How good are bones? What i learned when i gave my dog a bone.

Published by

My dog, Stretch the Dachshund, was nine years old when he had his first proper meaty bone. He had a standard dog diet of dry kibble and, subsequently, the worst breath! We’ve all heard the “Should your dog eat bones?” debate, and there are plenty of good reasons for and against it, making it so much harder for dog owners to decide. On one hand, your dog loses all of its teeth and will have disgusting breath till the end of time. On the other hand, your dog breaks a tooth, and his bowels are impacted, requiring expensive surgery. This may leave you wondering, “Those are my options?!” I’m here to tell you that those aren’t your only options.


As I mentioned, my dog had a basic dry dog food diet, which is not very conducive to good oral health, no matter how jagged pet food companies try to make their kibble. This meant he had developed some nasty-looking teeth. And to be fair, his teeth weren’t even the worst I had seen, but they were bad enough that I wanted to do something about it – for his health, of course.

At the time, I was aware of the big “bone debate”, and I had never really given Stretch any bones because of the fear of him choking. He had already been eating all the fancy store-bought “dental sticks” and what-not, to no avail. My last option was to try feeding Stretch a bone. And before you yell at the screen, “Why didn’t you just get a clean and scale at the vet?!” remember, he was nine years old. Technically, that’s geriatric. The less he goes under anesthetic, the better.

Content with my decision to try feeding him a bone, I headed to the supermarket and picked up some soup bones. They were a decent size, had some meat on them, and some of the marrow was exposed. “Perfect!” I thought. And so did Stretch. He quite happily ate the whole thing and was not letting me have any, either!

About three days had gone by, and I noticed Stretch was pawing at his face. Upon closer inspection, unfortunately for my nose, it looked like a piece of bone had become lodged between his teeth. The smell was horrendous! And he was clearly in pain. I felt terrible. I tried to avoid the vet, but he ended up going in anyway. If there ever was a fail moment, this would be it.

At the Veterinary office, they extracted his very important Carnassial tooth and several other teeth that apparently fell out during the cleaning and extraction. The Vet explained that he had cracked his tooth on the bone, which got stuck, causing bacteria to build up.

I know this must seem like the classic horror story we’ve all been told by someone who knew someone who knew someone. Dog is fed bone – dog has some kind of obstruction – expensive surgery to follow – bones are bad.

But my story doesn’t end this way. My dog still eats bones today; he has not had any issues, loves them and is completely healthy at almost 15 years old. My story, in fact, ends with me being in favour of bones!


A while after this incident, and for a totally unrelated reason, I had been speaking with an Animal Naturopath who recommended I switch Stretch to a natural fresh diet in order to fix his allergies. This would mean feeding Stretch Bones again… 

Here’s what really happened to Stretch.

Dogs have descended from wolves, and despite all the different breeds we have today, they have retained the same digestive system (with the minor adaptation of a very minute amount of starch-digesting enzymes being produced, which some will tell you means that your dog should eat starches – but that’s a whole other kettle of fish). Wolves and other related carnivorous species eat the entire carcass of their prey. That means organs, hair and bones. They have done this for millions of years, and no one has ever questioned their diet. The stomach acid of a carnivore is incredibly low at roughly 2 PH, similar to battery acid. They have developed these strong gastric juices in order to accommodate their natural diet, raw meat and bones. This level of acidity is perfect for breaking down and digesting bones but also for killing potential pathogens. 

Since the diet of our companion dogs has changed so much in a short period of time, with processed food becoming the norm, they have seemingly lost their ability to deal with bones, with many reporting vomiting or dangerous obstructions following a meal of bones. In some respects, it is true that our dogs have lost their ability to deal with bones, but not in the way you might think.

Dogs that eat a diet of primarily dried kibble actually change their physiology. Their stomach’s gastric juices become more Alkaline, and their gut transit time, that is, how long food takes to come out the other end, is slowed down significantly as they struggle to digest the high carb-high plant protein, dry diet. This is a recipe for disaster for our dogs whose owners have decided to give them a delicious meaty bone treat or, like me, have decided to try and help reduce their dog’s tartar build-up. With this “new” environment, bones are not softened and broken down enough to allow for proper digestion and harmful bacteria are not killed off as they should. They may even be able to multiply thanks to the increase in time for gut emptying. This can often cause an immediate rejection, causing the dog to vomit, or worse, a bowel obstruction from partially digested bone.

“The problem is that it takes from 7-10 days on a meat based diet for the gastric acidity levels to drop down to the natural (preferred) PH 2 level, so it is not possible for the body to quickly accommodate to such diet changes.” Dr.Bruce Syme, Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition.

When transitioning your kibble-fed dog to fresh food for the first time, I would recommend to do so gradually over a period of 2 weeks, or even longer, as it can take between 7-10 days for their stomach PH to return to normal.

Stretch has always been supplemented with fresh food, so he didn’t seem to have any issues digesting the bones; his issue seemed to be chewing the bone – or lack thereof.

I made a major mistake when selecting the type of bone I was going to feed Stretch. I went for the convenient “don’t ask, don’t tell” packet of random beef soup bones. While they’re not inherently bad for dogs, the part of the animal in which they come from is often unlisted. That means I may have fed him a hard leg bone intended for a much larger dog than my little Dachshund.


Bones fall into two categories: edible bones and recreational bones. Edible bones are generally considered “softer” bones and usually have a lot of meat still attached to them. These are for your dog to actually break apart and consume. Think chicken wings.

On the other hand, Recreational Bones are typically “harder” bones with less meat attached. These are given to dogs to gnaw on, removing the meaty pieces and massaging their teeth and gums. Depending on the size of the dog vs the size of the recreational bone, they may also chew on the bone ends and consume some of the bone or bury it and chew on it at a later time.

While there are some general guidelines to follow, such as this, I learned the hard way that you should also understand your dog’s eating style. Stretch is… a monster. I should never have given him an unknown, probably dense bone. These days, I stick to poultry wings and feet, the occasional carcass, rabbit and goat. Had I given him a bone that was suitable for his size and eating style, I don’t think he would have had any issues, and he would have all of his teeth today.


In the positive bone-eating community, bones are typically considered a great pastime or enriching activity and a great way to keep teeth clean. While all that’s true, bones are also a powerhouse of nutrition!

If you’ve delved into nutrition even a little bit, or you feed a homemade diet, you may have come across something called the “Calcium to Phosphorus ratio”. 

When excess phosphorus and calcium are provided in a diet, they bind to vital minerals, making them unabsorbable. Those vital minerals are then dragged out of the body as faeces, leading to nutrient deficiencies. Calcium and phosphorus are essential nutrients for the development, maintenance, and repair of the musculoskeletal system. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, both Calcium and Phosphorus should be included in a diet in the correct ratios. This is one reason why raw, meaty bones are so good for dogs.

A raw, meaty bone contains the perfect ratio of calcium to phosphorus – no measuring or calculating needed. It has almost all of a dog’s essential nutrients that are required for optimal health. Simply offering meaty bones from different animals would provide any missing nutrients that come from feeding meat from one animal. They also provide many minerals that are embedded in the protein and fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E in the fat content of the meaty bone and Iron from the bone marrow.
So don’t think of bones as simply a pastime activity; they truly are a necessary addition to every dog’s diet for mental health and enrichment, providing nutrients AND cleaning teeth.

When I fed Stretch an appropriate bone for the first time and saw his contentment, how much he enjoyed chewing, how satiated he was afterwards and how he slept for the rest of the day in what looked like a “food coma”, I couldn’t believe I had waited this long to try feeding him a bone again. Even more so, I couldn’t believe for nine years of his life, I had deprived him of eating bones. Something he was biologically designed to eat. Something that provided more enjoyment than anything I could have ever given him.

Add your first comment to this post

Like what you just read?

Let's make it official, subscribe below and you'll get notified every time we publish a new article. Nothing more, nothing less.

Discover more from Organix Canine Wellness Centre

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Share to...