Benefits of feeding Bones to dogs: How to feed your pet a healthy diet and maintain good health?

Do you know that bones are an important part of a dog’s diet? And that feeding your pet Bones can help maintain good health? In this article, we’ll tell you all about the benefits of feeding Bones to your dog, and why it’s important to include them in their diet. We’ll also discuss the different types of Bones, and which ones are the best for your pet. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to feed your dog Bones in a healthy and nutritious way. So read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding Bones to your dog!

Canines have been consuming raw bones for as long as they have been tracking, attacking and killing their prey… far back in the early shadows of evolution.  Today’s canine house pets share almost exactly the same genetic determiners of anatomy and behavior as their long distant predecessors.

Benefits of feeding Bones to Dogs

When early man found out that the canine, if captured very early in life, could be trained to do man’s bidding, the destiny of the canine was changed forever.  Humans found ways to breed the canine companions for specific jobs, such as hauling, hunting or retrieving.  And coat color became important when “modern” humans got interested in status symbols and prized possessions.  Body size and shape became important because the humans who were hunting prey needed specific types of canines to assist in the hunt. One type of canine would be better suited to chase down elk and another body type would be best at digging rodents from their earthen dens. That’s why, in the world of dogs, we have today all sorts of body types and sizes.

What didn’t change, though, through all those centuries of breeding for specific body and coat types was the internal configuration and function of organ systems.  The general pattern of teeth, stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, heart and other mammalian organs stayed the same.  If you were to take a look at the internal organs of a Saint Bernard, a wolf, or a Chihuahua you’d see that they are arranged, shaped, and function in identical ways!  With such differences in body size, color and shape it doesn’t seem possible that they originated from a common ancestor and share the same internal anatomical and biochemical machinery.

Modern man has modified a number of characteristics of the canine.  But there’s one thing man has not altered… the basic nutrient requirements of the dog.  Dogs need today essentially the same nutrients that their predecessors required eons ago.  That is precisely why there has been so much notice given to the practice of feeding dogs (and cats, too!) raw meat and other unprocessed foods. There is ample proof that today’s pet dogs and cats DO NOT thrive on cheap, packaged, corn-based pet foods.  Dogs and cats are primarily meat eaters; to fill them up with grain-based processed dry foods that barely meet minimum daily nutrient requirements has proven to be a mistake.  And the fact that some pet foods have artificial colors and flavors added simply reveals the trickery needed to coax dogs and cats into consuming such material.

Raw Bone Consumption has Nutritional Advantages

There arises the question of safety when feeding raw foods, too.  The risk of infection from food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli need to be understood.  (This topic is addressed at  And the question of the need to feed whole, raw bones to dogs has yet to be answered to everyone’s satisfaction.  There are many proponents of feeding raw bones to dogs and the feeling is that the benefits gained from consuming raw bones far outweighs any perceived hazard of bone impaction or intestinal perforation.  (See the bones section of for information on the hazards of feeding whole bones to dogs.)  Finely ground raw bone presents no hazard, though.

Proponents of feeding whole bones to dogs (the contention is that COOKED bones are a safety hazard, RAW bones are not) state that there are great nutritional benefits derived from consuming raw bones.  These nutritional benefits can actually be seen in the greatly enhanced health status of the dog when the dog is switched away from processed, dry food diets.  Raw bones, some contend, are an absolute necessity; dogs will not live a long and healthy life unless their diet contains RAW BONES.  But is this contention based on facts?  Is it the actual bone itself that provides all these nutritional benefits… or the attached soft tissues that really are the storehouses of nutrients?  Let’s find out where these nutritional benefits are really coming from…

Marrow is NOT boneCartilage
The marrow cavity of any bone is composed mainly of fat and blood components… high quality nutrients, to be sure, but the minimal reward for scraping out a bit of fatty  marrow hardly warrants the status of it being declared a daily requirement for a dog.  Read Official Publication of American Feed Control Officials, 1997, page 191:  Regarding bone marrow, it “…is the soft material coming from the center of large bones, such as leg bones.  This material, which is predominantly fat, is separated from the bone material by mechanical separation.”Cartilage is 50 percent collagen (a poorly digestible fibrous connective tissue) and mucopolysaccharides which are chains of glucose molecules in combination with mucous.
(Dry weight basis)

Are whole raw bones a requirement for health in the canine?

bones to dogs
Bones to Dogs-Are whole raw bones a requirement for health in the canine?

As a veterinarian with over thirty years of hands-on experience dealing with healthy and sick dogs and cats, and as a veterinarian with a keen interest in nutritional consequences affecting dogs and cats and as a member of a national veterinary nutrition association, I must ask two questions of those who so staunchly believe that RAW BONE consumption is an absolute requirement for dogs:
    1.)  Could it be that the nutritional benefits seemingly derived from feeding RAW BONES is mostly derived from the meat, fat and connective tissues attached to those raw bones more so than from the actual bone itself?  In other words, “Is the benefit really coming from bone… or from the attached muscle, fat and connective tissue?”
    2.)  How can it be explained that I have seen many very healthy, old dogs in the course of practice that have never eaten a single RAW BONE?  (Of course these old, healthy and very fortunate petshave owners who are feeding these dogs meat, fruit and other “table scraps”.  That may be precisely why they are old and healthy!)

From Miller’s Anatomy Of The Dog, 2nd Edition, W. B. Saunders Co., page 112: “Bone is about one third organic and two thirds inorganic material.  The inorganic matrix of bone has a microcrystalline structure composed principally of calcium phosphate.”    

Bone, then, is composed mainly (two-thirds) of calcium phosphate.  The calcium and phosphorus ratios and total amounts in the diet are very important factors, especially in rapidly growing, large breeds.  The results of ongoing research clearly document that the unique nutritional needs of the large breed puppy are best provided by a diet matrix containing a minimum of 26% protein (high quality, animal-based source), a minimum of 14% fat, and 0.8% Calcium and 0.67% Phosphorus.  Also the ideal amount of calcium in the food is 1.0 to 1.8 percent of the dry weight of that food. Low quality dog foods often contain 2 and even 3 percent of the dry weight as calcium.  This is due to the large amount of ground bone in the meat, poultry or fish meal.  Diets with high amounts of  “meat and bone meal” may surpass the optimal percentage of Calcium.

This data was derived from Orthopaedics: Principles and Appications, Samuel L. Turek, M.D.,  J. B. Lippincott, 1985, 2nd Edition.  pages 113 and 136.

The Composition of Bone

(Technically this means substances that have no Carbon atom present.)
    65 to 70 percent of the bone is composed of inorganic substances.   Almost all of this inorganic substance is a compound called hydroxyapatite. [Think of this substance as little mineral crystals.]  The chemical composition of hydroxyapatite is (10 Calcium atoms, 6 Phosphorus atoms,  26 Oxygen atoms, and 2 Hydrogen atoms). 
    Therefore, 65 to 70 percent of bone is a mineral compound called hydroxyapatite that is composed of nothing more than Calcium, Phosphorus, Oxygen and Hydrogen.  There are no Vitamins, Fatty Acids, enzymes, proteins or carbohydrates in this, the largest component of raw bone.  It is a nice source of Calcium and Phosphorus, though.
(Technically this means substances that do have Carbon atoms present.)
     30 to 35% of bone is composed of organic material (on a dry weight basis).  Of this amount nearly 95 % is a substance called collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein.  It is poorly digested by the dog and cat.  The other one-twentieth of the 30% organic substances are Chondroitin Sulfate, Keratin sulfate, and Phospholipids.
    Therefore, 30 to 35% of bone is collagen with a tiny fraction of other compounds.
     The following quote is from Canine and Feline Nutrition by Case, Carey and Hirakawa, 1995, page 175… “The matrix of bone is composed of the protein collagen. Collagen is very poorly digested by dogs and cats yet will be analyzed as protein in the pet food.”

So, if we have a one pound bone (and all the water is vacuumed out) and we feed it to our dog for its wonderful nutritional benefits, where are those benefits coming from?  If 70% of the bone is minerals and only 30% of that one pound is composed of poorly digested collagen, where is all this purported nutritional reward?  There are no vitamins, no Omega Fatty Acids in BONE, no digestive enzymes, and only scant amounts of poorly digestible amino acids locked up in the collagen.   Even if stomach acids could leach out all the collagen locked up in the bone fragments the collagen would yield minimal nutritional value.

Finely ground bone is a good source of Calcium and Phosphorus.  Finely ground bone presents no risk whatsoever to the canine or feline digestive tract.  Rather than feeding whole raw bones to dogs based on the erroneous notion that those whole bones provide outstanding nutritional benefits, we are much more accurate in asserting that whole raw bones provide a good balance of Calcium and Phosphorus for dogs… and that’s about it!  (For chewing exercise why not use a hard Rawhide Bone that softens if ingested?)

Other than being a great source of Calcium and Phosphorus, the chemical composition of raw bones is such that minimal nutritional benefits are obtained from their ingestion.  Marrow does have some nutritional value but is composed mainly of fat.

Now… to answer another question:  Do RAW BONES splinter when cracked open?  Take a look at the following photos.  A fresh raw beef bone (with fat, muscle and connective tissue still present!) was purchased from the grocery store, placed in a vise and compressed until it broke open.  The shards and splinters were collected and placed on the dish in front of the fractured bone.  The images speak for themselves.  I don’t know about you but I sure wouldn’t allow my dog to feast on this banquet!

In this blog, we’re going to discuss the benefits of feeding bones to dogs. Yes, you read that right! Bones are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals that can help keep your dog healthy and fit. Not only that, but they also provide your pet with an enriching experience that can encourage it to engage in healthy chewing and play activities. If you’re curious about whether or not feeding bones to dogs is a good idea, or if you’re just curious about the benefits in general, please let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!

frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of dogs eating bones?

Bones are high in minerals and other nutrients and can help your dog eat less. Chewing promotes saliva enzymes, which aids in the prevention of plaque development on teeth and gum disease. A dog who chews on a bone is also less likely to scratch or lick his paws excessively.

Are bones good for dogs everyday?

Constipation can result from eating too many bones. The typical recommendation is one to two raw bones each week, spaced out by a few days, but this may vary depending on the dog, so consult your veterinarian. Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s diet.

Are bones nutritious for dogs?

Raw bones can be a nutritious and safe addition to your dog’s diet. Raw bones have been a necessary for the canine species’ wellness for thousands of years, providing nutritional, physical, and mental benefits. It’s no surprise: they help clean teeth, divert undesirable behavior, and give essential nutrients.

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