“Can dogs eat cooked beef bones?” The answer is a resounding, “no.” Cooked bones for dogs of any kind are simply too dangerous. It’s almost incredible now to realize it wasn’t that long ago that pet owners would routinely throw their dog a bone after dinner – not having any idea that it could easily splinter, resulting in bone fragments that could lead to major gastrointestinal tract issues.
Thankfully, pet parents now have a lot more information. There’s no denying that bones – raw bones, that is – can be an excellent source of nutrition (and help keep teeth clean).1 But cooked bones should always be off-limits – not only beef bones, but also chicken bones, pork bones, and any other type of cooked bone.
If you’re providing cooked bones for dogs, you need to stop – immediately. There are plenty of other options that will satisfy your pup while protecting their health.
If You Give Your Dog A Bone, Don’t Do This…
One of the best things you can do to avoid endangering your dog’s health is to avoid the following:
- Giving your dog any kind of cooked bone – Not only does cooking a bone make it much more likely your dog could suffer injury, it also removes a lot of important nutrients. This is especially true with pork rib bones. They’re incredibly high in fat, and a dog’s system can’t process it. Over time, this could lead to diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and more. In addition, cooked bones can also result in broken teeth. This is not only true for mealtime bones, but also any cooked bones you might find at your local pet store, such as antlers and hooves.
- Letting them chew bones to the point they fall apart – A bone can be an awesome treat to a dog, but the pieces can pose a choking risk if they get stuck in the throat. Bone fragments may also be sharp, and may cause cuts of not only the mouth and tongue, but even the gastrointestinal tract.2
…Do This Instead
If your dog loves eating bones, there are still safe ways you can incorporate them into your pup’s diet. Here are a couple of suggestions.
Most raw bones are safe for your dog, as long as you use them the right way. This means finding out where they came from if possible. If you can, get them from your local butcher shop. Keep the raw bones frozen until it’s time to give them as a treat.3
Also, try to only give bones that are close in size to your dog’s head. The bigger the bone, the less of a risk a piece will break off and cause problems. Beef and bison bones will be best. Throw out the bone after an hour or two.4
Why Are Cooked Bones So Risky?
The dangers of cooked bones can’t be overstated. Think about what would happen if you were chewing on a bone and it suddenly broke into about 10 or 20 jagged pieces. Can you imagine the pain you’d go through if those pieces went down your throat and into your stomach? That’s exactly what could happen to your dog.
So, the bottom line is: just don’t do it. Not only could it lead to choking and internal injuries, it could also result in cuts, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and even broken teeth.5
Potential Health Benefits Of Raw Bones
There are actually a lot of really good reasons to give raw bones to your dog. Here are just a few to keep in mind.
- Cleaning teeth – Strong, raw bones may help knock the tartar off of a dog’s teeth. When too much tartar builds up, that can lead to a lot more than just bad breath. It can also contribute to cavities and other dental issues. A good 10-15 minute bone chewing session should get the job done.
- Providing vital nutrients – You no doubt already make sure your dog’s food provides plenty of nutritional value. But raw bones can be a great supplement to their diet. Bones are filled with calcium, which, in turn, may help keep your dog’s own bones strong. The calcium in bones is very easy for dogs to digest – much easier than even calcium supplements. If you have a puppy who will eventually grow into a large dog, they’ll need all the calcium they can get.
- Curbing certain bad habits – Bones can also help keep dogs from performing some really annoying – and potentially harmful – habits, such as excessively licking and scratching themselves. Chewing on a bone, on the other hand, is a positive habit.6
Different Types Of Bones That Can Be Dangerous
It’s important to know exactly what types of bones are dangerous and why. Here’s a brief look.
- Beef – Even cooked beef bones can be harmful. You might think it would be okay to toss your pooch what’s left of a T-bone steak, but don’t. It’s true that cooked steak bones are harder than bones from other kinds of meat, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.
- Chicken – This could arguably be the biggest no-no of all when it comes to dogs and animal bones. Chicken bones are extremely fragile and can easily splinter, leading to a risk of choking. If a chicken bone does happen to get through the throat and into the stomach, it can do a lot of damage.
- Turkey – The same risks that apply to chicken bones apply to turkey bones.
- Pork – It will probably be a good rule of thumb to simply stay away from all types of pork bones, whether they’re raw or cooked. The next time you make pork chops, ham, or barbecued ribs, discard all bones as soon as you’re done.7
Raw Bones That Are Safe
Raw beef bones are typically large, and are generally safe for dogs as a result. Lamb bones are pretty close to beef in terms of thickness. If you plan on preparing lamb, take the bones out before cooking. Throw them in the freezer before giving them to your pooch.8
What About Store-Bought Chew Treats?
If you don’t want to deal with getting raw bones for your dog, but you now realize you shouldn’t ever give a dog a cooked bone, what are your options? You want your dog to be able to express their chewing instincts, but you don’t want them tearing up your shoes or furniture in the process. They have chew toys, but you also want them to get as many nutrients as possible.
One thing you might want to consider is a type of treat known as a “bully stick.” This is similar to a bone, but it won’t splinter and cause internal damage – it’s fully digestible. Bully sticks are very durable and should last a long time. Of course, bully sticks – or any other kinds of dog treats – should never be used to replace a balanced, nutritious diet.9
Cooked Bones For Dogs: The Bottom Line
So, can dogs eat cooked beef bones? No, they can’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give them healthy raw bones, or find other treats that will give them the nutrition they need — while also satisfying their natural instinct to chew.
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