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I scored a couple of freezer dumps of old meat (two to three years) and although the frozen meat is still good for my dogs to eat (although lighter in nutrients), I didn't have space for all of it in my freezers so I made a batch of jerky and lots of bone broth for the dogs.
I was on a roll. I made several batches of beef bone broth (yummm) and then decided to try making bone broth with duck feet, but it turned out to be way too fatty and I was concerned about pancreatitis in the dogs, especially Rodrigo who was diagnosed with EPI in 2019.
This led me to wonder which bones are the best for bone broth.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a nutrient and collagen-rich broth that is made from simmering animal bones (preferably grass-fed) for an extended period of time. Upon cooling, bone broth can become gelatinous or it can remain in liquid form, depending on the bones used.
Bone broth similar to soup stock, it's just not cooked as long (I cook for 4-6 hours in the pressure cooker).
Why I Don't Feed My Dogs Broth from the Grocery Store?
I prefer to make my own bone broth because I can control the ingredients, including the bones I choose. When looking at the ingredients in store-bought broths, they are high in sodium and I don't know where the bones were sourced. The sourcing of the bones may not be a big deal, but if I can make it myself using superior bones, then I'm gonna.
Commercial Bone Broth for Dogs
On the other hand, if you visit your local, independent pet store, you will find several bone broth options, including bone broth made by:
- Green JuJu Kitchen
- Primal Pet Foods
- The Bones & Co
- Answers Pet Food
- Stella & Chewy's
- Open Farm
- Crude Carnivore
- Solid Gold
- Only Natural Pet
Benefits of Bone Broth for Dogs
A quick Google search will provide you with several lists of the benefits of bone broth for dogs – however, I'm not buying it.
So, I do give my dogs bone broth, but not to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, support gut health, or add additional nutrients to the diet. All of these benefits may be true – the reason I'm not 100% convinced, is because I don't know many people who are celebrating these benefits with their dogs.
Now, fermented fish stock and turkey broth are different. I've definitely seen the benefits in my dogs and I think it's the high quality of the ingredients and the fermentation process. My DIY recipes are good for skin and coat health (due to the collagen and small amount of fat), encourages a picky dog to eat, soothes a dog's upset tummy, and it's a great low-calorie snack/treat.
Bone broth also brings nutrients to the bowl, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen. And Vitamins A, K2, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium, and some fatty acids. Allegedly. J/K – I think what is added to the diet depends on the type and quality of bones used, which is why I don't use bone broth to “balance” a dog's raw food diet.
Best Bones for DIY Bone Broth for Dogs
I typically use whatever bones I have on hand, but that doesn't mean that they're all the best. In my research, I learned that the best bones for bone broth are:
- knuckle bones (beef, bison)
- joint bones
- chicken feet
- chicken or turkey carcass
- marrow bones
- beef ribs
- neck bones (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb)
- pork chops
The (proteins) listed above are the ones I've had good luck with when making bone broth for my dogs.
Where I Get My Bones for Bone Broth
It's so easy to get bones if you want to make bone broth for your dogs. The trick is to look for grass-fed bones (grass-finished if possible) and to avoid going overboard and buy too much. I'm lucky because the bulk of the bones I can find are from grass-fed animals.
I source my bones from:
- a local raw food co-op
- grocery store
- outlet grocery store
- ethnic market
- local butcher
- area farmers and homesteaders
- freezer dumps
- Thanksgiving dinner (my mother in law saves the turkey carcass for me)
Easy Bone Broth Recipe
A lot of bone broth recipes for humans require blanching the bones to clear of impurities and roasting the bones for flavor. Neither of these steps is necessary when making bone broth for dogs. Actually, let me correct that last statement – I don't do either of these steps when making my bone broth.
I use a pressure cooker because it's faster (6 hours vs 24 hours in a slow cooker), safer than cooking on the stovetop (I don't trust myself to have food cooking on the stove for hours), and I broke the slower cooker a few years ago.
- Add bones to the pressure cooker leaving at least 2 inches at the top
- Fill with enough water to cover the bones
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I just free pour)
- Set pressure cooker to six hours using the Soup/Broth setting
- Allow to cool when complete
- Scrape off the fat and strain bones from broth (I leave the meat)
Sometimes I mix in a couple of tablespoons of golden paste. I transfer the bone broth to a mason jar and freeze until I'm ready to feed my dogs.
Mistakes I've Made Making Bone Broth
I've been making bone broth for years and I'm excited to share a few mistakes that I've made to save you the trouble.
1 – Overfill the pressure cooker by adding either too many bones or too much water. Either way, I end up with some overspill and a mess to clean up. This happened again last week.
2 – Forgetting to turn the dial to “Sealing” will result in all of the water steaming out and a huge mess to clean up that's been burnt to the bottom and sides of the pressure cooker. I only did this once and I'm thankful that I didn't have a fire or some other mishap.
3 – Not scraping off the fat once the bone broth cools can result in a pancreatitis flair-up. We've been lucky, but with Rodrigo's diagnosis of EPI, I've been very careful with the bone broth. I strain the fat using a mesh strainer – it's the most effective for me.
4 – Not straining the bones out completely. A lot of bones turn into mush when cooked long enough, but I don't count on this. I pull the bigger bones out by hand and after straining the fat from the broth, I do a final strain to get any bones I missed. This is especially important for those teeny turkey and chicken bones.
5 – Thinking that my bone broth has to turn into gelatin. So, yes, most of the time, my bone broth does gel up, but not all of the time. When I use chicken or turkey bones/frames (excluding feet), my bone broth doesn't gel. That doesn't mean that the collagen and other nutrients that are in bone broth vanish.
5 Ways I Use Bone Broth with Our Dogs
I started making bone broth because everyone else was talking about it. I'm not big in the kitchen, so if there's a food that's easy to make, I'll quickly become an expert – especially if it's for the dogs.
I use bone broth in five ways with our dogs:
- warm up raw meals in the winter time
- soothes upset tummies when I feed broth only (no meat)
- tempt a picky dog to eat their meal by pouring a small amount on top
- modify a fasting day by feeding bone broth instead of nothing
- create frozen treats for the summer
There are many more ways, I'm certain, but this is what I do for my dogs. I fast my dogs once or twice a week to give the gut a break (a reset) and allow the immune system to focus on it's job instead of being slowed down (my words) by a digestive system that is constantly working.
Is Bone Broth a Requirement for Raw Feeding?
Absolutely not! But if you have a pressure cooker (or slow cooker) and some bones, then why not? If the only benefit of bone broth is that my dogs love it, then I'm happy to make it because it's crazy easy. And if it turns out that my dogs are getting even more benefits than I realize, then BONUS!