Are Bones Safe for Dogs and Cats to Eat? ©

Are bones safe for cats and dogs?

Wild prey with bones is often eaten by cats. Photo: Mark Marek

The short answer is, no bones are 100% safe for dogs or cats to eat. All bones have the potential to splinter, impact, perforate, obstruct, or break teeth. Cats generally take their time and do less gnawing so the risk is much lower for them as long as the bones are raw.

Yes, dogs would gnaw on fresh bones in the wild but few animals bother with them for long once they’re stripped and starting to dry out, whereas a domestic animal will often gnaw at an old bone to satisfy an urge that isn’t often met in captivity. Domesticated pets will also gnaw excessively out of boredom, stress or anxiety. Additionally, we have no scientific data for how many wolves, desert cats or other wild canine and feline relatives actually do suffer or die from a bone-related injury.

Once the bone is stripped of meat and fat, the main benefits come from connective tissue and cartilage found outside the bone. The partially digestible portion of bone marrow is comprised primarily of fat and blood which the animal benefits from, but it can easily be sourced elsewhere. The calcium and phosphorous in the bone itself can be sourced from many natural foods or supplements that pose no risk to our pets, and very little is required of either. In other words, dogs and cats don’t require bone as part of a complete diet if these basic nutrients are provided through an alternative digestible source as part of a balanced meal. If you feel strongly that the nutrients should come from bone, you can use small amounts of ground raw bone as a supplement.

We have consulted with traditional and holistic veterinarians and other experts regarding the safety of bones for dogs and cats. We’ve also read studies, reports, whitepapers and books by experts across the board. The vast majority agree that any type of bone, cooked or raw, can be hazardous. These experts range from independent scientists to those who are against processed pet food, which defeats the bias argument some sources make for the practice. We actively seek out evidence of the benefits of natural pet care, but we simply can’t argue with the sheer number of experts who advise pet parents to avoid whole bones. I don’t believe the risk of injury is very high but if the risk can be avoided, why not do so?

That said, there are bones that are considered safer for pets than others by BARF (Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) diet advocates, and there are methods of feeding bones that reduce the risk.Can a dog or cat have bones?

  • Raw, fresh bones with some meat still attached
  • Small, soft bones like those found in turkey or chicken necks for smaller dogs and cats.
  • Whole food with bones for larger dogs.
  • Ground bones
  • Cooked rib, beef, pork/ham, chicken, etc. cannot be fed to dogs or cats without substantially increasing the risk of injury.

You can eliminate the risk entirely by purchasing natural pet supplements that are an even more complete and pure source of nutrients and minerals than natural bones. Many of these supplements also offer other benefits, such as increased digestibility, anti-microbial properties or exceptional joint support. We use Montmorillonite (Bentonite) Clay (combined with seaweed & krill) for a full range of benefits, protection, and superior nutrition. Other choices include bonemeal, ground eggshells, or oyster shell flour.

If you’re concerned about teeth cleaning, that can be done manually. Check out our articles & recipes for dog and cat natural oral care.

Blog Comment - safe bones for dogs & catsDo you feed bones to your dog or cat? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

Sources:
Dunn, T. J., DVM. The Nutritional Aspects of Bone Composition.
No Bones About It: Bones are Unsafe for Your Dog. US Food & Drug Administration. 2010.
Schenck, Patricia, DVM, PhD. Home-Prepared Dog and Cat DietsHome-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets. 2010.
Palika, Liz. The Ultimate Pet Food Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Feeding Your Dog or CatThe Ultimate Pet Food Guide. 2008.

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18 Responses to “Are Bones Safe for Dogs and Cats to Eat? ©”

  1. rheanna says:

    I’m much more comfortable with bonemeal and supplements than bones.

  2. Jackie, Bear & Me says:

    My dogs love their bones but I never let them have them outside or without supervision. They can keep them for about 24 hours then out they go.

  3. At some point in online time people started thinking natural feeding was the same as wild feeding. How an animal eats to survive isn’t necessarily what’s best for them and should only serve as a starting point. You get that and you should be commended for your elevated understanding of the big picture.

  4. Brenda says:

    It amazes me how many people are willing to risk the safety of their dog just because they think it’s natural or they just don’t want to admit they’re wrong.

  5. admin says:

    I expected more controversy and I thank you all for the civil discussion.

    Cassandra, that made me laugh! It’s true that people can be very passionate about pet food choices. I can respect that but we believe in a more open-minded approach to education. That’s why we do things like add information about feeding bones if you decide to risk it. What we personally believe isn’t important, providing reliable information that parents can use to make their own choice is our goal. :-)

  6. Doris says:

    Many years ago we saw a turkey bone stuck across our dog’s upper palate! It was so stuck in there, it must have hurt her; we did not see it till she tipped her head back and yawned . Please check there palates periodically….

  7. Cassandra says:

    try saying that in a raw pet food forum and you’ll get bit LOL but I agree with you! If there’s any risk I’m not willing to take it when dogs don’t need to have bones..

  8. Eric Bowden says:

    I’ve often wondered if I should worry when my cat gets into the trash to dig out chicken bones. While I certainly don’t encourage that sort of thing, it’s good to hear that it’s probably not all that bad if she does gnaw on them.

    Thanks for the article, and the blog in general. There’s some really good information here!

  9. Karen says:

    I don’t think there’s a high risk either so I’ll keep giving my dog and cat raw bones. I hope I don’t regreet it.

  10. Craig Walters says:

    My dog once choked on a raw bone so I no longer feed them to her. She didn’t suffer permanent damage but it was enough to get my attention. It was scary and I considered it to be a warning.

  11. DAVE says:

    The danger with raw bones is very low and they’re good for dogs and cats. I like to give my pets a diet that is as much like their wild diet as possible.

  12. mike says:

    I’m always scared to give my dogs bones to eat.

  13. Christine says:

    A balanced view as usual, thank you. I appreciate the warnings and safe alternatives to bones and the advice about the safest way to give dogs bones If I decide to.

  14. Cindy says:

    I used to be a huge fan of bones for dogs because it does seem to be so natural. One day I imagned how I’d feel if something did happen to my babies just because I was stubborn in my belief. That did it. I’m not risking hurting them no matter how natural it is.

  15. Clara Idaho says:

    Elk antlers are a fantastic alternative to bones and they really do last forever. They’re nutritious too! Make sure there is no chemical processing like bleach and you’re good. :-)

  16. Joslynne says:

    Pets can choke on anything if you think about it. I like giving my dog and cat food with the bones left in for the nutrition and to clean their teeth.

  17. We were giving our dogs raw beef bones, but they were too rich for them and the dogs would end up vomiting afterwards – not every time, but occasionally. We liked the idea of the bones for their teeth and now we’re exploring other alternatives. To satisfy their need to chew, we’ve started giving them carrots and naturally shed (and cleaned) deer antlers. The antlers are expensive, but they last forever (we’ve had 2 sets for a year with barely a dent).

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been researching this recently and think that it’s helpful information. A breeder recommended giving our dogs raw chicken. I’m not 100% certain yet so I’ve held off. I love your first sentence of no bones are 100% safe. That’s the most truthful statement I’ve read.

    Kimberly

    • Melody - Admin says:

      I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about antlers. I’d still be worried about breaking teeth, but not all dogs are aggressive chewers so they may suit the majority. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kim!

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