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For years, I believed that bone barrow was too rich for dogs. All that fat in one (or two) meals can't be good. It'll lead to digestive upset, diarrhea, and possibly pancreatitis. Plus the thick raw bones that are chock-full of bone barrow are weight-bearing bones, so why risk a broken tooth, splintered bones, and pancreatitis?
So, I took these off the menu years ago.
But now I'm rethinking marrow bones as I wonder about the benefits of bone marrow for my dogs. I not ready to start buying the cut marrow bones for my dogs, but I'm no longer giving them the side eye when I'm at my neighborhood pet store.
What is Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow is the softish material in the center of bones that is high in fat and calories. Pet parents primarily see marrow in thigh (weight-bearing) bones. According to WebMD, bone marrow's “stem cells produce red and white blood cells. These cells move oxygen throughout the bloodstream, assisting with tasks like blood clotting.” On top of that, bone marrow supports the immune system as well.
That's all well and good, but I'm not convinced that I should add marrow bones back into my dogs' diet. So I kept reading.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow does bring a small amount of B vitamins to the diet, supporting energy. But this isn't the reason to add bone marrow to the diet. As I continued reading, I learned that bone marrow is rich in collagen and glycine while also adding glucosamine and chondroitin to the bowl.
What does this mean?
Bone marrow supports joint health, decreases inflammation, and it supports skin and coat health. I was stunned to learn this because I've been walking through life thinking that bone marrow was just a yummy (and fatty) treat for our dogs.
How to Feed Bone Marrow to Our Dogs
So, now that we know that bone marrow has a lot of health benefits (studies linked below), how do we add it to our dogs' diet? Yeah, we can buy marrow bones, but I'm still nervous about them, so I did some research to find out if there are any marrow products for pets.
I found a highly reviewed bone marrow supplement for humans, but I don't know how much we should give to dogs (or if we should). It's easy to get excited about adding bone marrow to the diet given the benefits, but should we?
And Steve's Real Food offers split marrow bones (which exposes the bone marrow more), which I want to try because my dogs can get to the marrow easily and it's less bone for them to gnaw, which makes me feel more comfortable. Of course, I would monitor my dogs while chewing.
I was tempted to buy the supplements for myself, but I want to speak with a nutritionist first. Do I need to be on a keto diet to make this additional fat work in my diet? Who knows?
Warnings About Marrow Bones for Dogs
STOP!!! Don't head to the store yet! This post is focused on marrow, but since most of us will only find marrow in marrow bones, it's important to point out a few risks that come with feeding these bones to our dogs.
Broken Teeth – I mentioned above that I avoid feeding weight-bearing bones to my dogs. I have a couple of tough chewers that won't do well with these bones because they won't chill on the chewing because it's a stronger bone. Silly dogs.
The Ring (after the marrow is gone) – One picture I can't get out of my mind is of a dog that got its lower jaw caught in a marrow bone – the bone was a ring around their jaw. The pain, confusion, and stress of the situation had to be a nightmare. Because of that picture, I think the split marrow bones offered by Steve's Real Food (and possibly your local butcher) would be a better idea.
Digestive Upset – And, as I mentioned above, bone marrow is a high fat treat and if your dog isn't used to eating that much fat in one sitting, you might be facing (hahahaha) runny poo in the yard. Bone marrow might not be a good fit for dogs prone to pancreatitis or digestive issues. Of course, I'm not a veterinarian, so check with the doc if you have any questions along this line. For me? I won't feed Rodrigo marrow bones because he has EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency); this yummy treat would be too much for his sensitive gut.
My Final Thoughts on Bone Marrow for Dogs
I'm going to pop into my local pet store to place an order for the Steve's Real Food split marrow bones because I'm curious. Otherwise, I'm not planning on any major diet change for my dogs.
Studies that Support the Benefits of Bone Marrow
These studies are for humans, however, many studies for human health can also be applied to canine health.
- Is there any scientific evidence for the use of glucosamine in the management of human osteoarthritis?
- A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis
- Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review
- L-Glycine: a novel anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent
- Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study