The old-fashioned dog with a bone depiction is adorable, but today we know that dogs and bones do not always go together. Dogs are natural chewers, but gnawing certain types of bones can be particularly harmful.
With that being said, as a dog parent, it is normal to wonder, “are smoked bones safe for dogs?” Sadly, there is no straightforward answer to this question. Smoked bones can be safe for dogs if their use is carefully monitored and sourced from large cattle. For example, large smoked marrow bones and knuckle beef bones are generally safe, while chicken bones are never safe regardless of the preparation method.
Remembering which bones are safe and which are not can be challenging. In this article, we will review the basic guidelines about the safety of bones. Then we will review each type of bone and help you choose which one is best for your canine baby.
BONES IN THE MODERN DOG’S DIET
Eating bones is natural but only for wild dogs. Modern dogs have adapted to a more leisure type of lifestyle in which bones became a redundancy.
While it is true that there are certain benefits of eating bones, there are also significant risks that you must carefully evaluate.
The critical thing to remember is that modern dogs do not need bones. Yes, bones nurture their chewing tendencies and are nutritious, but both needs can be satisfied in other, much safer ways.
THE BENEFITS OF BONES FOR DOGS
Chewing and eating bones is more than fun for dogs. Here are some real and objective benefits of bones for dogs.
There are several health benefits related to chewing bones:
- Decreased risk of tartar accumulation and gum disease
- Low incidence of impacted anal glands
- Regular bowel movement and production of healthy poop
- Gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat) prevention.
Bones and bone marrow are loaded with healthy nutrients, including adiponectin (protein), healthy fats, calcium, and phosphorus.
If choosing between a juicy bone and your sofa or shoes, most dogs will go for the bone. Chewing on bones decreases the risk of destructive chewing. Destructive chewing can stem from many issues, but most commonly, it is due to boredom.
THE RISKS OF BONES FOR DOGS
These are some of the most important concerns of feeding dogs bones.
The severity of the gastrointestinal injuries varies from simple mouth cuts and constipation to life-threatening intestinal punctures and blockages.
If the bones are too hard in the mouth, they can cause dental fractures or, if too sharp, cuts. Then, they can either puncture or get lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines. Finally, overeating bones can cause constipation.
Although not equally dangerous, all gastrointestinal injuries associated with eating bones require veterinary attention.
Raw bones are safer in terms of gastrointestinal injury risk. However, they can trigger infections if carrying certain parasites or bacteria.
Theoretically speaking, the dog’s stomach has strong acids that can destroy these pathogens, but in practice, eating raw bones has been associated with infections, especially Salmonella.
Choking and aspiration pneumonia
These risks are possible if a bone fragment ends up in the wrong pipe. The first issue, choking, occurs if the fragment gets lodged in the throat and impairs the normal breathing process.
The second issue – aspiration pneumonia can occur if the dog accidentally inhales a piece of the bone and it reaches the lungs. Both choking and aspiration pneumonia are life-threatening emergencies.
WHAT KIND OF BONES ARE SAFE FOR DOGS?
If speaking about real bones, the safest option would be beef bones. They are large, rigid, and very unlikely to splinter. Beef bones are suited for all dogs, including ones with exceptional chewing skills.
Large pork and lamb bones are also safe but for small dogs and dogs with low chewing abilities.
There are also artificial or nylon bones. Nylon bones are safe for all dogs regardless of age, size, and chewing abilities because they come in various sizes and consistencies. Plus, to mimic the real bone chewing experience, some manufacturers produce flavored nylon bones.
WHAT BONES ARE NOT SAFE FOR DOGS?
The most dangerous bones for dogs are chicken and turkey bones. They are incredibly brittle and very likely to cause severe damage.
Chicken and turkey bones are very easily digestible and theoretically suited for dogs with sensitive tummies. However, the risks of feeding your dog chicken and turkey bones outweigh the benefits.
It should be noted that some dogs can eat chicken or turkey bones regularly without experiencing any issues. On the other hand, some dogs can develop a life-threatening consequence after just one bone.
BONES SAFETY – GENERAL GUIDELINES
If feeding your dog bones, you need to take extra caution and always bear in mind the following safety tips and guidelines.
Type of bone
Not all bones are universally good – some bone types are suited for certain dogs, and some should be avoided altogether.
If in doubt whether certain bones are safe for your dog or not, it is better to stay on the safe side and offer something you know is 100% safe. Alternatively, you can consult with your vet on your dog’s next annual checkup.
Cooking destroys the mentioned pathogens but makes the bones more dangerous in terms of splintering and causing internal damage. Plus, cooking removes the healthy ingredients and decreases their overall nutritional value.
In addition to being brittle and prone to splintering, table scrap bones are loaded with fats and spices that can wreak havoc on the dog’s sensitive tummy.
Raw bones are less likely to splinter but hold the risk for infection and can be hard to digest. It would be best if you never offered dogs with compromised immune systems and co-existing digestive issues (chronic diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies) raw bones.
Smoked bones are the compromise – they are processed but not actually cooked, meaning they have low splintering tendencies and are unlikely to cause infections. However, there is one caveat – some pre-packaged, commercially available smoked bones contain lots of preservatives, including sulfite. Sulfite is particularly dangerous to dogs because it can trigger a vitamin B1 deficiency.
It is irrational to give a small dog a large bone and vice versa. The bone’s size needs to be proportionate with the dog’s size.
If you give your small dog a large bone, it will be unable to chew on it and lose interest in the bone.
On the contrary, if you give your big dog a small bone, it may decide to swallow it whole instead of slowly chewing, thus risking serious injuries.
Bone storage and shelf-life
When giving your dog a bone, let it play with it for some time (usually 15 or 20 minutes) and then remove the bone and store it in the refrigerator. You can repeat this for several days in a row.
Even if not wholly eaten, you should discard all bones after four to five days of use. If it reaches a swallowing size before that, then it needs to be immediately removed.
After each chewing session, check the bone for cracks or splinters. If there is significant damage, the bone is no longer safe.
How much and how often
It is of paramount importance to understand that bones are not food substitutes. In the best-case scenario, they can be considered as treats, meaning they should not comprise more than 10% of your dog’s daily food intake.
The general rule of thumb is that large breed dogs can eat two bones a week while small and medium-sized dogs only one bone a week. These rules apply to dogs that can digest bones. Some dogs have hard times digesting the bone marrow because of its high nutritional density,
The dog’s chewing personality
Not all factors are bone-related. It would be best if you also considered your dog’s chewing personality. Based on their chewing personality, there are three types of dogs – inhalers, destroyers, and nibblers.
Inhalers are also known as gulpers because they prefer biting off large chunks and swallowing them over chewing. Destroyers have powerful chewing abilities and can make any bone or toy disappear in the blink of an eye. Nibblers are slow chewers that like to enjoy the chewing process slowly.
While it is true that wild dogs survived for years while chewing on bones, the modern dog, partially due to our fault, has diverged from its ancestor in terms of both needs and abilities.
The ability to safely chew and digest bones is one thing modern dogs lost during the domestication process. Bones are beneficial to dogs because they satisfy two basic needs – chewing tendencies and nutritional value.
However, modern dogs fed high-quality diets and offered various chewing toys do not need regular bones. Nevertheless, if you want to show your dog how its ancestors lived, smoked bones are a relatively safe choice.
Can dogs eat smoked rib bones?
Yes, dogs can eat smoked rib bones if they come from pork or, ideally, beef. However, closer monitoring of the chewing process and checking the bone for cracks and splinters after each chewing session are imperative.
Do smoked dog bones go bad?
Smoked dog bones do not go bad as quickly and easily as raw and cooked bones because the smoking process cures the meat. However, they can be stored in the refrigerator between uses. Keeping them cold will prolong their shelf-life and make them more challenging to chew, thus providing your dog extra quality time.
Why are smoked bones bad for dogs?
Smoked bones are less likely to splinter and cause problems, but there is always a small risk. Plus, if not removed after the chewing session and adequately stored, smoked bones can go bad. Finally, the lipids within the bone can stain carpets and furniture.
What is the safest bone for dogs?
The safest bone for dogs is the nylon bone. Nylon bones are not real bones – they are rubber toys shaped like bones. Nylon bones provide quality chewing time without the risks regular bones entail. They are available in different sizes and flavors.