There is the smell of meat roasting in the oven…then a delicious feast on the table…all the while, a dog’s nose is as close to the dining table as possible in excitement for any scraps that may come his way. His brown eyes stare straight into yours, begging for a taste. But you know that table scraps are not good for him.
Your friend sitting with you at the table asks, “Do you save the bone for Buddy? I’ve heard somewhere that certain bones are okay to give to dogs.”
You then start thinking, ‘I have seen dried bones at the pet store…maybe I can make my own for Buddy! He’d love that!’
Before you start looking on Pinterest for ideas on how to recycle your meat bones into DIY dog chews, consider some of the issues that can arise. Bones, even the ones sold at pet stores, can not only become an obstruction problem, but they can chip the teeth and also wear down the enamel that protects the teeth. If the bone happens to get stuck internally, it can cause damage that may involve major surgery and treatments following the procedure.
We asked Dr. Ku, “If bones can be harmful to our dogs, why do they sell them in pet stores and what are better options available?”
Dr. Ku replied,
"A dog with a bone has been a long standing picture we all have in our mind bringing up an emotion of a happy dog! But where did that come from? That is an image from days past when food was not always plentiful, and the scraps to the dog (or the pig) were what was affordable. The bone, being inedible by humans generally, often went to the dog and lasted longer than meat (digestible) parts and therefore the “dog with a bone” image holds. Not to say that many dogs don’t really enjoy chewing or gnawing on surfaces. And in fact when they are young, for many it creates a teething activity and exercises masseter muscles (jaw muscles) that lead to stronger jaws. But there is no doubt that bones can be dangerous. If not gnawed slowly, they can splinter and cause intestinal perforations, occasionally blockages, or with spoiling after a day not being preserved adequately, they can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders. Even treated bones can do this, and gastroenteritis following having had a bone is very very common!
More often treating a dog’s anxiety and boredom with exercise and attention other than food rewards is healthier and more lasting. A 20 minute walk will be as exciting, and the dangers of needing to see your veterinarian after that are significantly less! Remember that chew toys and treats are not a substitute for exercise and attention.
For young dogs that are teething, or very oral young dogs, appropriate chew toys like Kong toys, or Boomer Balls () are options. Given the age, breed, and oral aggressiveness of your dog, you should consult with your veterinarian for appropriate chew toys. Doing a lot of dental work in my practice, I see fractured teeth in many dogs that have to be extracted because of biting or gnawing on chew toys that are too rigid. “Young” teeth are more forgiving than “older” teeth, and that transition can happen earlier than you think.
Lastly, the dog has an incredibly sophisticated nose and all of the aromas of cooking are fascinating to them too. Especially meals that are less common emit smells that are new and interesting. The dog may be gathering information as much as, if not more so, than asking for treats. Often we interpret their interest as wanting the food item, when in fact they really want to investigate it. That may include tasting it if they are so inclined, but if you indulge them, you can expect them to consider this permission to expect more, and depending on your own degree of discipline, overindulgence and gastroenteritis are common in dogs that are allowed to partake in rich meals that they are not used to having. They can even develop pancreatitis which is a much more serious problem that can result in extended hospitalization and care. Staying up with a dog with diarrhea or cleaning up after they have an “accident” is on you, not the dog.