Can dogs eat beef bones safely?
January 25, 2005 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Can dogs eat beef bones? My dog loves them (the raw discarded sort from butchers or rib joints) but when I give him one he goes crazy, actually consuming the bone and digging into the marrow. It worries me, but I've heard the marrow is good for them. But every time I've given him one I've had to take it away because he just gets too crazy. I know they can't have chicken bones (obviously, ow!) but what are the risks of giving him a beef bone as an occasional primal treat, even if it means he'll likely chew the whole thing up?
posted by Peter H to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From what I have read, RAW bones (even chicken) are fine for dogs. The problem generally arises when the dog is given a bone from a cooked meal. The cooked bone is brittle and can be VERY dangerous for the animal.
posted by terrapin at 9:21 AM on January 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, yeah I've heard similar. Can others share experiences? I'd appreciate it much.
posted by Peter H at 9:24 AM on January 25, 2005

We used to give our dog beef bones, the big knuckle-joint ones that we'd get from the butcher. They didn't do him any harm and he was an extremely happy dog (whether this was a direct result of the beef or if he was just happy in general?).

He died (hit by a car) many years ago....I miss him.
posted by LunaticFringe at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2005

Seconding what terrapin said. I just read this somewhere on the net, some pet care site or something about what you can and can't feed dogs/cats and other pets.

I bet your dog goes crazy. I don't know a dog that wouldn't go a little nuts over a good rib bone or such.

(Reminds me of my family's beloved little shivering runt of a smooth-haired fox terrier. Sometimes we'd give her the scraps and offal from the turkey on Thanksgiving day, and she'd just about explode with happiness. And turkey guts. Seriously, I could never figure out how she could scarf down that much food so quickly and not explode.)
posted by loquacious at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2005

My mom has given her dog countless bones over the years. I think she gets them uncooked from the local meat market. The dog likes to slobber over them for a couple days, and then she burries them. A month later she might dig it up and eat out the marrow.

Moral of the story is that she's never been hurt by it (fat little thing if you ask me).
posted by sbutler at 9:43 AM on January 25, 2005

Big beef rib and leg bones should be fine for your dog. If your dog is large and an aggressive chewer, you'll want to avoid the rib bones and go straight for the super thick leg bones. That way, there's less of a chance of the dog being able to break through the bone and swallow a shard. Our dogs love it when we come home with these treats for them.
posted by onhazier at 10:04 AM on January 25, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all for the answers!
So raw bones are the way to go? What about the uncooked meat that's still on them?
posted by Peter H at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2005

We give our Lab raw beef and lamb bones and whole raw chicken backs. He'll often consume the whole thing – even large beef knuckle bones. He'll sometimes throw-up later but that seems to be a normal part of canine digestion.
posted by timeistight at 10:18 AM on January 25, 2005

Consider the uncooked meat left on the bones as a special treat for the dog. It'll be a special treat for you too, later on, if your pup is anywhere near as gassy as my Boxer. He might not be used to the meat, though, so if any gastric unpleasantness happens, just strip the bones before you give them out.

In my experience, raw bones are Happy Happy Canine Funtime. They will dig into the things as long as there is even the remotest whiff of tasty. (Long past what we finicky humans would consider edible, at any rate.) And since the entire thing is made of dead animal, it's all tasty goodness.

As with any toy, the dog should be supervised while gnawing on and/or destroying the bone. He might be able to break off chips of bone that are just big enough for him to choke on. He will try to open it anyway, to get at the marrow.

Another consideration: you might want to teach the dog where chewing a raw bone is acceptable and where it isn't. I learned how important this is the day I found a slobber-coated beef knucklebone wedged under my pillow. That's an experience nobody needs to repeat.
posted by cmyk at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2005

timeistight: my vet told me that it's okay to feed Beano to my very gassy Lab. she says you should sprinkle it on the very top of the food so he snarfs it all down at the very beginning. (they sell tablets and drops; i crush up the tablets) it's been a godsend.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:02 AM on January 25, 2005

"goes to crazy"

Man, he's a DOG. A wolf-descended carnivore, precisely built for chomping bones. Apart from bears and hyenas there is nothing better adapted for the task than your dog.

But if it freaks you out, buy beef shin bones (cannon bones), which are too big and chunky for most dogs to split. Don't cook them.

It seems counter intuitive, but raw bones are actually really good for their breath. Chewing gristly bones helps keep their teeth clean. It's also a good source of calcium for them and helps produce "chalky white poo" which is easier to clean up etc.

Word of warning: my dog's burying instinct was powerfully triggered by big bones, so you may have a whole new set of problems. Keep an eye on the flowerbeds.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:23 AM on January 25, 2005

crush-onastick: if Beano works on my Boxer, I will be eternally thankful to you and your vet.
posted by cmyk at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2005

I know somebody who feeds their large breed dogs whole, raw chickens (free range, of course). The dogs eat every last bit of it, bones and all.

Definitely do not give a dog cooked bones. When I was a kid our dog died from choking because she wrangled cooked bones out of the trash.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:51 AM on January 25, 2005

As others have said, for most dogs, (properly stored, and ideally frozen for a few days first) RAW bones are fine, as is raw meat. It's a great, healthy treat, HOWEVER, feeding bones is not risk-free, and you should be careful to keep an eye out for changes in bowel habits, general demeanour or appetite just in case. If your dog is getting overly possessive or growly over the bone, either feed it only in the dog's crate, or just don't feed it at all - the dog won't die without a bone and some dogs tend to resource guard very high-value items like bones even when they don't resource guard anything else. Dogs who are extremely aggressive chewers who can bite off and swallow large chunks of bone shouldn't be fed anything but the biggest bones (if then), and some dogs who are very aggressive chewers will chew hard enough to damage their teeth (I suggest you check the dog's mouth and teeth on a regular basis anyway).

Marrow is very rich, and most proponents of feeding raw marrow bones suggest you take at least some of it out of the bone before giving it to the dog, to avoid diarrhea and/or vomiting. If your dog doesn't have a weight problem, and you intend to feed raw bones regularly, you can gradually increase the amount of marrow you leave in, depending on how your dog handles it (you can freeze what you dig out and dole it out very sparingly as a special treat - it's a great training treat).

Raw chicken bones are also commonly fed to dogs by those who feed a raw diet (normally wings or backs). Again, not risk-free (and must be handled properly), but it's cooked chicken bones which are a very real danger, raw bones of most kinds are relatively safe.

Finally, I don't know that I agree with with giving a dog Beano to reduce gas - the gas is being caused by a problem digesting the food, the Beano is a bandaid, not a cure, and it's often the case that a problem with digesting a given nutrient is indicative of other issues the dog may have with that nutrient. Personally, I'd likely just avoid feeding that particular item, rather than trying to just stop the gas.
posted by biscotti at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

My dog gets diarrhea if we feed her anything other than her regular dog food.I'd stay completely away from people food for your pet. YMMV of course.
posted by cass at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2005

My thesis adviser, while a grad student, devised a dog food additive that made dogs fart less. The additive is a fungal enzyme to break up certain polysaccharides in cereals (which are the predominant ingredient in dry food) which dogs can't digest. He used to get a quarterly royalty of about $100. I believe the additive is stilled used.
posted by TimeFactor at 4:15 PM on January 25, 2005

Our german shepherd, Dammit, loved all manner of bones, he usually chewed them with great vigor ,however once, he was given a huge beef vertebrae, that was promptly swallowed
whole! Really freaked me out ,but it apparently digested normally,and he lived to a ripe old age.Dogs just love bones!
posted by hortense at 12:19 AM on January 26, 2005

If you are tempted to cook it, there's a recipe in Jeffrey Steingarten's It must have been something I ate, in the chapter the man who cooked for his dog.
posted by monkey closet at 12:56 AM on January 26, 2005

For posterity, as i am about a year late...

We have two 80 lb. hound dogs. They are a year and a half old and we have been feeding them raw food for the last year. We have not had a single problem. Their daily diet includes:

10 oz of Raw, straight from the butcher's cooler, Chicken/Turkey Backs, Necks or other inexpensive parts (they run about 59 cents per pound)


a whole fish, scales and all.


organs, generally from cows, chickens or turkeys: liver, heart, kidneys, brain, etc.


some cooked rice


any raw fruit/veggie scraps.

After eating bones for a year straight our dogs can completely devour beef knuckle bones [about the size of my head]. Its really amazing and quite entertaining to watch (we don't own a television).

I would point out that large dogs are able to eat bones that small dogs are only able to scrape clean. Also I would NEVER feed my dogs cooked bones of ANY type. Cooking makes them brittle and splintery. We always keep an eye on our pups when they eat.

If you are interested in learning more about raw food for dogs feel free to email me at the address in my profile.
posted by iurodivii at 1:09 PM on January 12, 2006

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