Food Guidelines

Give a Dog a Bone (But Make Sure it’s Safe First!)

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Bones have always been a dog’s all-time favorite treat. For years, we have fed our pooches raw or cooked bones, and have delighted in seeing them enjoy every bit of it. Nevertheless, questions have recently been thrown to experts whether all bones are safe for dogs to eat. If not, which ones need to be avoided?

Bones to Feed

· Raw bones. Almost any raw bone is safe for dogs. Believe it or not, raw chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even oxtail bones can be fed in their natural raw form. Plus, besides being tasty, raw bones are excellent for maintaining dental health. Aside from that, a whole fish, including its head, can also be given to your pooch. These raw dog bones have been identified as soft bones; making it easy and safe to chew and eat.

· Recreational bones. Another kind of bone that can be given to your dog is the recreational type. This generally refers to a large joint bone that is offered not as a meal but to provide your pooch long hours of chewing satisfaction. Some of the most common recreational bones are the knuckle bones and the beef leg bones. It is critical, though, that owners get to remove these large bones once chewed down to small chunks as it can pose a serious choking hazard to pets. When cooked, these bones are labeled specifically for dogs.

Bones to Avoid

· Cooked fish and poultry bones. Any bone that breaks into sharp shards is dangerous for your dog. This kind of cooked bone generally presents not only a choking hazard to dogs but a splintering risk as well. Never feed cooked fish, chicken, or beef bones as they can easily splinter, damaging his gums, teeth, and throat; causing pain and even potential injury. If your dog swallows the shards from these cooked bones, he also runs the risk of internal injury.

So, as a standard rule of thumb – only give your dog raw bones or bones sold and labeled specifically for dogs. Always make sure you give your dog a bone that is appropriate for his or her size to avoid any choking hazards. And, always monitor him while he’s gnawing away to avoid any potential dangers.

51 Comments

51 Comments

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  3. Esther Pacheco

    Dec 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    I have a ham bone from thanksgiving that was placed in the frigerator…I used it to cook a pot beans. Now should I just toss it in the trash?

    • Wolf68

      Jan 22, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Cooked bones become hard and brittle. Brittle bones splinter sharp splinters that can be VERY dangerous or deadly. However, I feed my my dogs cooked bones all the time. I pressure cook the bones when I’m done eating. It softens the bone, soft bones don’t splinter. Pressure cooking bones for 30 min to 1 hr will make them soft, and safe for animals to eat.

    • Isla

      May 1, 2017 at 10:18 am

      I know this is old, but to anyone new reading this…..I knew someone that stupidly gave their new puppy a cooked pork bone and then left the house. It was dead when they came back. As this article clearly states, NEVER give your dog cooked bones !

      • Lesson Learned

        May 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        I just picked up my 60 pound 7 month old Yellow Lab today from having emergency surgery to remove steak bones from her stomach, that I stupidly gave her because I just knew she'd love them, and she did…almost loved them to death. Thankfully I'm not burying my dog today, surgery was successful, and we all get to enjoy a two week post-op recovery while my dog has to wear the cone-thing around her neck & head until her stitches are removed (two weeks)…not to mention my checking account is $1537 lighter.
        Lesson learned, no bones…period.

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  6. f-s

    Mar 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    i give my dogs pure dried bison liver as treats, they love it. its pure 100%

  7. www.f-s.us

    Jan 31, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    throw a dog a bone

  8. Leanne

    Nov 9, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    i have 2 Aussie kelpies, aged 2 and 6 1/2. They have had s bone every day since puppyhood and vets are astounded at their glowing white teeth. The 6 year-olds teeth are just as nice as the 2 year olds. My current vet is almost at retirement age and says he has seen many more problems from poor teeth than from bone consumption. My big girl has got a bone stuck on her teeth a handful of times, each time sitting until the saliver builds and has removed it herself within the hour. The little guy has had no bone incidents. I choose beef soup bones from the butcher. They are cheap in bulk and are a good size for my medium size breed. I avoid knuckles and long ones because they crack and leave sharp edges. Statistically 80% of dogs have dental disease before turning 3. Dental disease leads to infected teeth, kidney and heart disease. Done safely, bones are essential in my opinion. Another safety hint is to bin old bones every day – the elements make them brittle and splintery – and if chewed the dog can break a tooth. I don’t have this problem because my dogs eat them straight away!

  9. Mark hardy

    Nov 6, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I have recently bought my 7 month old bulldog/bull mastiff a raw beef knuckle bone. We have had it for about 4/5 days and noticed today part of the bone was going a really dark grey/black ish colour around the knuckle area. Is it still safe for dexter to gnaw on? He hasn’t been eating alot of the bone instead just gnawing making a mess on my floor. If anyone can let me know asap I will be very grateful. Thank u. Mardy hardy.

  10. Mahiitsoh

    Oct 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Absolutely DO NOT, give your dog any raw fish from the salmon family. My two dogs got into some trout heads that we had caught that day. The common term is called “salmon poisoning” even though it is ANY salmonoid species. After 3 days they became very lethargic. As I was taking them to the vet on the third day, one died and the other almost died. My vet explained to me that dogs in the wild have developed an immunity to this disease, also that almost all salmonoid fish in the Pacific northwest(where I live) are carriers. Please do not learn about this disease the way I did.

    • AngelinaC

      Oct 21, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      Sorry for your terrible loss. :,(

    • Dani Hacking

      Jul 31, 2016 at 9:07 pm

      Soooooo sorry for ur loss, I just recently loss my dog its really really really hard to get over it, U never did get over it.

  11. Bob root

    Oct 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    My only addition is that raw salmon from the west coast as it can carry a parasite that can be danger to dog so I won’t feed any raw salmon to my dogs. Besides that I do feed raw stuff. 🙂

  12. John Fraser

    Jun 26, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    My three dogs,an American cocker and a Lurcher and a Sydney silky X toy poodle love raw lamb shank bones with the knuckle, PS my LURCHER treats his shank bone like a personal kill,he really loves them My LURCHER is a whippetXAustralian cattle dog a pig finder and great Pheasant flusher AND REALLY FAST AGILITY DOG

  13. Erik

    Jun 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    My hound finds a new wild bone treat a day in Montana… coat is slicker than a peeled onion.

  14. Tumbleweed

    Feb 26, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Your first section says any bone is safe chicken bones, fish is OK also but then in the next section you say not to give your dog fish and poultry bones that their bad for them! Ok get it straight then let me know if I can ever give my dog the bones that I have.

    • Rose

      May 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      RAW whole fish, including head and bones, RAW chicken and bone is GOOD

      COOKED fish bones and COOKED chicken bones is BAD

      Dont scan, READ!

      • michael

        Jul 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

        “Cooked or raw pork bone. While feeding your dog cooked pork bones can also put him in the same splintering danger as cooked chicken or beef bones, raw pork bones can be unsafe for your pooch, too.”

        “Raw bones. Almost any raw bone is safe for dogs. Believe it or not, raw chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even oxtail bones can be fed in their natural raw form.”

        Rose practice as you preach RED IT DON’T SCAN IT…. also don’t be a jerk while also being wrong… these are contradictory statements.

        • ian

          Aug 29, 2015 at 11:22 pm

          Says the person who apparently also scanned it then accused someone else who was accurate of making a contradiction… lol.. Read on if you’d like to shine some light on your ignorance..

          · Raw bones. Almost any raw bone is safe for dogs. Believe it or not, raw chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even oxtail bones can be fed in their natural raw form. Plus, besides being tasty, raw bones are excellent for maintaining dental health. Aside from that, a whole fish, including its head, can also be given to your pooch. These raw dog bones have been identified as soft bones; making it easy and safe to chew and eat.

          · Cooked fish and poultry bones. Any bone that breaks into sharp shards is dangerous for your dog. This kind of cooked bone generally presents not only a choking hazard to dogs but a splintering risk as well. Never feed cooked fish, chicken, or beef bones as they can easily splinter, damaging his gums, teeth, and throat; causing pain and even potential injury. If your dog swallows the shards from these cooked bones, he also runs the risk of internal injury.

          You read the wrong ‘cooked’ paragraph then proceeded to criticize another persons observation skills… lol. >people on the internet are fun< ^_^

          • Mahiitsoh

            Oct 14, 2015 at 6:12 pm

            Absolutely DO NOT, give your dog any raw fish from the salmon family. My two dogs got into some trout heads that we had caught that day. The common term is called “salmon poisoning” even though it is ANY salmonoid species. After 3 days they became very lethargic. As I was taking them to the vet on the third day, one died and the other almost died. My vet explained to me that dogs in the wild have developed an immunity to this disease, also that almost all salmonoid fish in the Pacific northwest(where I live) are carriers. Please do not learn about this disease the way I did.

  15. Frances

    Oct 23, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    My vet told me raw chicken and beef bones are fine, but NEVER give cooked bones as they splinter and can cause harm to the dog.

  16. kris (lower case)

    Oct 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    trichinosis is not an issue in pigs obtained from commercial farms. i have fed my dogs raw pork and raw pork bones for the past 12 years. this is what i found on trichinosis online..

    Between 2002 and 2007, 11 cases were reported to CDC each year on average in the United States;[2] these were mostly the result of eating undercooked game, bear meat, or home-reared pigs.

  17. sean

    Dec 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    is it safe for dogs to eat cooked ox tail bones??

    • Frances

      Oct 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Cooked bones get brittle and can splinter causing possible damage to the entire digestive track.

  18. TJ

    Nov 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    I was just wondering if its safe to give my dog, Ox Tail bones, that was cooked???? I have a few, and I didn’t know if he would choke or not?

    • sean

      Dec 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      sorry tj I didn’t see your comment first that is funny

  19. erin mciver

    Oct 13, 2013 at 12:37 am

    For a Great Dane that has sensitivity to food what is recommended for her to chew on a b one? I know for a fact I don’t give her that cheap nasty greasy crap but try to give her natural bones. I just don’t know how healthy they really are.

    Thanks
    Erin

  20. joy

    Oct 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    If you want to try antlers and be able to find the right size for your dog go to gotantler.com , yes they are pricey but they are worth it especially for aggressive chewers.

  21. Nugs

    Oct 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Trichinosis? What is this, 1942? I’d sooner give my dogs raw pork bones than those awful rec (wreck) bones.

  22. Julie Jo

    Oct 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I was told by my vet that if any bone would crack my teeth that it would do the same to my dogs. So mine don’t get any bones anymore, and haven’t for a long time. I have heard that deer, and elk antlers are supposed to be okay, but they are pretty expensive. The one’s that I have seen are too small for any size dog besides a poodle anyhow. I give my dogs other really strong chew toys to chew on and that seems to work fine. However, I still haven’t found anything that they both cannot destroy. I have to be in the room and keep an eye om them both when I am not.
    I own an amstaff and an american bulldog.

  23. Andrea

    Oct 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    What about deer antlers?
    TY

    • Nugs

      Oct 8, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      I have a Shar Pei who loves his deer and elk antlers. They are pricey because they last a long time. Just make sure to get antlers that are the correct size for your dog.

  24. Laurie

    Oct 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    armadillo? I’m not sure i’d be letting them eat that. it has the leprosy bacteria http://hawaiihibou.hubpages.com/hub/Armadillo-and-Bacteria-Causes-Leprosy

  25. oldmandave

    Oct 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    my Pit bulls and i live in the country where they have about 20 ackers too rome ,they tell me the armidillo is best in its raw form second by shunk and oppusom .needless to say they love whatever i cook for them along with a full bowl of dry dog food for a treat add a fresh running spring both for drinking and bathing and you have the perfegt recipe for HAPPY AND HEALTHY DOGS

  26. kris

    Oct 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    there has been a case of trichinosis from u.s. farmed pork for probably 50 years. i have fed my dogs raw pork and pork bones for over 12 years and never had an issue. pork bones are my bones of choice as they are not as hard as beef and do a better job of scraping teeth without breaking teeth due to their hardness. i can not believe a vet would mention trichinosis from pork in this day and age. maybe wild boar (or bear or rabbit even) but not farmed pork and what other kind of pork would you actually find in the u.s.. as for the one who would never give her dog a raw bone.. try updating your knowledge because raw is a heck of a lot healthier than the kibble crap you probably feed. and they are dogs.. not little furry people..their digestive systems are lots different from ours.

    • Paul

      Nov 21, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Wild boar meet can be really dangerous – lots of diseases. Here in Florida, trappers are supposed to quarantine them for two weeks before slaughter.

  27. Katherine

    Oct 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    We feed our dogs a monthly treat of a raw bone from our local grass-fed beef farmer. USDA approved – I could eat these with out worry. As long as you know your source and its an occasional treat, I see no harm. (Been at it for 6 years now.)

  28. Wynn

    May 10, 2013 at 9:57 am

    My dogs get raw turkey necks as well as raw unprocessed tripe. Proper storage and handling is not rocket science.

    • ruby

      Jun 26, 2015 at 3:35 am

      where do you find your green tripe??

  29. Kat

    May 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I don’t care who tells me that it is safe. I would never feed my dog raw bones.
    Too many bad things could happen. It’s not worth the risk.

    • Sue

      Oct 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Go and read about this before commenting, of course raw bones are good for dogs. i have never heard of them hunting for kibble in the wild.

    • Suzanne Feld

      Jan 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

      Both of my dogs, an OES and a GSD, are COMPLETELY raw fed–mostly chicken but also pork, beef, lamb, turkey, and venison when I can get it. Bones and all. They are two of the healthiest, happiest dogs with sweet breath and the smallest, least smelly stools you’ll ever meet. Even my vet has been amazed at how great they’re doing, and she wasn’t sure about the raw feeding at first. I would recommend talking to folks who feed raw before making a blanket statement like that. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Bruce

        Oct 5, 2015 at 7:10 am

        Do you give them the organs and other offal too? Just curious how you balance it and make sure they get all the nutrients.

  30. Dr. Chris Smith

    Dr. Chris Smith

    Nov 18, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Dogs have a natural instinct to eat or chew bones but even raw bones can be hazardous to their health. We see pancreatitis, esophageal obstructions, vomiting and diarrhea from eating raw bones.
    Also, dogs are more likely to become infected with Salmonella and E. Coli bacteria from eating anything raw, which can be a danger to dogs as well as the people in their families. This is particularly true with children or people with immune system compromise.

    • kris

      Oct 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      baloney.. kibble is full of e.coli and salmonella.look at the recalls of kibble. dogs digestive systems are totally different than peoples and unless they are sickish from some disease they have no problem with those things anyway. dogs can’t be feed a diet of fatty crap or bones that are too small but the appropriate sized bone to chew and a raw diet made for the size of the dog is better than any crap kibble.

      • Heather

        Oct 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        Thank you Kris! I worked as a vet technician for years and now own my own specialty pet store. We also have a holistic vet on call who says that ALL benefits of raw bones outweigh any potential risks. Stop letting uninformed vets scare us into not doing what is right for our pets.

      • Suzanne Feld

        Jan 20, 2015 at 10:41 am

        I also feed raw and our dogs show how well it works. I’ve never had a problem with raw feeding and I’ve been doing it for three years, my OES is 5 and my GSD is 2 and they’re both doing fantastic. I’m very careful about handling raw meat and clean the yard daily, which isn’t a chore since they only go once a day and their stools are very small and almost odorless. People need to get informed before just listening to just anyone.

    • Paul

      Nov 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Dogs are different from us. I dare you to try and eat as much poop as some puppies do and not get ill. Dogs can handle eating E. coli if they’re healthy. Their digestive juices and saliva kill it.

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