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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views July 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: Give the poor dog a bone — but not a raw one

KalypsoWorldPhotography | Bigstock

Dogs and raw bones do not mix.

Q. I know you’re not supposed to give your dog raw food because it can contain live bacteria that can make your pet sick, and cooking will kill all the harmful germs. But what about a raw bone?

Peter Lovell

Mobile, Alabama

Dear Mr. Lovell,

A. We cannot stress enough what a bad idea it would be to give your pet a raw bone to chew. A raw bone from which all the meat has been scraped, even by a butcher with an especially sharp knife, may still contain colonies of bacteria that could make your pet sick — not to mention you. People and dogs are both prone to illness from bacteria in meat that include Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli. Signs of illness include nausea and vomiting and, in some cases, even dehydration — or worse. Why take that risk?

Along with harmful bacteria, there are two other downsides to giving your dog bones, even if they’re cooked first. One is that they can fracture a dog’s teeth. Our general rule of thumb: if you can’t press your fingernail into something, you should not give it to your pet to chew.

Second, many dogs try to swallow bones. And large bones can get caught in the lower esophagus, just above where food enters the stomach. An obstruction in that spot can be life-threatening.

A great alternative to bones for dogs are food toys like Kongs. Such toys satisfy a dog’s urge to chew without posing any dangers, and because they require dogs to work to extract food, they can keep a pet entertained for quite a while.

Comments (4)

I used to get raw Bison bones from a local butcher when available and gave them to my German Shepherd and my Husky and they LOVED them and lasted so long.

Maybe I was just lucky that they never had problems with them but they were amazingly healthy dogs that had regular vet care.

Posted by: Thom | August 5, 2019 3:12 PM    Report this comment

What about those nylabone chew bones for dogs?
Are those just as bad?

Posted by: Doglover m | July 1, 2019 1:18 PM    Report this comment

I agree with the above comment...^RawIsBest __ I know of several breeders stateside and abroad who historically feed Raw meat and provide large Raw knuckle and marrow bones to their Hounds, as do I. If processed foods are not good for humans as a staple in their diet, it cannot be good for Canines. Better living through Chemistry is not meant for the digestive tract of mammals. Natural is best and the shift of so many pet owners away from canned and kibble is only the beginning of something akin to eat local shop local and the growing number of local small farms and protein suppliers.

Posted by: TenFeet2Hands | July 1, 2019 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Typical vet bias against raw food. I can't tell you how many vets we've had to educate as to the benefits of a raw diet. Their initial reaction, stoked by the prescription dog food companies who service them, is always negative but after showing them lots of supportive articles and having them see the benefits on our own dog, most come around quickly. It's unfortunate that the vets at Tufts apparently toe the line from the pet food companies that anything raw is bad!

Posted by: RawIsBest | July 1, 2019 11:13 AM    Report this comment

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