Your dog loves bones almost as much as they love you, and it’s not hard to see why.
Dog bones provide hours of fun, excitement and mental stimulation, they taste delicious, and they help to build strong neck and jaw muscles. They’re also great for teeth - it’s well documented that bones are an effective tool for preventing gum disease and other oral health issues.
But what bones are best?
Below we explore the different types of dog bones available and offer some tips for feeding them to your furry friend safely.
Dog bones - a taste of the wild
Dogs are meat eaters. In the wild, they live off a whole prey diet of raw meat, including bones and organs.
Although your canine companion doesn’t have to hunt for food like their ancestors did, they still have 42 teeth that are designed for slicing, tearing and crunching – which is why munching on raw bones comes naturally to them.
Not only do they LOVE the taste (bone marrow is rich in flavorful fat), but all those hours of gnawing provide fantastic mental stimulation as your dog tries to figure out how to rip every last trace of meat from the bone.
Chewing is also a great workout for their jaw muscles, and stimulates the release of endorphins (happy hormones!), so it’s no wonder your dog goes crazy with excitement every time you offer them a bone.
Dog bones clean teeth and freshen breath – naturally
Bones are dubbed ‘nature’s toothbrush’ for a reason: they’re the most effective and natural way to keep your dog’s oral health in strong condition.
The biting and crunching of bone and cartilage scrapes off plaque and tartar buildup on your dog’s teeth, while cleaning and massaging gums (and freshening breath!) in the process.
While bones are great for everyday maintenance, it’s also important to visit your vet for regular checkups. Like a professional teeth cleaning you have at the dentist, your vet may suggest a yearly (or more or less frequent, depending on your dog’s breed and the state of their oral health) professional cleaning of your dog’s teeth, which will remove any tartar buildup and leave their chompers as good as new.
What bones are best?
There are lots of options out there and it’s important to choose wisely – the right bone can keep your dog happy and content for hours, while the wrong bone can do serious damage.
Raw bones are generally safe to chew on, as long as you choose the right size for your dog and supervise them at all times. You can head to your neighborhood butcher or pet store and ask for a raw bone, ideally one with lots of meaty parts, cartilage and soft tissue still attached, which will essentially give your dog’s teeth a good ‘brush and floss.’
Cooked bones (of any kind) are ones to avoid! Cooked bones - the type you might throw away after grilling a lamb cutlet, roasting a turkey or slow cooking a large leg of pork - are usually darker in color than their raw counterparts. Cooked bones have a tendency to splinter (because the cooking process makes them brittle), which can hurt your dog’s mouth and cause digestive issues.
Air-dried bones are increasingly popular because they offer all the taste, nutrition and cleaning power of raw bones, but with the added convenience of being able to take them with you anywhere (no mess, and no need to worry about keeping them frozen!).
Because they’re processed at a very low temperature, air-dried bones are less likely to splinter and also less likely to harbor harmful bacteria. Interested in giving them a try?
Why not start with our most popular ZIWI® Peak air-dried bone, the Venison Shank Bone. The bone is full of nutrients and marrow, and is wrapped in beef esophagus (which dogs love). It comes in half or full-size options, so you can be sure you’re giving your pet the right-sized bone.
The Venison Shank Bone is softer than many other bones and also contains cartilage, which helps to clean your dog’s teeth while offering hours of gnawing pleasure.
Tips for feeding your dog bones
The golden rule when feeding your dog a bone is to supervise them at all times. Here are some other tips to remember:
- Every dog is different, so consider their age, size and chewing behavior before giving them a bone.
- Small bones aren’t ideal for aggressive chewers as they could be swallowed whole or cause choking. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, try the full-size Venison Shank Bone - its long size and dense bone structure will keep your dog safe and happy.
- Avoid giving your dog a bone when they’re really hungry, as they will be more likely to swallow large pieces which can lead to digestive issues.
- Don’t leave raw bones in your yard for days on end as they can become brittle (and a breeding ground for bacteria) – once your dog has had their fun, toss it out.
Bones for puppies - things to consider
Did you know puppies generally lose their baby teeth between the ages of three to six months?
Many bones aren’t appropriate for young puppies, but it’s important to give them plenty of safe chewing options while their adult teeth are still developing - otherwise you may find your couch or shoes become accidental chew toys!
Like teenagers, puppies go through phases of testing their limits. By providing safe chewing options early (and giving them plenty of exercise and training), you can avoid your puppy developing destructive chewing habits that are hard to break later in life.
ZIWI’s range of chews (which are slowly air-dried to maintain nutrients) are a safe and gentle option to keep your puppy occupied - just remember to supervise them!
Once your puppy reaches approximately eight months they should have their full set of adult teeth, so you can start offering them raw or air-dried bones.
A whole-prey diet (including raw and air-dried bones - nature’s toothbrush!) will help keep your dog’s teeth in tip-top condition naturally. If you give them the right food, bones and chews (and see your vet for regular checkups) you shouldn’t have to worry about specialised dental dog food.