It has to be one of the most commonly asked questions in the vet clinic. Should I be giving bones?
Well, based around everything I see inside that mouth, the answer is an interesting one…
Talk about a hot topic. It’s fair to say that in the pet world there are the haves (those that have bones) and the have nots. But who’s actually better off? Let’s find out…
Let’s look at the upside of bones.
First of all, it’s that almost all dogs (and some cats) love to chew. And there’s no doubt that the chewing action has a time occupying, boredom alleviating and ultimately a calming effect on them. So there’s a tick there.
The big 3 rules of bones
They must be raw (cooked bones produce sharp pieces when chewed)
The bigger the safer to avoid them trying to swallow bones whole
Always supervise chewing of bones. Accidents do happen. Just see below…
However, the main reason bones most of us pet parents give bones is to help keep their teeth clean. With the perception being that bone chewing is a ‘natural way’ to keep their teeth clean.
But here’s the thing. The scientific evidence that this significantly improves their dental health is actually quite limited. I’ve included the articles below if you’d like to read them yourself…
So where can bones go wrong?
Well it starts with how our little mate’s mouths look today. They’re generally smaller, have a different shape and feature smaller teeth than our dog’s wolfy ancestors.
So if it’s teeth cleaning you’re after, bones (and some super hard dental treats and rawhide chews) can be a bit of a brutal way of performing a relatively delicate process. That means that bone chewers are more likely to come into the vet clinic with:
Oral injuries: The sharp points of bones can damage the gums, tongue and soft palate of a furry family member chewing on them.
Cracked or chipped teeth: The force required to break open a bone can crack those bigger molar teeth that sit at the back of the mouth. These cracks create uneven surfaces and fissures that bacteria can then invade leading to infections, nerve exposure and lost teeth.
Choking: If they attempt to swallow pieces of bone, they can lodge in the back of the throat (chicken necks in smaller dogs is a common one) or in the oesophagus. Potentially causing a medical emergency.
Intestinal blockages or worse: Even raw bone takes a lot of work to digest. And all that material can back up in the intestine causing obstructions or constipation. In the most serious cases, sharp shards can even penetrate the intestine.
The fact is that the skill (and safety) with bones is an individual thing. And it’s a tricky assumption to think your dog will be fine with them. So if you decide bones are for you, always supervise that chewing to ensure nothing goes wrong.
To be honest, I developed my Teeth + Breath treats as a safe and highly effective alternative to bones. They’re super hard working with 4 active ingredients (Activated Charcoal, Brown Kelp, Coconut Oil and Vitamin C) to not just help keep their teeth clean (more like the way we do) but they also fight back against those dangerous mouth bacteria and that plaque buildup. With ingredients proven to do just that. They’re basically like brushing without the wrestle and the resentment…
There’s a lot to chew over with bones but hopefully that’s helped to make some sense of it all…
Those references on bone chewing studies…
Harvey CE, Shofer FS, Laster L. Correlation of diet, other chewing activities and periodontal disease in North American client-owned dogs. J Vet Dent. (1996) 13:101–5. doi: 10.1177/089875649601300304
15. Marx FR, Machado GS, Pezzali JG, Marcolla CS, Kessler AM, Ahlstrom O, et al. Raw beef bones as chewing items to reduce dental calculus in Beagle dogs. Aust Vet J. (2016) 94:18–23. doi: 10.1111/avj.12394
16. Logan EI. Dietary influences on periodontal health in dogs and cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. (2006) 36:1385–401. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2006.09.002