Feeding your dog or cat raw bones is not only essential for the health of their teeth and gums, but is also a great way of keeping them occupied and content as the natural chewing action releases calming endorphins. Whether you’re new to raw altogether, or just want to give your pet a treat, read our beginner’s guide to feeding raw bones to ease any worries you may have and keep your pet healthy and happy.
Raw, Not Cooked
The first, most important, thing to remember is that all bones you feed must be raw, not cooked. Raw bones are naturally moist, flexible and easily digested by the high acidity of an animal’s stomach. Cooked bones are dry and brittle, which makes them prone to splintering and causing damage to the throat and stomach as they pass through your pet’s system.
Check They Chew
It is advisable to supervise your dog while feeding to make sure he doesn’t choke, and giving raw bones is no different. If your dog has a tendency to gulp food, try feeding the bone frozen and / or start by holding it so that you make sure he chews properly.
Don’t panic if he does swallow a large piece – as long as it goes down the windpipe, the stomach acid will process the bone as normal, but if it gets stuck he may need some help to bring it back up. It is prudent to cut trachea lengthways so that it can’t be swallowed whole and get stuck in your dog’s own trachea.
When you first start feeding bones, and particularly with a puppy, it is advisable to begin with necks as they are made up of soft bone, cartilage and connective tissue. You can then progress to wings, which are also softer bone, before moving on to heavier chews, such as ribs and carcass. Keep an eye on your dog’s stools to check you are not overloading her with bone; each dog has its own tolerance level, but remember bone should only make up around 10% of the overall diet.
Get The Right Size
Choose bones appropriate to the size of your pet – a large dog might be tempted to swallow a small bone whole without chewing it, while a small dog will find a full carcass too much in one sitting. Avoid weight-bearing bones, particularly from large animals, as they are too hard and can chip a chewer’s tooth. Cats are best with smaller, softer bones such as chicken wings, day old chicks, small fish and mice.
Some people choose to feed bone as part of their pet’s daily meal, such as a wing, rib or portion of carcass. Others prefer to give a raw bone once or twice a week as a treat, such as a meaty knuckle or marrowbone. Either way, choose bones with meat on them as it will give your dog something to do while he tears the meat off first, and will be less dense for him to digest. If you feed large recreational bones, such as meaty knuckles or marrowbones, you should take it away from your dog once the meat has gone so that he doesn’t overload his body.
Raw Or Not
Bones make up part of the raw feeding diet, but you don’t have to be a raw feeder to introduce these delicious treats to your dog or cat. If you prefer the convenience of kibble, but still want to ensure your pet has good oral health, you can give her bones as a regular snack so that she keeps her teeth clean and satisfies her natural urges to chew, just remember to cut back on her daily food allowance accordingly.
If you are interested in feeding raw bones, or transitioning your pet to a completely raw diet, please ask any of our staff in either shop. Four of our freezers are dedicated solely to bones and body parts from a range of suppliers (Nature’s Menu, Nutriment, Paleo Ridge, Durham Animal Feed, Raw Treat Pet Food), so why not come in store to choose a special treat for your four-legged friend!
Written by: Lucy Ellis
Photos: Nitro with chicken wing, by Hannah Walmsley, White Feather Photography