Admit it. When you think of dogs, one of the first images that comes to mind is a dog with a bone. Natural, raw bones have been an essential part of canines’ diets ever since they have been hunting and attacking their prey. Believe it or not, today’s canine pets share the same genetic features as their ancestors.
For most of us, our dogs are just like our children. Naturally, we want the best for them and we want to spoil them. But there are so many dog bones out there, so how do we choose the right ones? We know it can be overwhelming, so we’re going to walk you through the steps of choosing a natural dog bone that your pup will love and thank you for.
How to Choose a Natural Dog Bone – Buying Guide
There are many dog bones online that claim to be natural and safe, but plenty turn out to be quite the opposite. So let’s take a more in-depth look at which factors you should consider when choosing your natural dog bone.
Edible Bones for Nutrition
Edible bones can come from a large variety of animals, such as chicken, turkey, or goat, and should only make up for about 10% of your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that the makeup and type of bone affects what nutrients will be going into your dog’s body.
Choose a Meaty Bone for Growth and Development
Natural dog bones are high in calcium and meat is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus and calcium are needed for a number of reasons, including bone and teeth formation, digestion, proper nerve function, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues, and production of ATP.
Basically, calcium and phosphorus support rapid growth and development; therefore, puppies tend to need more than adults. Rich in both minerals, chicken wings and turkey necks are ideal for a growing puppy. On the other hand, something slightly lower in calcium and phosphorus–like chicken backs–is a great option for adult dogs. But, even if you throw them a wing, it’s not such a big deal. When adult dogs consume too much calcium, their bodies can absorb what they need and secrete what they don’t.
Large breed puppies are susceptible to developing orthopedic diseases, like hip dysplasia. In order to help reduce that risk, these dogs should be fed just slightly lower levels of calcium and phosphorus. In this case, feed less poultry, which has more calcium, and more red meat, which has less calcium.
Chicken and Pork Bones for More Fat
Compared to bones from other animals, chicken and pork bones contain the highest percentage of fat, essential fatty acids, as well as fat soluble vitamins. These bones are low in saturated fat and high in poly-unsaturated fats, and so they’re a great source of energy. A diet rich in fats can add a shine to your dog’s coat, or moisture to their skin.
Chicken wings and necks are especially popular. They are hollow, soft, and very light in weight. These bones don’t contain marrow, but do contain calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals that prove essential in maintaining your dog’s balanced diet. Add a few chicken wings to your dog’s weekly diet, and it could contribute to more energy and a shinier coat.
Match the Part and Species of Animal to the Size of Your Dog
Chicken wings, necks, and feet are common edible bones for small breed dogs. Chicken quarters, pork tails, and duck necks are suitable for medium breed dogs. Whole chickens, turkey necks, and lamb heads and necks are some suitable options for large breed dogs.
Recreational Bones for Dental Health and Mental Stimulation
Recreational bones are typically big chunks of pig or cow femur or hip bones filled with marrow. As they do not provide any significant nutritional value, they are not meant for chewing up and swallowing.
Meaty Bones for a Clean Set of Pearly Whites
When your dog is gnawing or chewing on a meaty recreational bone with cartilage and soft tissue, you’re doing its teeth and gums a great service. Macerating the meat and bones helps to massage the teeth and gums, cleaning the surface of the tooth and breaking down tartar. This will also reduce the risk of gingivitis and bad breath.
The ideal bone is hard enough to allow the dog to gnaw on it and clean its teeth, but not so hard as to break or crack the teeth. Long bones are harder on the surface than flat bones and can easily break your dog’s teeth. As flat bones are softer and harder to bite down on, they are less likely to crack your pup’s teeth.
Regenerate with a Cow Hip or Femur Bone
Cow hip and femur bones contain a lot of marrow. The marrow inside the bone releases adiponectin, which supports kidney, digestive, and immune system functions. Marrow is also a great source of fat and energy for dogs. The marrow inside of raw bones are very rich and have a high fat percentage, which can create loose stools in dogs with sensitive stomachs.
If your dog has pancreatitis, it’s best if they don’t eat bone marrow. The rich bone marrow can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis, due to lipemia (high levels of fat in blood). If you choose to give your dog recreational bones anyway, it is recommended to thaw the bone and use a spoon to scoop out the marrow before giving it to your dog. They’ll still get the satisfaction of chewing on the bone, but will be less likely to experience a pancreatitis flare-up.
Help Avoid Gastrointestinal Blockage with Flat Bones
Long bones (legs, wings) have soft ends that contain a lot of cartilage. If you have an aggressive chewer, they’ll likely tear off that cartilage and consume it. If too much cartilage accumulates in your dog’s bowels, you might end up at the vet for an enema, or even worse, surgery to remove any blockage. Stick to flat bones, like ribs or the pelvis.
Size Matters: Cow Bones for Large Dogs and Goat Bones for Small Dogs
Essentially, the size of the bone and dog will determine how edible the bone is. If it looks like a choking hazard, don’t give it to your dog. Generally, it should be at least larger than the lower jaw of the dog, approximately the size of their own head.
Typically, bones from cows or lambs are a good option for large dogs and aggressive chewers. This can include beef neck bones, beef pelvic bones, ribs, knuckles, or shanks. Small and medium size dogs will usually require bones from animals such as deer, goats, or pigs. Suitable options include lamb neck bones, pork ribs, or knuckles.
Safety First: Don’t Give Your Dog Cooked Bones
When you feed your dogs cooked bones, you’re making a decision that may end up fatal for your dog. Fully cooking bones (boiling, steaming, or baking) changes the molecular structure of bones, making them more likely to splinter. The dangers of feeding your dog cooked bones include, but are not limited to, constipation, peritonitis, severe rectal bleeding, bones (or splinters) getting stuck somewhere, and broken teeth.
For enhanced flavor, many companies slightly smoke their bones. If not cooked fully, this process doesn’t compromise the structure, quality, or composition of the bone. However, you may find it challenging to find “slightly” smoked bones to purchase online.
Top 7 Best Natural Bones for Dogs to Buy Online
In case you still need a push in the right direction, check out our top 7 favorite natural bones below.
7. We Feed Raw Beef Ribs
Grass-fed, All Natural–Great for Dental Hygiene
These beef ribs are all-natural and come from grass-fed cows. They’re great to keep your large breed dogs occupied for a couple hours (supervised, of course) and give them a nice gum massage, as well. Periodontal disease in dogs is fairly common, so these bones will help to avoid that.
These 2 pound bones are very meaty, so it’s a great way to provide a good balance of calcium and phosphorus for your pup’s overall balanced diet. This will also complement the diet of commercially-fed dogs. This is not recommended for small dogs, as small dogs require less dense bones.
6. Raw Paws Pet Food Meaty Lamb Bones for Dogs
Crank Up the Protein and Calcium
Made in the U.S.A. and sourced from Indiana farms, the only ingredient here is raw lamb. Since they are all natural, they will vary slightly in size, but will likely be perfect to keep your large breed dogs occupied for a couple hours.
These lamb bones may not appear so meaty, but they actually yield a generous amount of meat for your dog, providing a good balance of both protein and calcium. They come in a resealable 2 pound bag, so you can give one at a time to your dog, and freeze the rest until you’re ready. Give them to your dog frozen on a hot day, and expect lots of “thank you” kisses later.
5. Raw Paws Pet Food Turkey Necks for Dogs
Meat, Meat, Meat–Serve as a Treat or a Part of a Meal
Approximately 55% meat, these all-natural edible turkey necks will provide a healthy balance of protein and calcium for your large breed dog. They can be served as a treat or as part of a balanced meal. It comes in a 2 count and 5 pound vacuum sealed bag. We recommend the 5 pound bag, as the 2 count won’t last as long.
Along with being a good source of phosphorus, protein, and calcium, chewing on the meat will act as a tooth brush and clean the surface of your pup’s teeth. Since these necks are cut in half, they are bit more fragile and will need proper supervision. If you have an aggressive chewer on your hand, be extra careful, as they will be likely to break the bone and swallow the chunks whole.
4. Raw Paws Pet Food Chicken Wings for Dogs and Cats
Small and Soft–Perfect for Beginners
Rich in calcium and phosphorus, these all-natural chicken wings will promote good joint and bone health, especially for young pups. A great source of nutrition, these edible bones are great for beginners and small breed dogs, as they are soft and easy to chew.
No need to worry about dull or dry fur either; these bones are full of fatty acid, which will contribute to a shiny coat and healthy skin. These crunchy bones are sure to be a hit with your best friend!
3. Raw Paws Pet Food Beef Marrow Bones for Dogs (Bundle Deal)
Great for Strengthening Your Dog’s Immune System
A great recreational bone for medium or large breed dogs, these high quality bones are packed with protein and other nutrients, like calcium, phosphorus, and collagen. If your dog often gets sick, it will help strengthen immunity by generating red and white blood cells. They’ll also help to support your dog’s kidney and digestive function.
Warning: if your dog is not used to bone marrow and they eat too much all at once, they might get sick. Introduce it slowly; we recommended thawing the bone, scooping some of the marrow out with a spoon, and refilling the bone with the remaining marrow the next time. The bones can last a long time, but make sure to refreeze it and not let it stay out and get brittle.
2. Raw Paws Pet Food Chicken Leg Quarters for Dogs
Vitamin A for Good Vision
With approximately 80% meat, they are rich in protein and phosphorus, and provide your pups with an adequate amount of energy. The vitamin A in these leg quarters will also help keep vision strong and clear.
With firm meat and a chewy and crunchy bone, your medium breed dog will adore these edible bones. The texture will discourage swallowing too quickly. They’re a great addition to well-balanced meal, starting from a young age.
1. Raw Paws Pet Food Chicken Feet
Chicken Feet High in Glucosamine–To Help Prevent Arthritis
As your dog chews on these all-natural chicken feet, he will be protecting his joints and getting his teeth cleaned at the same time. Chicken feet are high in chondroitin and glucosamine, both vital nutrients in maintaining healthy joints.
Raw Paws Pet Food’s chicken feet are especially popular among small breed dogs and non-aggressive chewers. A great nutritious snack, your dog won’t say “no” to this.
Things to Know Before Throwing Your Dog a Bone
Yes, edible bones are meant to be consumed. But they should be chewed first, then swallowed–not swallowed whole. It’s strongly recommended not to give bones to dogs on an empty stomach. After finishing a meal is ideal timing, as hungry dogs are more likely to try to break apart the bone and swallow large chunks. When large chunks of bone are swallowed, the risk of a digestive tract obstruction increases.
When given properly and under supervision, natural bones can be one of the most tasty and effective chews to give your dog. It’ll keep them mentally stimulated, stress-free, and their teeth cleaned and polished. And now, you’ll know exactly what to look for when choosing a dog bone for your best friend!
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