Letting your dog gnaw on a bone can provide hours of entertainment and exercise. Dogs have been eating bones for thousands of years, and biologically crave the nutrition found in marrow as well as the bone itself. Although raw bones for dogs hearken back to the days their ancestors ran wild, the modern canine enjoys cooked versions of the treat as well.
How to Cook Bones for Dogs
Selecting Raw Bones for Dogs
Although chewing on a bone brings a dog great pleasure and nutritive value, it can also come with hidden dangers. Select your dog's bone carefully before you bring it home to cook it.
- Big dogs need big bones. Because some dogs with powerful jaw strength such as pit bulls can bite off large pieces and attempt to swallow the chunks in their entirety, Dr. Karen Becker recommends choosing a bone that's as big as their head — or at least big enough they can't fit it between their jaws. Plan to supervise your dog when serving a bone
- Avoid pork, poultry, or rib bones as they are most likely to splinter into sharp shards, even after cooking.
- Eliminate bones that are cut into "rounds" such as femurs. Dogs eventually wiggle their lower teeth through the center opening, and their lower jaw can get stuck in the center of the bone, usually requiring veterinary attention.
- Choose sturdy bones from animals such as deer, elk, or beef bones for dogs.
- Avoid small bones that your dog could potentially swallow whole. Make sure bones are longer than your dog's muzzle at the minimum, suggests the American Kennel Club.
Boiled, not baked
Heating changes the molecular structure of the bones, meaning they'll break down more easily in your dog's mouth. Avoid baking, broiling, or barbecuing bones, which dries them out and causes them to splinter, increasing the odds your dog could swallow a chunk that could cause intestinal problems or injury.
Holistic veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko suggests boiling soup bones for dogs that are inexperienced chewing on them. Simmer the bone for about an hour to soften it. Add parsley, carrot, and celery to the water during cooking to create a broth fit for human or canine consumption. When serving the bones, remember that the most essential ingredient is supervision so you can take quick action if your dog runs into trouble.
Nutrition without danger: bone broth
Make a delicious gelatinous bone broth that you can add to your dog's food to deliver the nutrition of bones and marrow without fear of splinter. Fill a crockpot with any kinds of bones including chicken, pork, beef, or wild game. The more joints and cartilage you can include, the more gelatinous the broth will be, so include things like chicken feet or clean animal hooves if available. Add four tablespoons of vinegar to help draw minerals out of the bones and break down cartilage and add water to three inches above the bones. Cook on the crockpot's high setting and then turn to low for 24-to-48 hours until you get a nice, jelly-like consistency. Strain the bones, chill in the refrigerator, and discard the hard layer of fat on top once it's chilled.
Store the broth in a covered container in the fridge or ladle into smaller containers — or ice cube trays for smaller dogs — so you can use it a little at a time. Spoon a few teaspoonsful over your dog's kibble at mealtime.
Bone gelato for dessert
Making bone-based gelatin treats for your dog can substitute for joint supplements according to Dr. Basko. His recipe for canine-friendly gelato starts with approximately 4 cups of leftover bones from a turkey carcass, bones that your dog is done chewing, or bones left over from human dinners.
Put the bones in a large pot or crockpot and add:
- 1/2 cup minced celery
- 1 heaping tbsp. fresh minced parsley (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1/2 tsp. ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 8 cups water or enough to cover
Bring the ingredients to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1.5 hours before removing from heat and letting it cool. Strain the liquid into a glass brownie pan and add:
- 2 pkg. unflavored gelatin
Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and sprinkle the top with:
- 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Cool on the counter until the gelato reaches room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. Cut into 1-inch by 2-inch cubes. Serve one chunk for every 25 pounds of body weight. You can cut the treat into smaller pieces when placing them in your dog's bowl.
Freeze cubes in a single layer in the freezer then store in an airtight container for a frozen dessert your dog will love. If your dog doesn't like it that cold, keep a few in the refrigerator.