Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
To feed or not to feed - bones! A topic that doesn't seem to get old. This article will get into detail and help you form an opinion.

Some dog owners firmly believe that bones shouldn’t be given to dogs.

On the other hand, others claim that feeding bones to your dog is natural and healthy.

If you still haven’t made up your mind, read on and find out more about this before you choose what’s right for you and your dog.

Dogs love to eat and will try anything they come across. However, that doesn’t mean that everything they’ll eat is good for them. On the contrary – certain food dogs come across can be really bad for them. So, it’s your responsibility as a dog owner to know what’s safe and what’s not to feed your dog.

For instance, grapes, raisins, garlic etc. are all things you should never give to your dog as they have proven to be toxic. However, it’s not that simple with bones. This is why we decided to focus on this topic in this article and explore both sides!

First of all, let’s explain the difference between raw and cooked bones.

Raw VS Cooked Bones

Cooked and raw bones are two completely different things. The general rule is the following:

Raw bones are safe to eat, while cooked ones are dangerous and shouldn’t be given to dogs.

Namely, bones become much harder once cooked and can break the dogs’ teeth. And that’s not the only problem. Cooked bones are also likely to break down in small, sharp pieces and can cause damage to the digestive tract. If this were to happen, surgery is required as soon as possible. Other problems that can occur from feeding cooked bones to your dog are:

  • Mouth and tongue injuries.
  • Bone gets stuck in esophagus, stomach, intestines or windpipe.
  • Constipation as a result of bone fragmentation.
  • Periotonitis; a bacterial infection that can occur when bones pierce your dog’s stomach or intestines. This infection can be fatal and requires immediate professional help.

On the other hand, raw bones are easier to chew on and usually don’t cause damage to the intestines. Furthermore, they can be healthy and beneficial. But, not all raw bones are safe and not all dogs have chewing styles appropriate for bones. Before you continue reading, check out the video below for more info!

Are Bones Healthy To Dogs?

As you know, it wasn’t long ago that dogs’ main food intake were bones. Dogs, and their ancestors, have the natural instinct to eat prey and they can indeed benefit from raw bones. Here’s why:

  • Raw bones keep their teeth clean and white.
  • They’re a natural source of calcium and phosphorus – both great for the bones and skeletal structure.
  • It’s a good mental stimulation. Chewing on bones helps dogs relax and reduces stress.
  • Great exercise for the jaw muscles.
  • Bones can keep the dog full for a longer time, instead of begging for food constantly.
  • Dogs who eat bones have stronger muscle layers in the stomach, which prevents bloat.
  • Raw bones can prevent anal gland problems.

However, not all raw bones are equally good and safe…

Which Bones Can I Feed My Dog?

Cooked bones can be dangerous and shouldn’t be given to dogs. While raw bones are safe and healthy, in general, some types of raw bones can cause problems as well.

Good to know: If you want to serve your dog some meat, make sure that it is cooked first, or you might put your dog in health risk.

The general rule is that leg bones of a bigger animal than the dog in question shouldn’t be given to your dog. So, avoid beef, buffalo or bison shank bones. These bones are most likely very hard and can cause damage to your dog’s teeth. Also, pork and rib bones can splinter or the dog can swallow them entirely.

On the other hand, safe bones shouldn’t splinter and dogs don’t try to swallow the whole thing. Examples of safe bones are duck, turkey and lamb necks; beef knee caps; beef knuckle bones; beef marrow bones. Raw chicken bones are also safe in general, but read more about it in this article.

In other words, raw bones can be divided into two categories:

1. Edible bones – hollow, non weight-bearing bones. They don’t contain marrow and they’re soft. These are the bones that provide minerals that are great for your dog’s raw diet.

2. Recreational bones – these bones are not that beneficial in the nutritive sense, but they are stimulative in and do keep the dog’s oral hygiene in check. Namely, while chewing on bones, your dog is going through something similar to brushing and flossing. Examples of these bones are big beef or bison femur and hip bones, filled with marrow.

Why Shouldn’t I Feed Rib Bones?

While some dog owners regularly give their dogs rib bones, without any consequences, it’s generally not recommended. First of all, rib bones are much more likely to splinter, which can cause your dog to choke and cause damage to your dog’s mouth, throat or intestines. As you now know, the pieces can also block the intestines and result in constipation.

Second, since rib bones are usually pretty small, dogs can try swallowing the whole thing. Finally, even if the dog doesn’t swallow the bone, the fatty tissue on the bone can lead to vomiting , diarrhea, throwing up blood and can even cause massive problems in the intensive tract.

When Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Bones?

By now you’re probably aware of the health risks that can come from cooked bones. However, even raw (recreational) bones can be dangerous to dogs with certain medical problems and chewing styles. You shouldn’t give raw, recreational bones to dogs:

  • With restorative dental works, as their teeth won’t be able to handle it.
  • That have a predisposition to pancreatitis, as bone marrow is very fat and can cause digestive problems.
  • With a strong chewing style. In other words – if your dog loves to destroy the bones completely, don’t give him or her these recreational bones without supervision.
  • That are likely to swallow it whole or in very big pieces.

So, as you can conclude from above, it’s really important to be familiar with your dog’s chewing style. While some dogs chew slowly and rather carefully, in a manner that’s beneficial to them, other dogs are really destructive when they get a bone to chew on. They will most likely destroy the bone and/or try to swallow it as it is.

As you can imagine, this leads to nothing good. So, the first time you want to give a bone to your dog, be very observant and see how your dog behaves. Over time, you will learn what bones work best for your dog’s chewing style (if any!).

Another thing that will help you determine which bone type is suitable for your dog is its body size.

Dog Size And Bone Size

The size of the dog and the animal whose bone it’s chewing on can indeed determine how edible the bone is. In general, bones from large animals are suitable for aggressive chewers. Bones from smaller animals, for example pigs and lamb, can only be consumed by bigger breeds while poultry bones are suitable for all sizes.

The list below can be of help when choosing the right bone for your dog:

Large Dogs – beef feet, beef pelvis bones, beef neck bones
Medium Dogs – the above, plus knuckle bones, deer and goat legs and beef ribs
Small Dogs – in addition to everything above, pork necks and feet.

Things To Think About When Giving Bones To Your Dog

If you decide that you want to start giving bones to your dog, here are some guidelines to help you on the way.

  • Supervise closely when your dog is chewing on a bone. If your dog were to choke or try to swallow the entire bone, you can react at once and stop/help your dog.
  • When your dog has gnawed down the bone in size it’s time to throw it out. If your dog continues to chew it down, it’s very likely that it will end in splinters he or she can swallow.
  • Have other bones or dog treats ready when you need to take away the bone from your dog, if he/she doesn’t want to give up the current bone.
  • If you have more than one dog, separate them before giving bones since it’s not uncommon for dogs to become territorial over bones and fight over them.
  • Give bones after a regular meal. That way you’ll reduce the chances of your dog swallowing the bone, as hungry dogs tend to do this more.
  • Big breeds, such as German Shepherds, should eat big bones. The general rule is that the bone should be bigger than the length of the dog’s muzzle. This will make swallowing the bone practically impossible.
  • Give the bone in a place that’s easy to clean, such as a crate or outside.
  • Don’t give recreational bones to puppies as their teeth are still not fully developed and too soft. However, edible bones are completely fine.


The general rule is that cooked bones are harmful while raw bones are safe for dogs to have. Cooked bones can cause big damage as they’re more likely to break in small, sharp pieces and pierce the dog’s inside or cause an obstruction in the digestive tract or esophagus. And these are not the only problems.

On the other hand, raw bones can be beneficial as they’re rich in mineral and keep the teeth and gums healthy. Additionally, chewing on bones can be a good mental stimulation for dogs and can even reduce stress and anxiety. However, everything is not that simple.

Namely, you have to be very careful when choosing what kind of bone you’re giving your dog, in comparison to its size, health and chewing style. This is why it’s so important to be observant in order to discover what works best for your dog.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. While some dogs really enjoy chewing on the appropriate bone, other don’t, and that’s fine. The important thing is to know the facts before you make up your mind and now you do. The only thing left to do – decide what works best for you and your dog!