Many Vets are wary of bone feeding and so you may have heard advice over the years to stay away from bones.  This perspective is generally misinformed, bones after all are essential components of a carnivore’s natural diet.

Issues with bones can occur when a pet is on a processed food, because it becomes harder for them to process their natural diet high in animal protein and fat, and particularly hard to digest bone.  The typical scenario is that a young dog on a processed diet can eat bones happily a few times a week, but as they get older and their body gets less vital and more depleted, they start to vomit up bits of bone, then after another year or so, they get a bout of gastroenteritis after eating something raw, and after another year or so they get blocked up when fed bones and need to be anaesthetised to have the bone removed from their gut either by enema or by open abdominal surgery.

You can see why the Vet would assume the bone to be the culprit, but in fact it is the processed pet food that is the silent assassin.

Processed pet foods contain high levels of carbohydrate, and feeding carbohydrate in excess has many detrimental effects on the physiology of the carnivore, one of those being altered stomach acid levels.  Hence a pet on a processed kibble diet (all of which are unnaturally high in carbohydrate, even the ‘grain-free’ ones) is less able to handle both the bacteria on raw meats, and the digestion of raw proteins, fats and bone, as their stomach acid simply isn’t strong enough.

This is how bones become a problem for pets – by feeding them a processed diet.  When fed a species-appropriate, raw food diet, most pets have the ability to digest an appropriate selection of bones.


Raw meaty bones should be soft and entirely edible, and always fed raw.

Bones from poultry (including wings, legs, feet and carcasses), lamb, kangaroo tails, pig’s trotters and brisket (rib) bones are all suitable.

DO NOT FEED marrow bones (leg-shaft bones from cattle) as you risk breaking your dog’s teeth.  These are a load-bearing bone, designed to bear the weight of a very heavy animal, and so are extremely dense and strong.  In the wild dogs usually leave these bones alone.

Chicken necks are the most likely bone to cause choking or constipation and in most cases are best avoided.  Other parts of the chicken (legs, wings, carcass) are all suitable.


Do NOT attempt to feed bones until your dog has been eating a RAW diet for at least 7-14 days (longer for older animals or those with a history or gastrointestinal compromise).  This will ensure their stomach acid has recovered and is strong enough to break down bone.  Cats will require a longer preparation period if they have been eating a processed diet, as they need to build up their jaw strength on cuts of meat increasing in size before they will be able to gnaw through a bone.

Include some green tripe when feeding bones, to promote strong stomach acid which aids bone digestion.

Feed bones WITH a small meal, rather than as a separate food.  Feeding meat or other food first promotes the secretion of the stomach acid, readying the body for the task of digesting bone.

Feed bones that are roughly the size of your pet’s head, or larger. This way your pet is encouraged to bite pieces off the bone that are small enough to swallow, rather than attempting to gulp it whole.

Feed bones frequently enough (at least twice weekly) that they are not so rare a resource that your dog wants to devour them in a millisecond every time he/she sees one.  Cats also benefit from bones twice weekly or more.

Always feed bones SUPERVISED. Don’t leave your pet with bones unattended.

Don’t leave bones lying around with multiple dogs.  Create safe separate bone feeding areas in multi-pet households so your dogs can relax and chew their bones in their own time, without having to worry about a sibling stealing it from them.

Feed approximately 10% of the diet as bone.  Too much bone can lead to constipation.

If your pet has any difficulty digesting bone and tends to get constipation, dust bones with some ground oats or finely shredded coconut before feeding, remember to feed it with green tripe, and start with only a small proportion of bone in the diet.


There are individual differences amongst pets, but as a rule, if your pet refuses to eat bones it is most likely due to one of the following reasons:

  • they are fed too often (or too much food) and aren’t hungry enough to eat a bone – twice daily can be too often for many dogs
  • they don’t have the jaw strength to break the bone apart
  • they don’t recognise the bone as food
  • they have issues around food poverty and save the bone ‘just in case’
  • they have dental disease, and it hurts to eat bones.

Most of these reasons can be corrected with appropriate treatment.

If your pet cannot handle whole bones then ground bone should be included in the diet, or a calcium supplement will be required.


Bones are an essential component of a balanced natural diet for a carnivore, as they provide minerals such as calcium and phosphorus in the proper balance.  It is important to feed bones in the correct quantities, as both too much and too little bone can cause problems.

Bones are also nature’s toothbrush, and when appropriate bones are included in the diet, there are immense benefits for your pet’s dental health.  Don’t rely on bones however to do all the dental hygiene work for your pet.  Remember we brush our teeth twice daily, may use dental floss or mouth rinses, and usually go to the dentist at least once a year for a scale and polish.  Animals in nature would be catching their prey whole and chewing through fur and skin and large cuts of meat and whole bones, which all act like dental floss and toothbrushes for them.  Our domestic pets do require vigilant home care in addition to a raw diet to prevent dental disease that can lead to irreversible damage.

Dogs LOVE chewing bones as a rule, and they provide much enjoyment and exercise, both physical and mental.  Follow these guidelines to start getting your pet eating dem bones!