Friday, 30 November 2007

Should dogs eat frozen bones?

Earlier this year Penny had a major tooth removed because it was broken. I felt awful about that (and I still do) and I've always wondered how it happened. We think it might have happened when she was eating a bone, because she cried out and stopped eating, but at the time we didn't realise what the problem was.

Our vet assured us that, generally, dogs can safely eat bones, and we are careful to choose the softer ones, like brisket bones and chicken necks. Dr Tom Lonsdale, whose work I admire, says:
Dogs are more likely to break their teeth when eating large knuckle bones and bones sawn lengthwise than if eating meat and bone together.
(The address for this article is

It seems that bones are generally safe if they are contained in a carcass, like a whole chicken carcass or a rabbit. (I bought a rabbit today and was horrified to find that it cost $25! I remember the 'good old days' when rabbits were dirt cheap.)

The other vet at the clinic said that Penny's teeth (the remaining ones, sigh...) are in excellent condition and he commented that she must eat lots of bones.

The question that bothers, me, though, is whether the original bone that did the damage - if indeed it was that- was frozen. At the time we used to let her have frozen bones. We don't now.

On the Barfworld site I read that:
Wild dogs do not eat regular meals. Nobody plans their meals. Nor do they have an all meat diet. On the other hand, no one single meal is complete and balanced. Raw bones with meat are a major part of their diet. Lots and lots of it! In the winter they dig up and eat frozen food. They eat offal such as liver and heart. They eat raw eggs. They eat decaying material. Food that is slightly off.
I notice that it doesn't refer to frozen BONES.

At an interesting and informative site about canine dental health, the author, Dr Pitcairn, says you should give dogs bones because, even though we can put our tongue in between our teeth and the inside of the cheeks to clean out remaining food, dogs can't, because their teeth are too sharp. Wild dogs keep the outside teeth clean by gnawing on bones.He says that if you watch your dog eating bones you will notice that she uses her side teeth in a sliding motion along the bone. This scrapes off any leftover food. His tips for feeding with bones are:
1. Feed bones that are too large to be swallowed.

2. Give only raw bones as cooked bones will splinter and can cause stomach or intestinal damage when swallowed.

3. Do not give frozen bones as they can be too hard and cause the teeth to break.

4. Start animals young with this practice and they will adapt to this with intelligence. The older animals, first introduced to this practice can try to swallow pieces too large.
Tom Lonsdale, on the other hand, says also:
Raw meaty bones can be fed frozen just like ice cream. Some pets eat the frozen article; others wait for it to thaw. Small carcasses, for example rats, mice and small birds, can be fed frozen and complete with entrails. Larger carcasses should have the entrails removed before freezing.
After weighing it all up, I've decided that Penny won't get frozen bones in future, no matter how much meat is on them. (As I write this she is patiently waiting for a bunch of chicken necks to thaw out.)


Amber-Mae said...

Luckily our teefies are strong but somehow, when we eat big pork bones, the bones can ship off easily. Mommy says the chicken neck bones are the safest coz the bones are small when they break off, the don't splinter becoz the bone is not sharp. They are like small little slippery knuckles. Mommy uses them for training.

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

Wayfarer Scientista said...

My pup loves those frozen moose leg bones he finds on random excursions. And he's never had a problem. It doesn't take too much slobbering on a bone before it thaws. I dunno, I think that accidents can happen regardless of the bones size, shape, or freezedness. And yes, wolves in AK eat frozen bones all winter long. It's the only kind available to them.

parlance said...

Wayfarer, it's most interesting to hear about how the wolves behave. I guess when they eat the frozen bones, the bones are part of a whole carcass and thus covered with a good layer of meat?

Regarding the moose, does the Disreputable Pup eat the skin and all?

parlance said...

Amber-Mae, when your mum gives you chicken necks at training, are they cut into short pieces? If they are, do you chew them at all or do you just gulp them down? I once tried them as treats for Penny and she LOVED them - I'm glad you've remended me, because I had forgotten how effective they were - we just used them for special training of new things.

Amber-Mae said...

Parlance, me is no chewer. Me just swallow the whole thing even the whole hard boiled egg. I get chocked sometimes but I like it! Mommy never cutes them coz when she holds in in her hands & when we do heeling especially, I can easy bite off one piece bit by bit & my mommy still has got grip of it.

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

That's fascinating, Amber-Mae. Your mum uses hard-boiled eggs for training and you just bite off a little bit while she keeps on holding it?

I'm just checking that I understood it properly, before I try it out.

Amber-Mae said...

Hehehe, actually I meant that my mommy never cuts the chicken neck for grip. The hard boiled, my mommy just gives me to eat. She gives it tom me whole without tearing to pieces & I never chew the egg. I just swallow it whole...

Love licks,
Solid Gold Dancer

parlance said...

Okay, now I get it, thanks. I'm learning lots of things from you and your mum, Amber-Mae.

Unknown said...

Why would dogs have spelling issues?

parlance said...

Nikolette, I don't know why some dogs might have spelling issues, as in the comment you pointed out. Penny doesn't, because she can't write. (As far as I know.)