Bones For Dinner

People often ask if it's safe to feed bones to their dogs. We've all heard dire warnings about the peril of giving a dog chicken bones, yet the image of Bowzer with a big knuckle bone is a positive picture of a happy dog. Confusing and contradictory, and almost the reverse of reality!

Simple rule: Raw Bones = Good; Cooked Bones = Bad

The truth is, most raw bones are fine and healthy for dogs, especially light, crunchy bones like the ones in raw chicken wings. ALL cooked bones are NOT good for dogs, since heat will make the bone structure break into sharp splinters. Raw bones break into chunks, which can be crunched up and digested to provide your dog with essential calcium after cleaning teeth and gums.

The lighter the bone, the easier it is for a dog to break it up and swallow it, so the only exception to that rule is for heavy beef leg bones, which are extremely hard because they are designed to hold up 800 lbs of cow. Those bones are harder than your dog's teeth, and will cause them to fracture over time. The marrow of a raw beef bone is a VERY nutritious treat however, so do give your best friend a raw marrow bone now and then. The act of gnawing also provides much needed emotional and physical release of the intense canine desire to chew, which is of great help in preserving your house and garden from young teeth! Just be sure and remove that hard beef bone once the marrow is gone. Throw it in a plastic baggie and keep it in the freezer for the next time you need to keep Fluffy distracted for a few minutes. A big dollop of peanut butter stuffed inside a marrow bone can keep even the most active puppy quite busy. An added benefit is that gnawing on bones will take the needle sharp edges off the teeth of young puppies, so that you can all survive puppyhood without scars.

If you've already cooked bones, say a meaty bone-in roast, and was thinking that would be great for your dog, stop! Don't feed a bone that has been cooked for you, and don't throw it away either! You can keep a stash of cooked bones in the freezer against that day you pull out the instapot, crockpot, or pressure cooker, and cook all those bones down with plenty of water. Cook low and slow, and those bones will turn into a mushy paste that can be crushed with a spoon. Dogs are not picky, and will be delighted with a franken-bone broth made from cooked steak bones, the frame from Thanksgiving's turkey, and that raw chicken you left in the freezer too long. That's some fantastic bone broth for saucing up dinner, or freezing again in plastic containers for a nutritious & cooling summer snack.

Now, all of my pets have been eating raw food since 2003, but I was raised on a chicken farm as a youngster, and had a very hard time setting aside my firm belief that you don't give chicken bones to dogs. Since seeing is believing, here is a video of Fletcher Lou having dinner, when he was about 3yo. He was about 130lbs, and this was one of his largest meals of the week, around 3lbs of raw chicken leg quarters, partially thawed - his favorite meal since he was 9 weeks old. The video is 4.5 minutes long, and my sweet Annie makes an appearance at the end.