Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Bones

 After our previous posts dedicated to meat and offal, this week it’s all about a dog’s all time favourite: bones. A ‘hot’ and controversial subject which has split the crowd into two battling sides for decades. To feed or not to feed bones, this seems to be the tricky question, and I found myself struggling with it when we first started feeding George raw food.

What kind of bones? How much? When? Won’t he choke? What if they splinter? Should I try ground bone instead? All of these tormented me for weeks while I was trying to make the right decision,  and I’m sure there are other people out there who are asking or have asked themselves the same questions. Hopefully, my (limited) experience on the subject will help answer some of them.


First of all, if you’re thinking that maybe there’s no need for bones at all, think again. Bones – which are a living tissue – are a vital ingredient to a healthy dog’s diet, since they contain calcium and all the other minerals that are important in growing healthy bones,  plus enzymes, amino acids, copper and iron, all of which are essential for a dog’s body to operate properly.

In the wild, before dogs were domesticated, they used to hunt and eat other, smaller animals in order to survive. Their teeth are designed to tear, crunch and chew meat and bones – not little meat-flavoured pellets – and their body is designed to cope with that.  Moreover, it is a proven fact that, nutrition aside, dogs have a psychological need to gnaw on bones. If you want to keep your dog happy, give him a bone. Otherwise, do not be surprised to find teeth marks on some of your prized possessions or antique furniture.

Also, bones provide mental stimulation and exercise the dogs’ neck and jaw muscles. They can also be useful in cleaning the teeth and reducing tartar, whilst the chewing action slows down the eating process and makes it harder for a dog to over-eat.

For those of you who are willing to give bones a try, here is what we do. We feed George chicken wings and lamb ribs all year around, because they are softer and less likely to splinter and are easily available for not much money. I like the fact that I can feed him these indoors in the winter, by simply holding one end whilst he munches on the other. This prevents the bones from being dragged around the house and is a good safeguard measure that stops greedy dogs from swallowing large pieces of bone and potentially choking on them. Turkey necks are also recommended, but I have so far been unable to find a good local source.

In the warmer months, when George can spend a lot of time in the garden, we add bigger lamb bones as well as the occasional marrow bone and knucklebones, which keep him entertained for hours. All dogs love marrow bones, but marrow has a high fat content which could cause diarrhoea if fed too often, so these tend to be more of a once in a while treat rather than a menu fixture.

Knucklebones are one of the best types of bones to feed a dog, since they contain cartilage and soft tissue that do not pose the risk of splinters or tooth damage (if the dog’s a ‘hard chewer’),  and even the bony part tends to be softer than regular bones. Because of their large size, there’s also no risk that the dog will swallow them whole and choke on them. Overall, a wonderful choice, providing that you can find a reliable source for them.

There are a few aspects to take into consideration if you want to make feeding raw bones a success:

1) Never ever feed cooked bones, because they are much more likely to splinter and cause internal damage. The same applies for raw pork bones, as these are also prone to splintering and any meat that may be on them could contain harmful bacteria.

2)  Always be around when your dog is eating bones, just in case they choke and you have to intervene.

3) It is not a bad idea to feed bones after a meal, rather than as a meal, since dogs are more likely to not chew them properly and try to swallow them whole when they are hungry. Make bones an after-meal treat and your furry friends should be savouring them without any problems.  

If you are still worrying about your dog potentially choking on a bone and are not willing to take the chance, don’t worry, there’s still a solution. You could choose to feed ground bone, which still retains all its nutritional value and can be easily mixed with the rest of the food. You do lose the chewing factor, but you remove the risk entirely. It’s worth a thought, and there are quite a few online companies that supply raw pet food consisting of meat and ground bone mixed together.



Filed under Nutrition

21 responses to “Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Bones

  1. Wow!
    Our vet said never to give Cujo bones of any sort. Cooked or raw. Interesting post.

    • Hiya, and thanks for your comment. It’s hit and miss with the vets, some will advise you against feeding raw, whilst others will congratulate you for it. I’ve met both types. Not knowing which ones to believe, I decided to do some research so that I can decide for myself what’s best for my dog. This is how I became a strong believer in feeding Barf (bones including), but I am willing to accept that other people believe otherwise. After all, it’s a matter of personal choice. As well as this choice is based on an informed opinion, it’s OK.

      P.S. As said in my post, I completely agree that dogs should never be given cooked bones.

  2. This is a great post…as I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve always been very interested in feeding RAW, but never knew of anyone who did it. Once we get settled, whenever and wherever that is, I think we’ll definitely have another discussion.

    Thanks for all the great info!

    • Thank you, it’s a nice feeling to know that someone finds your posts useful 🙂 I know how much you love Gus (I’ve seen that medical chart that you keep for him and I’m really impressed), therefore I am convinced that you’ll put in a lot of thought in deciding if raw is suitable for him or not. After all, you don’t have to go all the way like we did, little changes can have huge benefits, too. I’m looking forward to finding out what Gus thinks about all of this.
      But, before that, good luck with the move and, more importantly, getting settled. We moved in our current home/region about 3 years ago and, in a way, we’re still settling. These things can take a while, can’t they?

  3. We buy the big beef knee bones for our dogs and it has served all of our dogs well over the past twenty five years. Only one dog (a malamute) had problems with any kind of bones. Turns out he had a gastro-intestinal problem that prevented him from having such fun once we found this out, we stopped giving him bones.

    • Thanks for your input, Lionel, you’re the living proof and the voice of wisdom that I needed for this post! I think your 25 years of experience speak for themselves. And we all know how beautiful and healthy your dogs look as a result 🙂

  4. Oh my gosh — you are so smart, and so dedicated to eating healthy! Not just for your daughter, but for your dog too. I didn’t even know what offal was, so I clicked to your other post and almost “barfed” myself. I wish I wasn’t so squeamish in the kitchen. It’s hard for me to make meatballs, and there’s no bones or offal in it! For years I couldn’t make chicken wings because just touching the raw meat made me nauseated. I’ve gotten better. A little. Now I just sort of power through it — for the good of my family.

    My hat is off to you, for reaching so deeply to provide for your own family!

    • Melissa, you’ve just made me blush! I don’t know if I’m that smart, but you’re right about eating healthy: I’m obsessed with it. It can take some effort at times, but it’s worth it, as both my child and my dog are healthy, happy and alert and none of us are overweight 🙂
      I guess I’m lucky that I’ve never been the squeamish type, I can touch and handle anything and enjoy it, whether it’s in the kitchen or in the garden. I can imagine it’s hard to ‘play’ with things like meat if they make you feel sick…Well done for finding the determination to fight your natural aversion ‘for the good of your family’. I love that phrase, it sums up your dedication and love for your kids and husband, which so clearly shows in your posts. This, plus your sense of humour, is why I love your blog so much 🙂

  5. We don’t feed raw, but we do occasionally give raw bones for all the reasons you mentioned! I think you did a great job of explaining all the benefits! 🙂

    • Congratulations, Carrie, for giving your girls bones! I think the benefits of doing this, even occassionally, are significant and could be one of the reasons why they look so beautiful and healthy. I’m glad you found the post structured and clear enough, I sometimes worry about these things 🙂

  6. I just came across your blog when searching for other dog focused blogs here on wordpress. I love what I am reading so far. While I don’t raw feed completely (I just don’t have the time to throw myself completely into the research and preparation for it, however I know many people who feed raw with glowing results), we do give our dog the occasional chicken neck as a treat and for his teeth.

    You gained a subscriber 🙂

    • Hi, Kristen, and thanks for stopping by. This is a really nice coincidence, since I’ve just left a comment on your blog (I found it in the “What did you post on your blog today” section of the forums). I love your blog and I think Bailey is absolutely adorable. I’ll be keeping my eye on your little chap’s adventures, too. 🙂

  7. I’ve always liked giving our dogs raw bones. We like lamb shanks, the smaller more ribby lamb bones, beef brisket [which for some reason is harder to come by], and the big beef marrow bones . Not so fond of chicken necks and wings though we have given those as well.

    Our vet recently advised to feed G 2 raw chic wings each day…get this… in an attempt to settle her stomach! It seemed to work for a couple of weeks, then it all went pear-shaped again. Damn that bucket of fat and dripping and my dog’s scrounging ways! I notice that the dog poop is always drier and more crumbly after bones.

    Our dogs tend to devour the whole bone. I do keep an eye on them and try to grab the splinters as the bones break. I’ve never heard of powdered bone before but that may be a good thing for me to check out…as a supplement perhaps? I’m sure it smells pretty yum too.

    • First of all, well done you for giving your fur babies such a variety of bones. They’re big kids, so they need big bones. I don’t blame you for not liking chicken wings and necks too much, as I agree that they are too small for them. I’ve never heard of chicken wings being used as a treatment for unsettled stomach, but your vet must know what she’s talking about. It’s a shame Georgia’s got problems again, is there any chance it is from something else? Just asking.
      It’s funny that you keep an eye on their poop, I do the same, as it can be an indication for the dog’s state of health. I haven’t noticed it being drier or more crumbly, but then I don’t think George eats as much bone in one go as Georgia and Rufus do. It takes George a few days to finish a larger bone, he likes to take his time. I’m also terrified of splinters so I watch him like a hawk when he’s eating, just in case I have to intervene.
      I don’t know if you can purchase bone powder separately, but I’ll look. Here in the UK, there are a few raw pet food retailers that sell meat and ground bone mixed together, which is ideal for people who do not feed bones. I don’t think you need to worry about that, with your dogs getting plenty of them.

      • Yes, I was surprised at the vet’s suggestion too but it did seem to work. I just spoke to him this arvo and he reckons I can slowly reintroduce it back to her diet in about 10 days. This means no birthday bones for Georgia. Thank goodness she doesn’t really have a clue its her birth, or rather gotcha, day 🙂

        I’m quite upset that their tums have gone so bad. When I started home cooking their meals (after R’s pancreatitis diagnosis), I was amazed at the difference it made to their wellness. G was fat at the time. The weight just dropped off. Her skin allergies disappeared. It took less than a month to see the difference in both of them!

        We believe G’s tum is bad because she’s a master scrounger. It first went bad after that bucket of fat, so I’m guessing she had an acute pancreatitic attack and her gut hasn’t yet recovered. She had a fecal test just last week and everything came back negative. But the vet has his eye on her. We look at poop a lot! One of the things we always ask at the end of a walk is…”how was the poop?” 🙂

        Now that I know how petite George is, I can understand your fear of splinters!

      • Oh, yes, Georgia’s birthday! I’ll leave her a proper birthday message on HER blog 🙂
        Your second paragraph is the perfect testimony that home-made food works and is better. I’d say this applies not only to dogs, but to humans, too.
        I’m glad Georgia’s results came back OK. She’ll be ok, she’s a real tough nut.
        “How was the poop?” is something you’ll hear in our house, too, after George’s every walk 🙂

  8. Pingback: Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Fish | my little dog

  9. Pingback: Our first big RAW feeding experience! « Live, Bark, Love

  10. We have been feeding raw for almost two years now. I started out with one meal per day (ground meat/bone) while I kept them on a grain free kibble.

    We switched totally raw at the beginning of this year. Now they get either chicken or turkey necks in the morning and ground at night. The bones keep their teeth SO clean.

    Sampsons more so than Delilah because he is a better chewer. 🙂

    We use Oma’s Pride and I believe they do sell in all continental states. You could check them out to look for a local provider.

    Great post about the raw food.

  11. Marg

    I just wanted to comment quickly as I love your blog. We have been feeding raw for over 8 years (all our dogs life), She had her first whole chicken wing at 3 weeks at the breeders. We have never had any bone problems. She was purchased from a breeder who has 5 generations of raw fed dogs (many many years). We finally found an holistic vet who is totally on board and said not to change anything as we have a very very healthy happy dog. She is a Shelti and has the most gorgeous thick long coat. Thank you for all your tidbits of info and I look forward to more posts in the future.

    • Hi, Marg… Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. It’s always nice to meet people who share the same opinions, and it’s a great thumbs up for me to hear that you found the information in my posts interesting, especially since you’ve got a lot of experience in feeding raw yourself. George’s breeder also fed the pups raw food … You’ve got to trust that the breeders know what they’re doing, right? I love Shelties, your dog must be gorgeous…

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