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Raw Bones for Dogs and Cats

fresh-chicken-necks


After the perceived risk of bacteria in raw food, chewing raw bones is the subject that worries novice raw feeders and raw food critics the most. 

The unwarranted fear that their dog or cat could choke or get boney lumps stuck is ingrained in most people. Until they actually try it with their pet!

Arguments also suggest that raw bones are dangerous because they wear down teeth. This is a ridiculous argument because sticks, chews and even tennis balls (especially with sand on) do the same thing. Nobody's wanting to ban them.

The problems is that after almost sixty years of TV adverts and veterinary advice implying that bones can kill, it takes a lot of thinking through for the average man or woman in the street today that raw bones are good for your pet.

There isn't much data out there if you read the fine detail but there is a lot of opinion. There is a lot of passionate discussion and guidance as to what bones to feed and what not to feed from people, as if they know the one, true diet. Such certainty is misplaced but firstly what data is there?

Freeman et al., in their massive 2013 review in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association quote four papers (Rousseau et al, 2007, Gianella et al, 2009, Frowde et al, 2011 and Thompson et al, 2012) discussing oesophageal and gastric foreign bodies in 196 dogs and 33 cats. They state that 'Bone foreign bodies were present in 30-80%' of the cases seen.  However, a word search in all four of these papers reveals not one hit for the word 'raw' throughout their articles. 

In comparison, Thompson et al.(2019), in his soon to be published pilot study of the experiences of 79 vets around the world, involving 247,761 raw fed patients, 196,135 dogs and 51,626 cats, suggests that 'dental problems' occur in only 0.28% (28 cases in every 10,000 raw fed animals seen). 


In 2012, Dr Rene Carlson, then President of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, stated that 'It's estimated that by the age of two, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease'.

Based on these studies it would suggest dental disease in mostly kibble fed animals is over 7 in every 10, but with raw fed cats and dogs, it may be as little as only 28 per 10,000 pets. 

Fundamentally raw bones provide oral stimulation and teeth cleaning (both things stimulating better oral microbiome). 

They exercise the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles and are vital for young puppies. They are a valuable source of minerals, cartilage and 'fibre' (gritty bony material), scouring the lumen of the gut, stimulating enterocyte re-generation, gut blood and lymph circulation and firmness to the stool, vital for anal gland health.

Tinned and kibbled pet foods do none of these things; they do provide micronutrients, but not necessarily in a bioavailable format. 

Brushing pets' teeth (the standard advice from vets advocating kibble/tinned foods) is all very well, but there are few dogs and fewer cats who will allow brushing of the lingual side (inside part) of the tooth, bringing the validity of the entire exercise into question if 40% of the tooth/gingival margin cannot be reached every day!

There is a widely held view, based on empirical evidence, in the raw feeding veterinary world that dogs and cats born to parents who are raw fed, including frequent bones, have better teeth and less dental damage than animals transitioned onto bones in mid-life. Whether this is an epigenetic effect or just one of better nutrition to the parents is unknown.


Type and Size of Raw Bone to Feed

Large limb bones, especially from more mature meat animals (beef/lamb/pork) have thicker, dense, more brittle cortical bone than, say, brisket, rib or vertebrae from the same animal. 

Occasional problems of dental damage or foreign bodies have been seen with these longer limb bones from beef, pork and lamb given to raw fed dogs. Slab fractures, (where the crown of the tooth can fall off) can happen when chewing hard bones (as with sticks/chews or rawhide) but they are usually repairable. Periodontitis, inflammation around the tooth/gum is not.

Novice raw fed dogs should not be exposed to these types of bone material in their first year. Instead, opt for 'softer' poultry carcases, poultry necks, rabbit carcases initially. 

The Raw Feed Veterinary Society (RFVS), recommend not feeding large, long limb bones from cattle to pets in any form. 

Cats generally do well on poultry bone material. The do mention the concept of a Graduating Scale of Bones being introduced once pets have been on a raw feed diet for a good period of time.  

Longer limb bones, 'marrow bones', that have been sawn are also risky to dental health, even in the veteran raw feed dog due to the artificial angle at the cut edge; it seems to allow the dog to wedge the angle between teeth and develop massive shearing forces, maybe explaining some of the slab-fracture problems seen, mainly in the pre-molar 4 teeth, in a few dogs. Obviously, this is preventable by not offering sawn long-bone pieces.

Meaty bones (as opposed to those where all the meat has been removed by hand or machine) are generally considered safer to feed as the tenacious meat and connective tissue serve to cushion the tooth against the more brittle bony surface, reducing microscopic high-pressure damage to the sharp leading edge of the cutting cusp.

Large dogs generally do well with small bones (they can swallow chicken wings/necks etc whole) and with larger bones (given often as 'recreational' bones). 

Medium sized dogs usually do well on larger bones or smaller bones, but only give smaller bones if they are used to them. 

Small dogs can be given small bones and medium-sized bones. 

Cats do well on smaller bony items, as discussed.

Antlers, by general consensus within the RFVS, are the item most likely to cause dental fractures.

Equally plastic/raw hide bones generally found for sale in your local pet shop are considered an absolute "no" for their high level of toxicity. They go through some hideous processes where a heap of toxic chemicals are added; Hydrogen peroxide, bleach, artificial colours and sodium benzonate are just some of the offenders. Other chemicals that have been found in raw hide products are Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Chromium salts and Formaldehyde.


Previous Diet/Diet Consistency 

If a dog or cat is moved from a soft raw diet, tins or kibble straight onto brittle bones, problems with tooth damage or foreign bodies or splintering may arise. 

Alternating kibble/tins with the occasional bone is also hazardous. 

Many owners, especially cat owners, infantilise their animals and only serve soft baby-like food, increasing risk if bony material is also offered. 

The best plan for introducing bony material is to start with softer bones and progress from there using the Graduating Scale of Bones.


The Graduating Scale of Bones 

Once the animal has been on raw (without bony material to chew, but with finely-minced bone in meat) for a month or so (to activate optimal gastric pH and induce appropriate gut microbiome changes), start with softer chewing material such as beef/lamb trachea, dried meat/fish chews (without preservative, colourants or any other additives). 

After a month or so on these, move up to softer bone such as brisket or ribs (non-weight bearing bones), chicken wings, chicken or turkey carcases and so on. 

After a period of acclimatisation (usually again 1-2 months), introduce duck, chicken or turkey necks if appropriate. 

Only after about a year of frequent bone chewing should you consider larger bones of mutton, venison or beef. 

Do not buy sawn leg bones. Do not feed whole leg bones - they are species inappropriate for pets.


How to Feed Raw Bones

Everyone has a different system, but some ideas include feeding only in the kitchen where the floor is wipeable (beware toxic floor cleaning products), or, conversely, only feeding in the garden, to save the mess. 

Feeding two dogs/cats in separate rooms or around the corner from each other can avoid a direct line of sight and and possible antagonism between the pets.

Avoiding feeding in a busy room, like the kitchen at human meal times when there is a lot of human traffic/noise/commotion as this can increase the stress to your pet. The idea of the raw bone is not only as a health benefit but also to help with mental stimulation and reduces stress.

Bones can be fed frozen (a good idea in the summer), but do not give frozen bones of any sort to the less experienced bone chewer.


When to Feed Bones

Bones should be given frequently - at least twice weekly.

Pups and kittens can be introduced to soft bones as soon as they start on solid food. 

Their teeth and mouths are so small that initially all they do is lick and suck on them, but this familiarises them with the texture, smell and size of bones making them better prepared for when they are actually able to ingest some bony material a few weeks/months later. 

Bones can be fed for the entire life of a dog or cat, or until they have insufficient teeth left to cope. In this scenario, it is important that bony material is provided in their food e.g. as part of the minces offered. 


Bone Broths

Bone broths are incredibly good way of transitioning animals onto raw food. 

They are very useful to promote drinking in the thirstless urolith-prone or sick animal or those taking drugs that may damage the lining of the bladder e.g. cyclophosphamide. 

Choose bones away from the dog/cat's intolerances e.g. if your pet is allergic to chicken avoid making a broth with chicken bones.

Be sure to boil broths for at least four hours, eight hours is preferable. Herbs can be added at the end of the process, but are not essential. Salt and pepper and other seasonings should not be added.

Click here to see how to get started with our bone broth recipes.


Conclusion 

Bones and bony material, when chosen and fed carefully and appropriately, are no more dangerous to the short and long-term health of dogs and cats than any other more widely accepted nutritional approach.

Teeth, like liver and kidney tissue, have built-in redundancy - you're born with more (70% more in the case of liver and kidney) tissue than you actually need to survive, although if you wore down all your teeth by 70% or lost 7/10 teeth, you'd be in a sorry state and not able to survive in the wild. Teeth are designed to wear down. As long as the tooth is not so worn as to expose sensitive tissue, it's fine, but needs to be monitored.

Cats and dogs only employ molars for kibble crunching but will use all their teeth for bone chewing, exercising the whole mouth and jaw, promoting salivation and mastication. 

This initial, evolution-honed, process starts the physiology of breaking down food for maximum efficiency further down the digestive tract. Without appropriate chewing, gnawing and even visually studying the food by the animal, a complete psycho-neuro-endocrino-immunological cascade of processes may falter, misregulate and jar further down the gastrointestinal tract, inevitably compromising health long-term. 

Ultimately raw bones have far more health benefits for your cat or dog than disadvantages and they should be incorporated into your pet's diet, just follow the "graduating scales of bones" to ensure your feeding the right type of bone to your pet.


NOW, we'd love to hear your feedback so LEAVE A COMMENT and feel free to share this with people you think will love it.

Natural lifestyle, naturally health, naturally thriving!!

Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website and articles are based on the opinions of the people at Authentica. The information contained within is not intended to replace that of your qualified vets or intended as medical advice. We are sharing knowledge and information but in no way should this pertain you from seeking proper professional medical/veterinary advice. We encourage you to do your own research and make your own decisions on your pet's health in conjunction with your vet. Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy of information. You acknowledge that such information and materials may contain inaccuracies or errors. Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements and those of your pet. If you become aware of any material on the website that you believe infringes your or any other person's copyright, please report this by email to info@authenticapets.com so we can immediately rectify the issue.

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Wednesday, October 05 2022

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Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website and articles are based on the opinions of the people at Authentica. The information contained within is not intended to replace that of your qualified vets or intended as medical advice. We are sharing knowledge and information but in no way should this pertain you from seeking proper professional medical/veterinary advice. We encourage you to do your own research and make your own decisions on your pet's health in conjunction with your vet. Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy of information. You acknowledge that such information and materials may contain inaccuracies or errors. Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements and those of your pet. If you become aware of any material on the website that you believe infringes your or any other person's copyright, please report this by email to info@authenticapets.com so we can immediately rectify the issue.

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