Dr. Laurel Davis,Western NC holistic veterinarian, offers Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Give Your Dog A Bone? 15 Important Chewing Rules from Asheville’s integrative veterinarian
Just like everything else, there is a time and a place for the ideal large recreational raw chew bone … or maybe not.
This is often a surprise for people who bring their dogs to Sunvet Animal Wellness, my Asheville integrative veterinarian clinic: not every dog is capable of handling a fun chewing bone. It pays to know your dog well enough to create an entertaining and safe structure whereby Ruff can remove dental plaque, reap excellent calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, give his stomach muscles a much-needed workout and generate fecal bulk for hale and hearty bowel movements!
Top 10 Rules of the Bone Game:
- Never feed steamed or smoked bones. These may also be called ‘sterilized’ bones.Through these processes, the chemical structure of the bone changes, making it harder and more brittle. Obviously, if the bone is very hard, Fluffy might fracture her precious molars. Brittle bones fracture easily, creating sharp shards. These pointed pieces are likely to irritate the gastrointestinal tract and may cause a blockage if there are enough of them. Raw bones are best. Raw bones will be found in the refrigerator or freezer of your pet store.
- You can feed bones up to three times a week. Most of my clients give their dog a bone about once a week.
- Large bones are best. Offer bones about the same size as your dog’s head.
- If you are offering a previously frozen raw bone, make sure it is completely thawed before giving to your dog. Frozen bones, even if they are raw, may chip or break teeth.
- First time bone chewers should only have their bone for fifteen minutes, especially if they are not currently on a raw food diet. This gradual introduction will decrease the likelihood of stomach or intestinal overactivity, or indigestion possibly resulting in unwanted diarrhea. Also, the sheer excitement over landing a real piece of beast to chew on is likely to create overstimulation of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in discomfort and looser stools
- Recreational bones are not for pups with pancreatitis, diseases of the mouth, weak or fractured teeth. They should also be on the “no” list for resource guarders, super aggressive chewers or gulpers. See rules below for more insight into these specific areas.
- If your dog is a gulper and tends to scarf down every morsel he’s offered, you’ll need to be cautious about any size bone or chew you feed him because there’s a chance it could end up in his stomach whole. For any sized gulper, go big on the bone size. Whether your scarfer is a Golden Retriever or a Jack Russell Terrier, if you offer a recreational bone larger than the size of his head, it makes it nearly impossible for him to wolf down.
- Always feed bones from inside the USA unless the source is a known free-range cattle company. Of course, run with your own personal preference concerning organic, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered bone sources.
- Definitely do not feed any unlabelled bones from bins. Firstly, they are not raw bones. Remember, your raw bones will be found in a freezer or refrigerator. Secondly, why feed something to your beautiful buddy that you really know nothing about how or where it is sourced?
- Some dogs are aggressive chewers. If you have one, you know that this is the dog that wants to chew that bone up, the whole bone, and do it as fast as possible. Many aggressive chewers develop fractured or worn down teeth, with their dental health sacrificed in their mission to conquer the bone. What you can offer these crazed chewers are big, raw knucklebones. Raw knucklebones are a bit softer and are gentler on the teeth. Monitor these dogs closely, as they will whittle their bone down to virtually nothing in no time flat. Confiscate the bone before it becomes a size that they can swallow easily.
And…5 More Rules:
- Most raw bones have a creamy center called the marrow. Marrow is very high in fat. Most dogs that are given a marrowbone will tend to focus on the fatty prize inside. The risk of consuming so much fat is massive gastrointestinal upset which may even result in vomiting and diarrhea. Also, let’s face it, fat is high in calories, therefore is not the best choice for a chubby pup.
- You can make a marrowbone a relatively fat-free bone. Scoop the marrow out and replace it with canned pumpkin, then refreeze the bone and thaw it out later for a healthier treat.
- Rib bones are narrow and should only be given to gentle chewers.
- Antlers are the world’s strongest bones and they last forever. Antlers should really only be given to a gentle chewer. Giving small antlers to small dogs and big antlers to big dogs is a really good idea.
- I don’t recommend offering hooves for your dog’s chewing pleasure. They are sharp and brittle. They cause more cut mouths than any other recreational bone on the market.
So, yes there are some important rules to play by when you are playing the Bone Game with your wonder dog. The bottom line is, as always, use common sense and introduce your pal to the fun slowly so you can observe how he or she plays the game.
Dr. Laurel Davis is Western NC holistic veterinarian offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinic. Read more patient stories.
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