Being informed about bones for dogs will excel your growth as a pet parent. Bones are looked at critically, for good reason. But what the critics are missing, is the responsibility as pet parents to provide and present the the RIGHT bone for their dog to utilize safely and effectively.
If you have ever watched a seasoned bone chewer work their magic, you would notice how they have a look of contentment and wisdom, as if they realize they have a tool in their paw as they scrape their teeth. They are not over zealous to get the marrow. They are tactical and precise leaving behind most of the hard bone.
In comparison, as humans, we enjoy eating apples, apricots and cherries for the taste as well as the nutritive value, but we have learned to not eat the seeds because they can cause harm. Dogs will learn to eat the 'fruit' of the bone; they just need a teacher to supervise and correct unwanted chewing behavior.
Choosing the right bone can set your dog up for success. Whether they are aggressive chewers looking to 'Kill' anything you put in front of them or 'savor the flavor' types, we determine the pros, the cons to help you decide if it is a good option for you.
First, I have a bone to pick. We need to clean up our definition of what we refer to as a bone. Folks, bones are not biscuits nor are they the plastic toys that are shaped like real bones. I won't even refer to the bleached white structures that are filled with peanut butter as a bone. We don't do imitation. What I am discussing is what our dogs' ancestors have been gnawing on for a long time. (to you that understand what I am talking about, sorry for the wasted paragraph, but it is a common misconception)
There are numerous pros to feeding bones to dogs, but what sticks out to bone feeders the most is how much their dogs LOVE to chew them! It is instinct for dogs to chew on bones. At the core, dogs are scavengers and bones present an opportunity to scavenge anything of nutritional value off the bone. In some ways the bone itself can be of value in some essential minerals but the bulk of health comes from the inside and everything surrounding the bone.
In order for the nutritional benefits to become present, the dog must navigate the bone's edges and crevices to get the meat, membrane and marrow which keeps the mind stimulated. For dogs that are already of picture perfect health, the nutritional value may not be so important but statistics are clear - dogs with poor dental health typically lead to more problems. So all those edges and crevices we were talking about present a surface for dogs to clean their teeth mimicking a natural dental aid.
Minerals: Calcium and Phosphorus
When we look at nutritional benefits from bones, we first recognize the amazing source of phosphorus and calcium. These are two minerals that are present, in the right ratio, of healthy dogs. Phosphorus can be derived from meat and calcium from the bone but in most cases, too much of one over the other can result in other deficiencies and a weak skeletal structure. When puppies are not properly fed the right ratios of phosphorus and calcium as they develop it that can lead to things like hip displacia larger breeds or make teeth weak and brittle among a whole array of other ailments.
The other contributing factor to a bone's benefit for dogs would be the anti-oxidant rich bone marrow. Science shows that bone marrow contains myeloid and lymphoid stem cells which are building blocks for red and white blood cell that build the immune system and help circulate oxygen to cells. Collagen in bone marrow can help the body 'glue' itself back together when wounded or in need of repair. Although marrow is categorized as a high fat source, it is some of the most nutritionally sound fat a dog can eat. Raw bones are considered to be more nutritive because of the marrow remaining unadulterated by any heat source.
Meat and Connective tissue
Usually, the first thing targeted is meat and connective tissues on the bone. It never hurts to get some of that lean tissue generously left on for the meaty bones lovers. You can expect to get some added vitamins and amino acids to build strong muscles from the meat and hyaluronic acid in the connective tissue for added hip and joint health.
One of the most physiologically beneficial thing you can do is treat your dogs with chews or bones not only because of the nutritional benefits, but because of how bones present dogs with a puzzle. They know how great that marrow tastes and nourishes their bodies. The game to the dog is obvious and clear; get the good stuff. The bone itself is recognized as the obstacle to maneuver around.
When the right bone is presented, it can be your dog's longest lasting chew since they gnaw for hours at a time trying to manipulate a piece of connective tissue out of a crevice of the bone. Often times, dogs will leave the bone and come back another time as if they are taking a mental break. They will chew on a bone for how ever long you allow. It is recommended to throw the bone away after a couple chew sessions. Any more and the bone will begin to dry out from the saliva dogs leave behind. This will increase the chances of splintering.
The level of entertainment a dog will need to satisfy its stimulation requirements will vary greatly depending on the breed. This will determine how quickly bones get 'cleaned' and how often you should switch the bone type to keep the puzzles fresh. We recommend switching the types of bones as often as possible but if there is only one type of bone that suits your pup, that is fine. Remember that each bone is inherently different coming from a natural, animal source.
Yes, bones can be dental aids. Bones are even more important as a dental aid than they ever have been for dogs. Things like biscuits and kibbles that are crunched and chewed in the mouth have the tendency to stick. Unless you are brushing your dog's teeth on a consistent basis, more likely than not, your dog will start building excess plaque and tarter. This build up of bad bacteria along your dog's gums can result in really bad breath and worse case, infection, disease and failure of organs.
One of the quickest ways to deteriorate your dogs health is by letting their dental health suffer.
Joint bones like knuckles and hip bones (saddles) and knee caps are beautifully designed to 'sand' down in a safe and effective matter.
Other bones may be more one dimensional than the knuckles and saddles but are still very effective in cleaning the plaque and tarter.
You can consider gnawing on bones as strength training for the teeth, their roots and the gums surrounding. The best thing to do is start teaching your pups how to use a bone at a young age.
The rules of the game must be presented early for puppies to chew bones correctly and avoid developing destructive chewing habits. For older dogs that are new to bones, supervision and rules must be implemented with more attentiveness because of their strength paired with unknown chew aggression towards bones. But with patience, you will be able to rely on bones to do the job they have been doing for dogs for many, many years.
The risks and the potential problems bones can present for dogs is evident. When there are deaths involved with a category of products, your concern is expected. As manufactures of bones, it is difficult to come up with a cons section since we see all of the great benefits they present. But we aren't too proud to recognize that the bones can be dangerous for the wrong dog using the wrong bone.
We will attempt to find middle ground in this section because it is erroneous to suggest that bones are bad for dogs. Equally outlandish, is claiming that every dog should be using this product. Both are extreme views and do not consider weighing all the factors involved in the event of giving your dog a bone. Take a look at the ways bones can be a problem for dogs and for you as a modern pet parent:
Bones can splinter and crack
Every bone has the ability to splinter or break, depending on the pressure applied and molecular structure of the bone. The structure of the bone will change depending on the process in which the bones are manufactured. When a manufacturer uses a dry heat source, that is strike one. When they use a dry heat source at a temperature too high, that's strike two. When they use a chemical preservative on the bones paired with the previous, that's strike three. This method is a receipt for disaster and unfortunately used by producers today. These procedures in the process all lead to a dry and brittle bone, not to mention the loss of nutrients.
Bones are not very digestible
This is a true statement. Bones are incredibly difficult to digest and what the body can take from the bone itself is minimal when swallowed in little pieces. This is where stomach acids play a critical role in your dog passing small bone fragments. Acids in your dog's stomach will soften the bone and eventually breaking it down to pass. Too many bone fragments at once will pose a blockage threat with a dog that has poor digestive acid secretion. It is always recommended to add something like organic, raw apple cider vinegar or a ChewEase product we manufacture when feeding bones to help this digestive process.
Bones can break teeth
You hear of vets warning pet parents of bones breaking dog's teeth but rarely hear other contributing factors as to why the teeth broke. Some of these dogs may have had pre existing tooth decay in which minimal pressure can result in a broken tooth. A manufacturer using low quality production methods could leave a bone in a fragile state and when paired with an aggressive chewer results in a broken tooth. Learning your dog's chewing behaviors will determine which bone or if any bone is the right option. Where as a chew may be a better option.
The 'Bone'afide Truth
Stop the bone slander! Yes, there are inherent risks to giving your dog a bone, but there are means to minimize that risk. And in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the potential harm. Minimize the risk even further by feeding raw bones. Give it a shot and see if your dog does well. You may be surprised at how natural it is for them and how much they LOVE it.
Try our bones because you can rest assured they are processed correctly and that we have selected specific cuts of bone that are safe for your dog. We only produce Beef and Bison bones for safety reasons. Dogs can do well with other animal's bones but to insure the strongest and most durable options, we stick with the large bovine animals.
If you see that they are chomping and biting on the bone rather than scraping and striping, you should by all means, switch to treats or chews.
It will not hurt my feelings if you choose to avoid bones for your dog. My intent in this post is to voice reason and to combat narrow point of views from organization and individuals that do not get well rounded information.