natural Instinct Beef Tripe or Country Banquet Fish may be ideal or even one of our lower bone content meals like Working Dog Chicken & Tripe or Working Dog Salmon would be more suitable. Some dogs may have a higher tolerance for bone and a more suitable range for these dogs would be the Natural Instinct Working Dog Turkey, Working Dog Duck, and Natural Lamb. Turkey is especially good for dogs with a high bone tolerance as well as the inclusion of carcass feeding within a raw diet.

Very old dogs, sick dogs, heavily pregnant dogs or those on antacids may not be able to tolerate additional bone in their diet and we recommend feeding only lower percentage ground bone raw complete raw diets in these situations.

The Natural Instinct Three S’s rule:

Always feed the appropriate size bone for the size of your dog. E.g. a duck neck or small play bone is suitable for a small to medium breed for a medium to large breed dog a turkey neck or large play bone will be more suitable.

Always supervise your dog when feeding any treats or bones, especially if your dog has not been fed bones before

Bones are of high value to dogs; therefore if you live in a multi dog household separate them when feeding bones to ensure they don’t squabble.

We have a large selection of Raw Bones and Treats.

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