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Is it safe to give dogs bones to chew?

Of all the decisions that you will make as a pet parent, the choice of whether or not to feed your dog bones is likely to be one of the most difficult to make. To help you make an informed decision our Orange County vets help you weigh up the pros and cons of this hotly contested issue.

Are bones safe for dogs to chew on?

Chewing on bones stimulates your pup's saliva enzymes, which aids in the prevention of plaque buildup and gum disease helping to keep your pup's mouth healthy, while at the same time providing your pooch with a number of essential minerals and satisfying their appetite. An added benefit of providing bones for your dog to chew on is that it may deter them from undesirable behaviors such as excessive scratching or licking. Nonetheless, many veterinarians warn that allowing your dog to chew on bones comes with some serious risks for your dog's health.

Can dogs eat bones safely?

Our Orange County veterinarians get asked countless questions about whether dogs can eat bones safely. What bones can dogs eat safely? Are bones good for dogs? Are cooked bones bad for dogs? To help you work through all of the confusion surrounding this issue, we have compiled a few of the top pros and cons to giving dogs bones to eat:

Pros of Dogs Chewing On Bones

Many people view chewing bones as a natural pleasure for dogs that they have enjoyed for centuries, and there are certainly some benefits to consider, including:

  • May Promote Good Dental Health - One of the main reasons people give bones to their dogs is to promote dental health. Gnawing on bones can help remove plaque and tartar buildup, preventing gum disease and promoting healthier teeth. The abrasive action of chewing on bones can act as a natural toothbrush for your dog.
  • Provides Mental Stimulation - Chewing on bones can provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom for dogs. It can be a natural and instinctive activity that keeps them occupied and entertained. Bones can be a great way to alleviate anxiety or redirect destructive chewing behaviors.
  • Has Some Nutritional Value - Bones can be a source of essential nutrients, especially if they are raw bones. They contain marrow, which is rich in fat and can provide dogs with additional calories. Bones also contain calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals that contribute to overall nutrition.

Cons of Giving Bones to Dogs

While the points above may lead you to believe that chewing on bones is a good thing for dogs, it's important to understand the very real health risks involved. Here are a few points to consider:

  • May Cause Dental Injuries - While bones can help maintain dental health, there is a risk of dental injuries associated with chewing on bones. Dogs may crack or fracture their teeth, leading to pain, infection, and the need for dental procedures. Hard bones like weight-bearing bones from large animals are particularly risky.
  • Can Lead To Choking or Obstructions - Bones, especially cooked bones, can splinter and break into sharp fragments, posing a choking hazard. These shards can also cause intestinal obstructions if swallowed, leading to a life-threatening emergency. Small dogs, aggressive chewers, or dogs prone to gulping are at higher risk.
  • Digestive Issues Can Result - Bones can cause digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, or pancreatitis in some dogs. Fatty bones like marrow bones can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and sharp bone fragments can damage the digestive tract. Dogs with sensitive stomachs or a history of digestive issues should be monitored closely.

What should I give my dog to chew on?

Now that you are aware of the risks involved in allowing your dog to chew on bones, you may be wondering what a safe alternative to dog bones might be. Below are a few possible suggestions: 

  • Raw Bones - If you choose to give bones to your dog, consider raw bones instead of cooked options. Raw bones are less likely to splinter and cause injuries. Always supervise your dog while they chew on any type of bone.
  • Synthetic Chews - There are plenty of safe synthetic chew toys available in the market. These products are designed to be durable, non-toxic, and less likely to cause dental or digestive issues. Look for options like rubber chew toys, nylon bones, or specially designed dental chews.
  • Vet-Approved Treats - Consult with your veterinarian to find appropriate treats that promote dental health and are safe for your dog's specific needs. Dental chews or treats specially formulated to support oral hygiene can be a safer alternative to bones.

Are bones good for your dog?

When it comes to providing your dog with bones to chew on, the safety aspect is a crucial consideration. While bones can provide benefits such as improved dental health, mental stimulation, and additional nutrition, they also come with significant risks. Dental injuries, choking hazards, and digestive issues are potential concerns that shouldn't be overlooked.

Ultimately the choice is yours, but be sure to weigh the potential benefits against the risks in order to make an informed decision. Consulting with your veterinarian is a valuable first step in determining whether giving bones to your dog is safe and appropriate for their individual circumstances. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

At VMSG-OC our emergency vets are available 24/7 to care for your dog when they need us most. Contact our Orange County vets right away if your dog needs emergency care.

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Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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