Dogs are carnivores. Their teeth and digestive tracts are designed for eating meat, and their powerful molars are designed for chewing bones. Bones are important for cleaning the teeth and exercising the jaw.
There is a lot of bad press out there about feeding bones to dogs. The problem is mostly with cooked bones. Cooked bones are difficult for the dogs to digest and since the cooking makes them much harder, sharp pieces can crack off. These indigestible pieces can get lodged in the dog’s intestine causing major problems possibly requiring surgical removal. Cooked bones also can crack teeth. Never feed the sterilized bones that are available in pet shops for dogs. These are extremely hard and will crack teeth! Avoid sterilized bones at all cost. I also don’t recommend hooves or antlers for the same reason. They are too hard and can crack teeth in addition to getting lodged in the intestine.
Raw bones are easily digestible. They should be fed in a size that is large enough that the dog doesn’t swallow it whole. They should spend time gnawing on the bone. The following raw bones seem to work the best for most dogs: beef soup bones, knuckle bones, chicken and turkey necks, and beef rib bones. You can also try raw chicken wing and thigh bones.
If your dog has never eaten a raw bone before, it is very important to watch your dog eat these bones the first few times. Some dogs have a tendency to get excited and swallow the bones whole or crack off large pieces. You can start with a larger bone such as a beef soup bone and watch that they slowly gnaw on them, or you can cut chicken or turkey necks into 1-2 inch pieces and feed those. Take the bones away when the pieces get small enough to be swallowed whole.
In summary, I recommend feeding raw bones to dogs. You can feed any size raw bone to any size dog so long as your dog gnaws it slowly, doesn’t swallow it whole or crack off large pieces and swallow them. If you are unsure, start with softer bones such as raw chicken wings, thighs and necks.
There are several good books to read on this subject:
Dr. Deneen Fasano is a holistic veterinarian and owner of Animal Healing Solutions in Altamonte Springs, FL. She is also creator of PawromaTherapy line of natural pet products. She has over 20 years experience as a holistic veterinarian and practices acupuncture, chiropractic, Chinese veterinary medicine, herbal medicine, nutrition and aromatherapy on pets.