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Cooked bones are quite dangerous. Cooking changes the structure of the bone, making it indigestible and easily splinterable. Raw bones rarely splinter and are fully digestible, even the collagen proteins that some people claim are "indigestible." It is mostly the byproducts of the digested bone that form the bulk of a raw-fed animal's feces. Dogs do not need the fiber from grains and vegetables, and feeding such foods only results in the big, soft, malodorous stools everyone complains about.

Let me repeat this for good measure: raw bones are completely digestible and are not dangerous for your animal. They are no more dangerous than kibble, and the only reasons they are made out to be dangerous are a) people misunderstand that raw bones are fully digestible while cooked are not, b) people want to scare you into thinking you are going to kill your dog if you give them bones, and c) bone-induced problems are blown way out of proportion in an effort to maintain the status quo of feeding kibble. What these people forget to tell you about are the 60,000 dogs dying from bloat each year, or the number of dogs dying from choking on kibble--which is a more common occurrence than one hears of!! They also forget to mention the numbers of dogs that choked on or swallowed tennis balls, rocks, sticks, and a variety of other objects. These incidences FAR outweigh the numbers of dogs that have problems with raw bones.

Yes, problems can occur with raw bones, just as problems can occur with feeding the "safer" kibble (bloat, choking, telescoping bowel, aspirated kibble leading to pneumonia, etc.). These problems typically occur in dogs that gulp their food or are fed small things like chicken wings and necks (the prime suspects of choking incidences on raw). Other culprits are the large weight-bearing bones of herbivores, things like knuckle bones, femurs, etc. These, ironically, are the kinds of bones pet food manufacturers and some vets recommend dogs receive regularly to help keep teeth clean! These bones chip or break teeth and can have pieces of bone flake off. If you are concerned about choking or about bones getting stuck or about broken teeth, here are some things you can do:

Feed appropriately sized pieces. Don't be feeding a dog the size of a Rottweiler a little chicken neck or wing! Feed that dog a whole chicken. Bigger pieces force the dog to slow down and chew.

Feed raw meaty bones frozen or partially frozen. The dog will have to work at it much harder and will be forced to slow down.

Don't feed the big weight-bearing bones of large herbivores.

If you are still worried, learn the doggie heimelich maneuver and monitor the dog while it eats (which should be done anyway, regardless of what the dog is fed!). And always remember: more dogs die from choking on kibble or from bloat than dogs choking on raw bones.

As for bones not being nutritious:

"Bones from prey are required by wolves as the major source of calcium and phosphorus for the maintenance of their own skeletons. Bones, in fact, are a surprisingly well-balanced food for canids" (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, pg125).


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