Raw bones provide entertainment and health benefits for dogs, but they do need to be given with an eye toward safety. Choosing the right bone for your dog is key, as is assessing your dog’s chewing style and supervising them sufficiently.
Recreational bones are the harder, larger bones that are intended to be scraped, not consumed. At Dexter’s these would be the beef marrow bones (cut from the leg bones), bison, venison, and lamb bones, and beef knuckle bones. They should always be given raw. Cooked bones become brittle, making them more risky to feed.
Larger bones are safer. The idea is that theyscrape on it without being able to put it fully in their mouth and chomp down on it (this is how teeth get cracked) or, worst of all, swallow it. Take into account the size of your dog’s jaw and teeth, and when in doubt choose a larger bone. For example, our small, thinly sliced marrow bones are designed for toy breeds like Chihuahuas and Maltese, or those with “unique” jaw shapes like Pugs.
Just like with kids, anything can happen. Supervising your dog is the safest habit. That doesn’t mean you have to sit and watch them chew, but you should check in on them frequently. They should clean the bone without chewing off too much of the bone itself. Trading for the bone is the nicest way to remove it, offer a favorite treat in exchange, and throw the used bone out.
What if your dog eats too much of that bone? Sometimes it can happen in a flash, you swear you just checked, but you come back and there’s more missing from that bone than you’d like. An old farmers trick that we like is to feed the dog a slice or two of bread right away to provide padding as the bone fragments move through the digestive system. You’ll know when bone’s been passed, your dog’s poop will be dry and pale.
Some dogs have trouble with diarrhea when they consume a lot of marrow for the first time. We find this especially common with dogs getting thinly cut marrow bones where more of the marrow is within reach, and with dogs that are fed mainly dry food and are unaccustomed to raw fat. For these dogs we recommend that you remove some of the marrow before giving them to your dog. Over time you’ll be able to allow them more of the marrow as their body becomes accustomed to it.
If your dog is a very aggressive chewer with a habit of swallowing things, you may be too worried to use raw recreational bones. Dexter’s has many options, but one of the best new ones is the Himalayan Dog Chew made from dried Yak cheese (a traditional food for the people in that region). They are hard and durable yet completely digestible, so if your dog chews it down and swallows the last chunk it will not cause an intestinal blockage. You should also consider giving your dog an intellectual game to play by using foraging toys or puzzle toys (with supervision of course, nothing is chew proof).
Raw recreational bones provide a satisfying chewing activity for dogs, help clean their teeth and keep their gums healthy. When given thoughtfully they are one of nature’s best dog toys.