Feeding Raw Meaty Bones

(Contains images of whole prey that may be graphic to some  )

Raw bones have an incredible nutritional value for your pet.
They are a natural and highly-digestible source of calcium, play a vital role in dental hygiene and they cleanse your pet’s digestive tract

A lot of people (mostly people that don’t feed raw and even some vets) worry about risks when giving raw bones to pets, but like with anything else in life, if you follow some general rules/ guidelines, these risks can be minimised or even avoided and that is where knowing what bones to use is of important.

Personally I would only feed raw bones to raw fed dogs, reason for this is because the PH levels of the stomach in a raw fed dog is between 1 and 2, as in kibble fed dogs the PH level is between 3 and 5.
The lower PH level means that the acidity of the stomach is higher enabling bone to be fully broken down and digested and avoiding bacteria to form colonies.
Due to bacteria not being able to settle and form colonies (grow) they will not cause any problems for a healthy raw fed dog as where the same bacteria can be a cause for major health problems in kibble fed dogs.

Some rules:

  • Always keep your eye on your pet when feeding a bone (if your pet is a gulper or it is the first time you are feeding bone, hold the bone (for the first time) to ensure your pet chews(crunches/breaks) the bone to a piece small enough to swallow, alternatively you can smash the bony cuts with a hammer to crunch the bone up. (dogs/ cats don’t chew like us, so will not break/ chew little pieces, they will crunch the bone inside of the meat and- or tear off a piece to make it easier to swallow)
  • Never give cooked bones; this includes roasted bones from the shop, dehydrated chicken feet and alike. Cooked bones splinter easily, which can lead to internal damage/bleeding (think of tearing of stomach or intestines) Often this result in needing expensive vet treatment or even the possibility of death to your pet.
  • Bones that are too small and can be swallowed whole can cause blockages or even the problems similar to what has been mentioned above. If your dog is a gulper feed somewhat larger bones so your pet has to chew, or as mentioned above smash them with a hammer. (Please make sure you feed the appropriate bone to your pet)
  • Never feed weight baring bones, or bones that are too large for your pet: Weight baring bones such as knuckle bones (large) leg bones should not be fed to your pet as part of their diet. These bones are too dense, which can cause for teeth to break, not just that but the pieces that they do manage to break off are often sharp which can lead to complications similar to those described in #2. If you do wish to give your pet a larger bone as recreational treat, keep them supervised and take the bone away as soon as they stripped the meat off. You can then refreeze the bone to save and make a bone broth from the saved bones at a later date.
  • Don’t feed machine cut bones like pork chops. Machine cut bones will have sharp edges which in turn can cause internal damage

Bone, even though it should only be fed at roughly 10% of a BARF / PMR diet, it is not a part you would want to skip.
Bones provides much needed calcium to help balance out the phosphorus content of meat and organs and also promotes better mouth hygiene as they help to keep teeth healthy and strong Gnawing, crunching chewing on raw meaty bones reduces plaque build up which in turn lessens the chance of bacteria to settle and cause infections, tooth decay and or gum disease.
Not just that but having to work for their food it stimulates your pet’s brain.
Chewing releases happy chemicals in the brain which have a calming effect and the feeling of contentment on our carnivorous pets (endorphins like serotonin ans dopamine), as well as it being a healthy work-out as it requires concentration and focus.
Give your pet plenty of time and space to calmly chomp and chew.
Dinner times should be relaxed and not stressful or rushed.
If you have a gulper you can feed bones frozen or semi-frozen, this is a good way to learn to crunch and chew.
Always supervise when feeding bones.

Pancreatitis and bones
With animals that are susceptible to pancreatitis it is advised to use leaner cuts of meat, this also counts for bones,
Thus giving a pet with pancreatitis a pigs foot or tail is not such a good idea.

Kidney disease / failure and bones
Due to the phosphorous in bones, it is not advised to feed bones to pets that suffer from kidney disease or failure. See this page for more information
In these cases replace bone with for instance crushed eggshells, your vet might prescribe a phosphorous binder, if not request a phosphorous binder from your vet

Best bones to feed for these pets are:
Rabbit, Quail, Cornish Hen and other game birds, Chicken and Turkey without skin. Goat and Ox Tails

I’ve spent weeks if not months trying to find all the bone % in cuts.
To make life easier for you, I have made a chart,
All the bones on this chart are safe to feed however, use your own judgement, as to what bone size is suitable for your pet.

If your pet is a gulper or you are feeding bone for the first time you may worry about your pet swallowing the bone whole.
If this applies to you,  you can hold the bone until you’re comfortable for your pet to eat the bone cut on it’s own, alternatively you can crunch the bones inside (for instance a wing or drumstick) by hitting it with a hammer.

Obviously there are more bone cuts that can be fed other than the ones mentioned in the chart above, though same principles will apply for those.
E.G all heads are roughly 75% bone, a goose foot will be counted the same as a duck foot etc.

Make sure you feed the right size bone for your pet, if you’re feeding bone for the first time and are worried about your pet swallowing the bone whole, hold it until you’re comfortable for your pet to finish eating it on it’s own, alternatively crush the bone with a hammer
Only ever feed raw bones, never cooked or other wise processed, these can splinter and cause injuries, in addition, due to the density of these types of bone, they can not always be digested properly.
If you do want to give weight-baring/  knuckle bones, give them as a recreational treat whilst supervised.
Once they’ve scraped off the meat remove the bone.
You can either save the bones till you have enough to make a broth or you can throw them in the bin

The best bones to feed are the softer more palatable bones, like the ones mentioned.