Bones? Be Safe, Not Sorry
Dogs were designed to chew bones. However. finding truly safe and helpful bones can often be an obstacle course! Dogs must have the appropriate gut microbiota to handle eating bones. A dry food based diet and no fresh food, will NOT provide the ideal gut microbiota for digesting.* Raw meaty bones are an important part of a raw meat diet and the BEST toothbrush ever!
*It's very important to prepare your dog's gut for bones. Never give a dog who has been on antibiotics bones until you've helped rebuild the microbiota. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, yogurt are all helpful in doing this. Using these to help your dog transition to digesting RAW meat and bones is critical. Get some input from your holistic vet or raw diet specialist before introducing raw bones.
Dr. Becker points out that there are edible bones: bird necks and wings, providing important nutrients and valuable tooth and gum cleaning, and recreational bones, big bones like marrow and knuckle bones which clean, strengthen and protect teeth and gums.
Drs. Jean Hofve and Celeste Yarnall, offer some excellent guidelines in their fabulous book, Paleo Dog.
1) All bones should be RAW. Cooked or processed bones can splinter and crack teeth Be careful with bones left outside as they will harden quickly, especially in dry climates. They recommend discarding them at the end of the day.
2) Dogs should have food in their bellies before eating bones (Just as in Nature, the prey animal's bones would be eaten last)
3) Appropriately sized. Your dog needs to be able to chew them, but not choke on them. Dr. Becker suggests matching the bone with the size of your dog's head.
4) Bones should be spongy. Knuckle bones, necks, and vertebrae are best. Long bones, like leg and ribs are not good choices.
5) Supervised. Always watch your dog when she's chewing her bone so you can act quickly if she chokes or gets a piece of bone stuck in her teeth.
Toy dogs and short-nosed dogs often suffer with abnormal teeth, so gnawing bones can be painful. Dr Jean recommends pounding a chicken neck to break up the small bones and offering that. (Again, once they have eaten their raw meal first.)
Rawhide Chews, Greenies, Nylabones, Animal Parts?
Drs. Hofve and Yarnall site numerous problems with these popular substitutes. According to their research, raw hide chews are usually processed with caustic lime and bleach, have artificial flavorings and can cause choking and scraping of a dog's throat.
Greenies do NOT clean your dog's teeth and they are full of "fractionated proteins," starches and synthetic vitamins. Nylabones can break apart, can damage teeth and cause blockages.
Animal parts; skin, hooves, hide and jerky may not be cooked enough to kill bacteria, which can make you sick, and, like the others, can be a choking hazard.
In conclusion, we recommend that you avoid "bone substitutes" and never feed cooked bones. Carefully choose the best raw bones for your dogs. Doing so can provide them with fantastic health benefits and lots of pleasure! Contact me for help choosing the best bones for your beloved and prepare their digestive systems for these wonderful, tasty treats!