People who are just learning about feeding a raw diet to their dogs are astounded to hear that feeding raw bones are actually part of the diet! Not only is feeding raw bones part of the raw natural food diet for dogs, it is an essential part of the diet!
The myths about feeding bones to dogs have created much fear and caution in dog owners. What is important to understand is that raw bones are perfectly safe. It is cooked bones that are dangerous. It is also important to know which types of bones should be part of the raw diet and which bones should be offered as recreational chew bones. What is really important here is to know that the bone, whether for the diet or for recreational chewing, should always be fed raw!
Bones are important in a raw diet because they add the required calcium to the diet to balance the calcium/phosphorus ratio and they add additional important minerals necessary for good health. They offer the fiber that is needed to form firm stools and help with your dog’s natural instinct to chew! Some people have their dogs chew bones because they think it helps keep their dog’s teeth clean. However, bone chewing really doesn’t do that. Feeding your dog a diet without carbohydrates such as grains, starches, vegetables and fruits is really what helps keep your dog’s teeth clean. Additionally, offering your dog a raw natural diet with bones is much more nutritious than a diet filled with carbohydrate fiber.
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It is also important to know that not all bones are created equal. Bones are divided into two categories: Consumable bones and Recreational bones. And I think it is important that I repeat myself here . . . Only feed raw bones! Never feed cooked bones! When you cook bones, the fat on the cooked bones crystalizes and can splinter and become hard to digest and can perforate the intestines. Raw bones are easier to chew, much easier to digest, and don’t pose the dangers of cooked bones.
Consumable bones are the bones you want to include in your dog’s daily raw diet. These bones include:
- Chicken necks, backs, thighs and drumsticks
- Duck necks
- Turkey necks
- Rabbit bones
- Pork neck bones, breast and rib bones
- And some lamb bones
Recreational bones are non-consumable bones and include the weight bearing bones of herbivores, such as beef, lamb, goat, pork, and wild game. They are for recreational chewing only and are not bones to be included in your dog’s daily meal diet. When feeding these bones, I would avoid the spine and skull bones. Dogs love to chew on these because it satisfies their urge to chew! I offer recreational bones to my dogs as treats and I put them back in the refrigerator between chewing times so they stay fresh and moist.
When feeding a raw diet, it is important to feed half of your dog’s daily diet in consumable bones such as chicken wings, cut up turkey necks and pork neck bones and the other half of the diet as a meat meal that consists of muscle and organ meats, and other proteins such as eggs and plain yogurt.
Some people want to cook the bones first and then feed them but I do not see any safe way to do this. The risks of feeding cooked bones is too high and after cooking the bones, I could not tell you what the correct calcium ratio would be. I do not see any way to safely feed cooked bones to your dogs. Some people have mentioned cooking the bones in a smoker, crock pot, or in soup, until the bones become crunchy or crumbly, but I am not comfortable with this and I can’t recommend it. I can, however, make one exception. Dehydrated duck or chicken feet, are OK, as poultry bones are hollow and safe. To say it in different words, I am not comfortable feeding any bones that have been dried, cooked or smoked and when a process reduces bones to mush, there is no way to accurately measure the correct amount of calcium needed for a dog’s diet.
For small dogs under 20 pounds, I feed raw chicken necks. I cut up the necks into small pieces. Another good option for small dogs is to feed pre-made raw foods that have ground bone in them. This is a wonderful choice for these smaller dogs.