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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

The DIY Dog Food Chef: Should you feed bones to your dog?

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As regular readers know, I feed Cassie the Corgi real food: a carefully calibrated combination of starch, vegetables, and cooked meat plus canine vitamins. Easy to fix and unlikely to be contaminated with adulterants such as melamine.

It being summer, we’re both developing cabin fever: when it’s 105-degrees plus, the pavement is too hot for her feet after dawn and before sunset. In her doggy boredom, she’s been working on creating a fine lick granuloma on one leg. Because she doesn’t pull off bandaids (what kind of a dog is she, anyway?), it’s pretty easy to block her from chewing the incipient wound she’s already built, but all that means is she finds another spot to lick.

No one really knows what leads a dog to lick itself raw, but some veterinarians speculate that one cause is boredom. So I decided she needs something to keep her busy with chewing: let her chew an object instead of her foot.

I never feed my dogs bones, mostly because they’re messy indoors and attract ants and other insects outdoors. Smaller bones, as we all know, are very dangerous to domestic dogs: the risk for intestinal impaction and perforation is high. Some people, however, think you can get away with large knuckle bones, those round heavy things that are pretty hard for a dog to break apart. And many folks figure a dog, being a direct descendant of the wolf and genetically barely discernible from the wolf, should have at any raw bones you care to give it.

A dog, however, is not a wolf. Over tens of thousands of years, Canis lupus familiaris has adapted to live with humans, and it’s a rare domestic pooch that brings down dinner on the range. I did a little research and found this interesting e-mail discussion between a small-animal veterinarian and biologists and caretakers who  manage captive wolves. The wolf experts point out that wild canids eat more than just a bone: when they ingest bones, they’re also eating skin and fur. The fur, in particular, tends to wrap itself around hard objects in the digestive tract, padding sharp bones and protecting the intestine.

Huh. Well, I don’t think I’ll be inviting Bugs Bunny to Cassie’s tea-time while she’s chewing some cow’s knuckles. So…hold the raw bones, waiter.

So what can I do to amuse this animal?

One reasonably safe strategy is to take a Kong-style toy and fill it with peanut butter or dog treats, so that the pooch has to fiddle with it for quite some time to extract the yummy stuff. Peanut butter, while probably harmless unless the dog is allergic to it, is fattening. You can substitute any number of fillers, including raw vegetables if your dog will eat them. Yogurt and cottage cheese can also be used. Ordinary dog treats work well. When using gooey or runny fillings, you can minimize leakage by freezing the filled Kong before giving it to the dog.

The other thing I’ll be trying is adding some omega-3 fatty acids to her food, lest she have a deficiency that’s giving her itchy skin. Easiest way to accomplish this is to include salmon in the diet. She likes salmon, but lately I’ve fallen into the habit of feeding hamburger most of the time. Dogs need a variety of protein sources. In addition to adding fish a couple times a week, I’ll dig some chicken out of the freezer for her, and also pick up some ground lamb the next time I see it on sale at Sprouts.

And finally, even though Cassie is pretty laid-back (she got over her apparent separation anxiety within a few weeks of taking over my house), to forestall any further neurotic behavior I’m going to have to get off  my duff at 5:30 in the morning and take her for a walk, instead of plopping in front of the computer and spending an hour or two blogging. She already polices the neighborhood every evening; in the mornings it will be safe for us to invade the park (we don’t go there after dark). So that should give her (and me) a little more exercise.

So, as to the answer to the question of whether you should feed bones to your dog: in a word, nope.

Dog food at Funny:

Doggie treats
General recommendations
Costs & benefits
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One Comment

  1. Molly Polly LOVES her Kong treat – she’s a cheese lover, so I get really cheeeeeeap generic cheese, shred it up and mix with a mix of diced bread heels, a bit of kibble and a little pb for binding and stuff the thing – hours of nibbling, licking and not as messy as pb is straight. I just can’t bring myself to use cheesewhiz fake cheeze that they sell at the pet store.

    Molly is fed about half kibble and half people food. She was a ‘throw away’ dog. Well socialized as a puppy, but feral by the time the animal control people caught her. She was skin and bones – nursing 7 puppies. Luckily, she was picked up by a dept in a small town nearby that has a no kill shelter. She equates people food with the bad times of living out of trash cans and kibble with being safe at the shelter. So we compromise and I watch her weight better than I do my own LOL.