Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Meaty bones are a natural and essential part of the raw diet for dogs and cats.
Bones are not only a source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other minerals but they also play a critical role in your dog/cat’s dental health by removing the tartar that builds up on their teeth. Cats and dogs fed with meaty bones on a regular basis rarely need dental procedures (and that can save you a whole lot of money!)
If you’ve ever seen a dog chew on a fair size bone, they can do it for hours on end. It is great mental stimulation for any dog or cat (it also stimulates endorphins which helps relieve stress), and greatly enriches their life.
If your dog/cat is NOT on a raw diet, it is NOT recommended you feed raw meaty bones as they may create digestive upset due to the fact that your dog/cat’s microbiome is not adapted to digest this type of food. Proper transition to a raw diet is necessary first, so feel free to contact me if you are ready to take the leap.
Feeding raw meaty bones can be nerve-racking to some pet parents and it certainly was the case for me the first time. I was scared my chihuahua would choke on the bone and die before my eyes and all kind of crazy scenarios. However, rest assured this happens very very rarely. That being said you should not assume that your dog/cat will know how to handle a bone, especially at the beginning. So here are a few tips to introduce raw meaty bones to your dog/cat’s raw diet:
1. Make sure the size of the bone is appropriate for the size of the dog. I have a 5 pound chihuahua and would certainly not give her a beef femur to chew on! Chicken necks and feet are the perfect size for her. If the bone is too big for your pet, they won’t be able to get the amount of calcium they need for a balanced diet.
I find cats to be better in knowing what they can and can’t tackle when it comes to bones.
Larger dogs can consume veal tails, beef necks and pork/lamb ribs while smaller dogs and cats can chew on chicken drumsticks, necks, wings and feet and rabbit.
Harder and larger bones such as those of ruminants can be a problem for any dog/cat as they can fracture teeth especially the longer the bone is left out and dries. You can still give a recreational bone to a large dog but make sure to take it away after a few hours.
Start with a small and rather soft type of bones such as chicken or turkey necks and depending on the size of your dog, you can introduce harder bones such as pork ribs once you feel comfortable. If you can, feed whole prey as they represent a full meal including organs, bones and meat.
2. Always give raw bones. Cooked bones splinter and can perforate your dog/cat’s digestive track leading to life threatening situations.
3. To assess your dog/cat’s reaction the first time you introduce a raw meaty bone, hold onto it. If they are not the gulper type, you can let them enjoy their bone on their own but always supervise. My dog is not a gulper but I prefer to hold onto the chicken neck (for my own piece of mind more than anything else).
4. Wear gloves if you hold onto the meaty bone for obvious hygiene reasons. Alternatively, you can have a dedicated area where you let your dog handle and chew the bone. Always supervise the dog/cat when she eats a meaty bone. Not only for safety reasons but also because she can take the bone throughout the house and you don’t want to sanitize the entire home because your dog has carried the juicy bone and chewed on it in multiple rooms.
5. If you’re transitioning your dog/cat to a raw diet, don’t feed her a meaty bone right away as her gut and microbiome is not prepared to digest and assimilate such food. This may result in GI track problems such as diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. Wait at least a couple of weeks or when your dog’s poop has a normal healthy consistency to introduce meaty bones.
6. Lastly, rotate the type of meaty bones you feed simply because each protein has its specific ratio of nutrients and fat content.
To be honest, it took me many years to feel comfortable feeding my dog meaty bones although she’s been raw fed for 8 years now (with ground bones added to her diet). The first time is the hardest! Like anything, you'll gain confidence with time.
Below is a video of Tika eating a chicken neck: