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Can I give my dog cooked bones?

Dog eating a bone advice
© Pixabay

We know dogs love bones. They play with them; they bury them; they love chewing on them. But are cooked bones for dogs good? Are raw bones the better choice? Let’s find out!

By Ashley Murphy

Why do dogs love bones?

Chewing on a juicy bone makes your dog feel good. It's a stimulating activity that releases those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals lift your dog's mood and provide a sense of satisfaction. They also encourage your dog to repeat certain behaviours. After all, if something feels good, they're much more likely to keep doing it. But what's the point in chewing on a bone? The answer lies inside your dog genes.

Bone marrow is particularly rich in animal fat. Out in the wild, fat is really premium stuff, especially for carnivores who hunt leaner prey like deer and elk. It's an essential part of a well-balanced diet,  and munching on a bone is a great way of stocking up on nutrients. This explains why your dog is willing to work so hard on that bone. It might not look like a very rewarding endeavour but, out in the wild, it could be the difference between life and death. No matter how domesticated our dogs become, they still carry the natural instincts that helped them survive in the wild.

Chewing on a bone also helps keep your dog's teeth clean. It stops a build up of tartar, which can lead to more serious dental issues.

Cooked bones for dogs: good or bad?

Giving your dog a cooked bone is not a good idea. In fact, cooked bones can be dangerous and should be avoided. Cooked bones are much softer and more brittle than raw bones. Given your dog's powerful jaw, sharp teeth, and tenacious nature, they’re likely to snap cooked bones into smaller pieces. The splinters can then damage your dog's mouth and throat. Your dog might even swallow them; this can be dangerous and potentially very painful.

What kind of bones can my dog chew on?

Raw bones are much better for dogs, and it doesn't really matter where they come from! Dogs aren't the fussiest eaters; they'll chew on beef bones, lamb bones, oxtail, and even fish bones if given the chance. But avoid chicken bones and other poultry. Most dogs will snap right through these brittle bones.

Bone etiquette

You might want to create a little space where your dog can chew their bone in peace. This could be out in the garden, or in the kitchen. Wherever it is, it's likely to get messy. As cute as they are, our dogs aren't known for their table manners! So don’t let them chew their bones near anything you want to keep clean, or at least have some paper towels or napkins on standby!

Keep their chewing session to around 15/20 minutes long. Then put the bone back into the fridge until tomorrow. A bone will last around 3 to 4 days before it starts getting a bit disgusting! Then its time to throw the old one away and replace it with a fresh bone.

Big breeds, like the German shepherd and the Mastiff, need big bones. Their big, powerful jaws will make light work of small bones. They’re also likely to break and then splinter. The big dogs need something like a beef shin bone.

As a general rule, bones should be larger than your dog's muzzle. This means your dog can't swallow them by accident. And keep an eye on your dog, or at least make regular checks. Chewing the right kind of bone isn't particularly dangerous, but an extra bit of supervision is really important.

If you've got more than one dog, you might want to separate them during “bone” time. Dogs can get very territorial over their bones, and your dogs might start fighting. And it's not a smart idea to "play" games with your dogs bone, especially when they're chewing on it. Again, dogs are very protective over their beloved bones. It's best to leave them to it!

Dogs love, and even need, a bit of regular bone time. It makes them feel good, but it's also beneficial for their dental health. Just remember: cooked bones are bad for dogs; raw bones (except for chicken and poultry) are good for dogs!