Do dog bones go bad?

Dog bones look tough, especially the ones you can get at the pet store. Watching your dog cheerfully gnawing on a bone that’s 3 times their size is adorable, but it takes them so long to chew it down. Naturally, you are going to wonder… do dog bones go bad? 

Even though they don’t seem to change in any visible way, dog bones do go bad. They can build up harmful bacteria, and as they break down structurally, there is a higher chance of cracking or splintering. This can lead to lodged bone fragments, diarrhea, choking, and more.

Today we’ll clear the mystery on this subject by giving you some basic ground rules when it comes to giving bones to your dog. We’ll discuss how long your dog can keep a bone, selecting fresh bones, what to look for in commercial bones, and why old bones are definitely unsafe.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the proper way to ‘give a dog a bone’!

So, how long can my dog keep a new bone?

The quick answer might surprise you, but the ideal time for keeping a bone is about 3 to 4 days. This number is also dependent on following 2 quick rules to keep spoilage at a minimum:

  • Your dog can chew on the bone for 10-to-15 minutes sessions at a time.
  • Between sessions, your dog’s bone should go in the refrigerator.

Storage inside a sealable plastic container is best, and the bone should go in the refrigerator, NOT the freezer. Frozen bones get pretty hard and can potentially damage your dog’s teeth, so the sealable plastic gives you a way to keep the bone safe without stinking up the refrigerator in the process.

Selecting bones for your dog

Refrigeration is important, but choosing the right bone is the most important part of the process. While it’s easy to just give your dog the scrap bones from whatever you happen to be eating, this is not a good idea. This is because different types of bones will have different densities. This brings us to an important rule… no chicken bones!

No chicken bones or pork bones

Chicken bones are a bad idea. For one thing, some of them are fairly hollow, meaning that they will break and splinter easily. Even the stronger ones are dangerously frail, and cooking them makes them even more fragile.

Pork bones are a little more solid, but they are also prone to cracking and breaking. This goes for pork ribs, and in fact, ANY ribs, as dogs tend to gobble them up too quickly, and they can lodge in the dog’s throat. This is an unpleasant truth, but we would be amiss if we didn’t warn you about it.

These bones break too easily to be practical in the long run. So, as a general rule, keep chicken and pork bones off of the menu. Even though your dog loves them, they are simply too risky and could eventually hurt your dog.

You should always avoid cooked bones

This brings us to another rule. Cooked bones, in general, are a bad idea for the same reason. Cooking breaks down the bone’s overall density, leading to easy cracking and fragmentation. While we know that many people feed cooked bones to their dogs every day, it is simply not a good idea.

Cooked bones break and can lead to issues such as constipation, damaged teeth, choking, and even intestinal blockage. The solution is actually quite simple, however, and won’t even take much of your time.

Give your dog only fresh, dense bones that you get weekly from your local butcher, or go with commercial bones which you have personally researched and approved. Let’s take a look at these options so that you know what to look and ask for.

Keeping it simple: Getting bones from your local butcher

A great way to keep things simple and safe is to simply have a chat with your local butcher. Butchers are cutting up fresh meat daily and will be more than happy to provide you with weekly bones at a minimal cost.

Go with bison or beef bones, as these are the best, and choose a bone that is close to the size of your dog’s head. Never give your dog bones that are smaller than their mouth, as these are a choking hazard.

 Sticking with those giant, head-sized bones helps to ensure that your dog has a healthy chewing outlet, and a 3 – 4 day disposal time with 15-minute chew sessions means that your dog won’t have time to wear the bone down to a dangerous size.

Rules for giving your dog commercial bones

When you are selecting commercial bones or chews, there are a lot of great options out there, and it’s easy to pick a good one for your dog. Simply make sure that any chews which are designed to eventually be ingested are 100% digestible for your dog.

If you are just going for an ‘indestructible bone,’ get one of the flavored, nylon-based, or leather chew bones, and be sure to consult the fine print on the tag. 10 – 15-minute chew sessions are still a good idea so that your dog isn’t chewing on it all day, and you want to make sure to replace the toy at the frequency recommended by your vendor.

What about old bones my dog finds outside?

While you think that a lot of time outside and in the elements would eventually strip away harmful bacteria, this is definitely not the case with old bones that your dog finds outside. Outdoor bones will splinter easily, and they are teeming with bacteria, so if your dog cuts their mouth, then they are very susceptible to becoming quite ill.

Outdoor bones are definitely off-limits for your dog.

In conclusion: Dog bones do go bad and not all bones are good for your dog

It’s probably not the news that you want to hear, but it has to be said. Bones do go bad, and certain types, such as any rib bones, chicken or pork bones, or cooked bones of any kind, pose a potential splintering or choking hazard to your dog.

The solution is to simply stick with large, head-sized beef bones from your butcher, which you will let your dog chew in brief sessions and then replace every 3 to 4 days. This way, the bones are always large, dense, fresh, and as safe as possible for your beloved dog!


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!