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One of the biggest fears about raw feeding surrounds feeding raw bones. I held out on feeding raw bones to my dogs because I had a long list of fears…
- My dog will break a tooth and I won’t know about it until an abscess develops.
- The bone will splinter and puncture my dog’s esophagus, digestive tract, or stomach.
- My dog will choke on the bone.
- The bone will create a blockage.
Basically, I was afraid that my dogs would die if I fed them raw meaty bones, despite knowing that raw bones are part of the raw diet and would help keep my dogs' teeth clean. Plus, I was assured that my dogs would LOVE to eat raw meaty bones, so I took some steps to make sure that my dogs safely consumed their bones.
Benefits of Feeding Raw Bones to Dogs
I feed raw bones to my dogs to keep their teeth clean by scraping tartar from the tooth and flossing between the teeth (as our dogs tear at the remaining meat on the bone), but that’s not the only benefit. Feeding raw bones also…
- Gives dogs an outlet for chewing which is a natural thing that dogs do.
- Calms our dogs down; my dogs are a lot more relaxed and better behaved after a chew session.
- Provide a natural and fresh source of calcium.
Always Feed Under Supervision
My dogs eat their bones outside. Each dog has a space that they prefer for eating and I sit on the porch and watch them enjoy their bones. I did this initially to figure out what bones were a good fit and which were not. I also supervised this time to make sure Rodrigo didn’t steal bones from the younger dogs – he can be a dick. Today, I watch because I think it’s important for safety (you never know) and it’s wonderful to watch them being dogs. I love the sound of the crunch, I love when they zone out, I love that they love eating their bones.
Never Feed Weight Bearing Bones
Recently, I saw a tip on Facebook about feeding raw bones to dogs – the person wrote: “if the bone won’t bend over your knee, then it’s too hard for your dog to eat.” This is a great tip, however, when I thought about the bones that I give to my dogs, there are several that don’t meet this guideline, so I stick with the rule of never feeding my dogs bones that were intended to keep a 2,000-pound animal standing.
Always Have a Back Up for Trading
If I notice my dogs are having trouble with a bone, I will offer a trade. Raw bones are a high valued treat and while most of the time if I say “drop it,” my dogs will let it go, it’s a lot easier for me and less stressful for them if I say “drop it,” and give them something as a trade.
What do I mean by “having trouble with a bone?” Glad you asked! I don’t give rib bones to my dogs because when Rodrigo was eating one, it broke off into shanks that he was trying to eat without breaking down further. Too scary to contemplate so I offered beef kneecaps as a trade.
Another bone I won't give to my dogs is duck wings. Why??? Duck bones seem harmless, right? NO! They are NOT harmless (and I say this as a paranoid dog mom). After eating whole duck wings, I found big pieces of bone in my dogs' poop. Some will tell you that this is normal, for me, it's scary. The drummette doesn't break down enough for me so I grind duck wings instead.
Bones that I Feed to My Dogs
Over the years, I’ve found that the following bones work best for my dogs:
- Beef Kneecaps – I take these away right before they’re the size of a giant jawbreaker
- Beef Knuckle Bones
- Buffalo Knuckle Bones
- Lamb Necks
- Duck Necks – I feed these as part of their meal
- Duck Frames
- Rabbit Legs
I don’t feed turkey or chicken necks because of Rodrigo’s poultry intolerance (he does fine with duck). And, as I stated above, because of past experiences, I don’t feed rib bones or duck wings to my dogs.
Where You Can Order Raw Bones for Dogs
I order my bones through a local raw food co-op. If you don't have a co-op in your area, check out the following sources:
- Local, independent pet stores
- Raw Paws Pet Food
This is only a short list, there are many more sources.
Alternatives to Bones for Dogs
Despite my list of “safe” bones (of course, this is just for my dogs) and the benefits of feeding bones to dogs, there are still going to be many reasons why someone doesn’t want to feed bones to their dogs. Some dogs can’t have them or won’t eat them. So what do we give them instead?
Alternative Sources of Calcium for Dogs
There are a lot of foods that offer calcium, however, it’s important to understand how much calcium your dog needs on a daily basis and compare that to the foods that you are considering. If I’m feeding a meat and organ only meal, I’ll often add green tripe because it offers the perfect balance of calcium and phosphorus.
If I had to find an alternative source of calcium, I'd look to:
- Green tripe
- Organic bone meal or bone dust
- Ground eggshells from pasture-raised eggs (directly from the farm only)*
- Organic cottage cheese
- Whole food calcium supplement
*When feeding ground eggshells to dogs, I feel more comfortable grinding the eggshells when I got the eggs from friends or local farms. The grocery store eggs have been washed to clean them up and I'm not sure what was used. In an effort to remove as many toxins from my dogs' life, I avoid adding grocery store eggshells to my dogs' diet.
Alternative Sources of Chews for Dogs
If you’re looking for a safer chewing option for your dog, then I recommend the following:
- Real.Dog offers a Chew Only subscription box for less than $25/month. It comes with 3 small bags of chews (3 chews per bag).
- Monster Bully Sticks by PawStruck.com are long lasting and I trust the sourcing.
- Monster Himalayan Chews are a great option if you don’t like the odor of bully sticks.
And if these don't work for your dog, I have a list of 28 dog chew alternatives that you can check out.