Raw feeders have been feeding raw meaty bones for decades to keep their dog’s teeth clean naturally. I myself feed a mixture of air-dried bones from Real Dog Box and more recently adding some raw meaty bones to the mix.
This week Dr. Karen Becker shared a recent peer-reviewed study that found dogs who chewed on specific pieces of bones had almost 90% of tartar buildup removed and the bones did not cause any root fracture, enamel fracture, or bone resorption. The study concluded pet parents should be using specific bones for their pet’s regular oral hygiene.
If you don’t know Dr. Karen Becker she’s a leading veterinarian that has been talking about the benefits of a species-appropriate diet for decades. You can find her on Facebook HERE.
I’ve been sharing photos and videos of both Maggie and Orbit’s chews and bones. And in response to the many questions, I was asked I thought I’d share what bones and chews I feed both Maggie and Orbit here.
I have two Boston Terriers that weigh just under 20 pounds. They are raw fed now. They used to be on a home-cooked diet but I transitioned to raw fully during March of 2021.
I feed bones mainly to
- Keep their teeth clean
- Give their jaws exercise
- For mental stimulation
- As a source of calcium which is important for those that make their own dog’s food
- Bones provide beneficial provide nutritious marrow, amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants, and multiple minerals and vitamins in a usable form.
What are spongy bones? They are soft and pliable. They are the non-weight-bearing bones such as:
- Duck feet : I let them eat the whole chew bones and all
- Duck neck : I let them eat the whole chew bones and all
- Duck wings : I let Maggie eat the whole chew – she is methodical. I use a chew holder for Orbit she likes to try to bite of chunks so if she’s chewing slowly I will let her eat the whole wing but if she’s trying to gulp it down, I will not let her eat the last nub.
- Duck heads (air-dried): I let them eat the whole chew bones and all but sometimes there will be a larger piece left behind – and I pick that up and throw it away.
- Chicken feet (raw or air-dried): I let them eat the whole chew bones and all
- Rabbit feet (air-dried): I let them eat the whole chew bones, fur and all
- Rabbit heads (air-dried): I let them eat the whole chew bones, fur and all
- Beef short ribs and beef ribs (raw): They eat the meat – not strong enough to crack the bone
- Beef patellas (raw):They eat the meat – not strong enough to crack the bone
- Pig trotters (air-dried): They eat the meat – not strong enough to crack the bone
Maggie and Orbit have eaten all of these bones without any problems but I do have some feeding recommendations below.
There is always a risk when feeding bones to any dog. You need to always supervise them and observe their chew style.
Maggie is a methodical gnawer. She starts on one end and methodically chews the meat off the bone, or in the case of an air-dried chew, she gnaws so that she is only consuming a small amount at a time.
Orbit must have been a velociraptor in her previous life. Her mission is to bite off a chunk and then swallow. In the chewing world, she’s classified as a gulper.
Knowing this I’m adapting and either clamping down her chews to slow her down.
Cut the foot in several places to help your dog be able to chew and break it down.
Or feeding her an extra-large bone that I know she won’t swallow.
I get my raw bones from the local grocery store (either Sprouts or Vons) and look for them when the bones go on sale.
WHAT ABOUT WEIGHT BEARING BONES?
I don’t feed any hard compact bones like antlers, hooves, marrow or leg bones.
There are two exceptions:
- When the bone is too large for my Boston Terriers to crack.
- When it’s a large meaty bone.
Recently I learned that feeding a larger meaty bone can help slow down an aggressive chewer. So I fed Orbit a beef patella – and it wore her out. I also fed her a lamb shank that had a lot of meat on it and try as she might to bite into the bone – she could not.
I love when the bones are surrounded by a lot of meat because then my dogs have to pull off sinew and meat which rub off the plaque and flosses their teeth. When they get to the cartilage on the end of the bone they have to grind and gnaw which helps to scrape of any light build of tartar.
DO I HAVE TO WASH THE RAW MEATY BONES BEFORE I FEED THEM?
No, you can feed them as is. Some additional notes:
- I purchase my bones from my local grocery store – the meat has been previously frozen
- I don’t let raw meat sit in my fridge for more than 24 hours
WHAT ABOUT CHEWS THAT DON’T HAVE BONES?
Dried chews that have no bones are great for mental stimulation and dental health.
OTHER SAFETY CONCERNS
- Always supervise your dog no matter how much experience they have with chews or bones.
- Keep chew sessions short – between 10 to 15 minutes.
- Raw meaty bones that are fed as a meal – can be fed for longer but account for the meat they eat as their meal and feed it for breakfast or dinner.
- If the meat has a membrane – or fatty peices those could be choking hazards so you can either cut into them to maket those pieces smaller. Or cut it off and feed it in smaller pieces. Fat is a source of energy and beneficial to feed.
- Put a towel or blanket down to protect your floors and rugs.
- If you have multiple dogs, give them a safe space to chew.
- Discard uneaten bone pieces and don’t let them lay around the yard for days as they will dehydrate and render them indigestible.
- Never feed smoked bones from the store – they are dry and brittle.
- If your dog is kibble fed, they may not have enough digestive enzymes to digest bone (like from duck necks or duck feet) right away so feed in 5 to 10 minute sessions. It takes a week for your dog’s enzymes to build up.
DELAYING DENTAL WORK
One of the biggest benefits of feeding air-dried chews and raw meaty bones is that I can delay any dental work that Maggie and Orbit will eventually need.
Each year their vet praises their teeth. Hopefully, we won’t have to have dental work until they are between 8 to 10 years old.
WHAT ABOUT OLD DOGS? CAN THEY EAT CHEWS OR BONES?
My mom needed dentures when she was in her sixties. And while dogs do not get dentures, their teeth do age.
My advice for older dogs is to select chews that don’t have bones such as:
- Lamb or rabbit ears
- Pig ears
- Cow ears
Another friend of mine has taken it a step further and takes air-dried chews from Real Dog Box to stick them into the instant pot for an hour so that they rehydrate and soften up. That way she can give her older dog softer chews to keep his teeth clean.
WHY SOFTER CHEWS OR RAW MEATY BONES?
There is a misconception that you need “bones” to clean teeth. Actually soft chews (like rabbit ears) help to rub plaque off.
Ideally, the chews are cleaning off the film before it hardens into plaque.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FEED A RAW MEATY BONE OR CHEW?
For the best dental benefits, I give a chew once a day (typically mid-day) for no more than 15 minutes. This is the equivalent of brushing their teeth.
Sometimes, the chew becomes a meal replacement (like duck heads or rabbit heads) and I feed those chews ones to two times a week.
Other times it’s a raw meaty bone (also a meal replacement) and I feed that at least once a week, sometimes twice a week.
Don’t feed bones and chews unless you are comfortable in doing so. I remember the first time I ever got lamb ears in my subscription box I was completely and utterly weirded out by it. I hid it in the pantry behind the rice cooker and it took me three months before I felt comfortable to feed it.
I also remember the first time I fed duck head I was hesitant about how the girls would handle it but they surprised me. They ate it without any problems at all.
Really think about the bone you are feeding and the chewing style of your dog. For example, I don’t feel comfortable feeding chicken backs, chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, or chicken wings. I feel like they won’t be a good fit for how my girls chew… I prefer to either go with a softer smaller bone (like feet) or larger bones.
And you’ve heard me say it before but I’ll repeat because if there is one tip you need to remember is to always always always supervise your dog when they are chewing anything. It can be a toy, a bone, or a chew – it doesn’t matter. Always stay by them to make sure they chew safely and appropriately.
Remember what might have worked for me might not work for your dog.
It’s essential to keep a diary to understand track what you are feeding.
No matter your natural approach to keep their teeth clean monitor their:
At the end of the day, your dog’s health markers will give you a clear indication of whether or not you are on the right path.
Let your dog and their health determine what’s best for them.
Thank you for reading this far, dear friends. To your own dog’s health and happiness. Best of luck in your information-seeking journey.
Stay steadfast and curious as you research and form your own opinions on what’s best for YOUR dog.