Can My Puppy Eat Bones?

I talk about puppies and the proper nutrition in my blogs all the time; it’s true. The reason is that food is so essential to your puppy’s health and welfare. Good nutrition ensures their bones, muscles, ligaments, and joints will grow robust and powerful. It’s also essential for their growing heart, lungs, liver, and, of course, their little doggy brains.

Providing your puppy with the right combination of food, treats, and snacks is thus a critical part of your job as a puppy parent. Knowing what to give and in what proportions is essential so that your puppy stays healthy and becomes an active and happy adult dog.

I was thinking about this very thing as I read a question from a reader the other day. She had just adopted a new puppy and was wondering, “can my puppy eat bones?” a question I hear pretty frequently. 

The answer, although slightly controversial, is that yes, your puppy can eat bones, but with several caveats and a lot of caution. When raw and fed correctly to a puppy, bones can be a nutritious snack that they will thoroughly enjoy. (Puppies are, after all, baby dogs, and dogs love bones.)

While they offer nutritional benefits, you must note that bones pose several risks when eaten, both for dogs and especially for puppies. Choking is a real risk, for example, as well as splintering that could puncture their GI tract. Again, though, several types of raw bones can be a healthy, safe treat for your puppy.

Knowing that your puppy can eat bones, you might have other related questions about them. What bones are safe for puppies to eat and when they can start eating bones are excellent questions. If you’d like to know the answer to those and several other “puppy eating bones” questions, read on!

What Bones Are Safe for Puppies to Eat?

Many people believe that you shouldn’t give raw bones to puppies but, instead, you should cook them first. However, the exact opposite is true, as cooked bones present several significant health risks. It’s far better to feed your puppy raw bones that have not been cooked or treated with any preservatives. 

Typically, raw bones will be soft enough for your puppy to chew, swallow and then digest, which is necessary for optimal health. Most raw chicken, lamb, and turkey bones can be eaten by puppies, although there is still a risk of choking. That risk depends on your puppy, their size, age, and the bones you’re feeding them.

There are also bones referred to as “recreational bones” because they’re meant to be chewed, not eaten. Typically these are bones like bison or beef hip and femur bones, which are often still filled with bone marrow. Usually, they will have a small amount of meat, cartilage, and other soft tissues and can be found at most deli counters. (Or, if you still have one in your town, your local butcher.) 

One word of caution about raw bones is that there is always the risk of contamination and bacteria, which could be problematic for your growing puppy. Proper handling of all raw bones and meat is vital to prevent a bacterial infection.

Can My Puppy Eat Raw Bones?

Yes, as I mentioned above, your puppy can eat raw bones. In fact, raw bones are the best for a puppy as they are soft, chewable, and digestible. There are small risks involved, but if you observe your puppy while eating their bones, you can usually prevent accidents from happening. Proper handling is also essential to prevent your pup from getting sick from bacteria and germs.

Can My Puppy Eat Cooked Bones?

Veterinarians and dog experts agree that feeding puppies cooked bones is a very bad idea. Cooked bones are much more fragile and can easily break. When they do, they can splinter into dangerous slivers that can hurt or even kill your precious puppy. Below are some of the hazardous health problems your puppy could face if they eat cooked bones, including:

  • Severe injuries to their mouth and tongue.
  • Severe constipation and rectal bleeding.
  • Broken and fractured teeth and accompanying jaw problems.
  • Punctures to their stomach and intestines could cause a bacterial infection called peritonitis.

Can My Puppy Eat Chicken Bones? 

Yes, your puppy can eat chicken bones, but they should be raw, as I mentioned before. Raw chicken bones are soft, pliable, chewable, and, most importantly, digestible. However, they do present a risk of contamination and infection and a choking risk for very small puppies. Handling raw chicken bones correctly is thus crucial to preventing bacterial infections in your precious pup. 

Cooked chicken bones are one of the most dangerous bones for a puppy to eat due to their high risk of splintering into sharp, dangerous pieces. Chicken bones that have cracked can be extremely dangerous for your puppy and cause them severe pain and, in worst cases, death. 

Can My Puppy Eat Beef Bones? 

Yes, your puppy can eat beef bones that are handled correctly, raw, and (mostly) unprocessed. As mentioned above, beef bones are usually given to puppies as recreational bones. That means they aren’t meant to be swallowed or digested but rather just chewed upon. However, most have a small amount of meat and cartilage that puppies will gladly eat.

When Can Puppies Start Eating Bones?

Puppies will typically be able to start chewing and eating raw bones at about 12 weeks of age, but there are exceptions to that rule. For example, if they still don’t have their complete set of teeth or are still weaning. In other words, every puppy will start eating raw bones at a different time, but, generally speaking, 12 weeks is just about right. 

Do Dogs Digest Bones?

Indeed they do!  Dogs have been eating bones for millennia with very few problems. That’s thanks to their very effective stomach acid, which will dissolve chicken, turkey, and other bones long before they get to the large and small intestines or the colon. 

Here’s the thing; eating bones isn’t that big of a deal in the animal kingdom. All sorts of animals occasionally eat bones, from bears to hyenas, vultures, tigers, and even rabbits.  The dogs’ short gastrointestinal tract and stomach acid are specifically made to digest raw meat and bones. 

Final Thoughts

Can your puppy eat bones? Yes, they can! They should be raw, uncooked bones or recreational bones, which are typically large hip bones from bison or beef. One crucial thing to remember is you should never feed your puppy cooked bones as the risk of splintering and injuring your puppy is very high with cooked bones.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog and that it answered your questions about your precious puppy and what kind of bones they can eat. If you have more or would like to learn about other puppy raising tips and advice, please see my other blogs on the subject. I believe you’ll find them loaded with valuable, real-world information that can help you raise a healthy, happy puppy.