What Kind of Bones Are and Aren’t Safe for Dogs?

Dogs and bones are an archetypal combination, but not all animal bones are actually safe for dogs to eat. They love them, but some bones – particularly, though not limited to, bones from poultry – are actually dangerous for dogs to chew.

The reason is that they can splinter into sharp fragments, which can tear your dog’s digestive tract if swallowed. Here’s what you need to know about what bones are and aren’t okay for dogs.

What are the Best Bones for Dogs?

Some bones are safer for dogs that others, depending on what animal they came from, and what specific bone it is. Here are some of the types of bones that are relatively safe for dogs.

Uncooked Bones

Cooked bones break and fracture more easily, potentially cutting your dog’s digestive tract. Raw bones are safer, though they should be washed to remove potentially harmful bacteria.

Large Bones

The safest bones for dogs to chew on are larger ones, particularly from mammals like cows and pigs. This is especially true for large dog breeds, like retrievers and German shepherds.

Smaller bones, like rib bones or bones from steaks, are more likely to break and cause an internal injury. The American Kennel Club recommends giving large dog breeds bones that are at least as long as their muzzle.

Beef Bones

Beef bones, particularly large ones, are among the safest for dogs to chew. The bones of cows are quite dense, and not prone to breaking and splintering.

Lamb Bones

Like cows, sheep have large, dense bones that won’t break apart easily.

What Bones Aren’t Safe for Dogs?

The majority of animal bones aren’t particularly safe for your dog to chew on. If they break apart into sharp fragments, complications can include internal lacerations, choking, and intestinal blockages.

Bones from chickens and other birds

Chickens are birds, and bird bones have some unique qualities, partly due to the role of flight. The bones of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other poultry are hollow and lightweight – unfortunately, this also means they break and splinter into sharp fragments easily.

Chicken bones can put dogs at risk of internal injuries and lacerations, specifically in their esophagus, stomach, and intestines. This is especially true if the chicken bones have been cooked, but raw chicken bones should also be avoided.

Pork Bones

Pork bones are relatively small and light, and whether they’re cooked or raw, they can break apart easily.

Deer Bones

Like pork bones, deer bones aren’t quite dense and robust enough to withstand chewing without breaking apart into sharp, dangerous pieces.

Cooked Bones

Bones that have been cooked are more likely to splinter, and should be avoided.

What do I do if my dog eats an unsafe pork or poultry bone?

If your dog gets their hands on a bone that isn’t safe for them to chew, you should take it away from them immediately. If they’ve swallowed bone material, keep an eye on them over the next couple of days for signs of distress, like vomiting, unusually excessive drooling, poor appetite, or lack of normal bowel movements. These are signs of a possible intestinal blockage.

In some cases, the bone pieces will pass through the dog’s digestive tract without causing any problems. But if you notice any symptoms of a blockage, take them to the vet as soon as possible. They may need an endoscopy, and possibly even surgery to remove the bone.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian when in doubt.


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