There is an archetypal image of a dog with a bone. Chewing away, happy as can be. But giving bones to dogs is incredibly controversial. More controversial than you may think, particularly when they are of puppy age.
To answer the question of what age you can give your puppy a bone, we first must determine whether you should give them a bone at all. I personally chose not to when raising my dogs, but I will try to give a balanced answer here.
Here’s the short answer that many people will tell you for the age you can feed your puppy bones, followed by in-depth analysis.
What age can I give my puppy a bone? Some people will say that you can give your puppy raw bones from 12 weeks of age. However, there can be some risks involved with feeding your puppy bones which I will explain further down.
Before you read on though, a word of warning from the RSPCA animal charity:
“Natural foods include raw meaty bones. Always check with your vet first that raw bones are suitable for your particular puppy. Some puppies may have misshapen jaws and may have difficulty chewing on raw bones.”
Check with your vet before you make any decision about giving your puppy a bone. You might want to buy chew toys instead like the ones below (click the image to see price).
What age can I feed my puppy bones?
Generally speaking, once your puppy has a full set of teeth and is post-weaning by at least a month, bones are fine to give them. From that point, it is not any different than giving an adult dog some bones to eat… but there are caveats so please don’t skip anything in this guide.
What are the benefits of giving bones to puppies?
1. Nutrients from bones
Bones are a good source of calcium that enable your growing puppy to build strong, healthy bones of their own.
Bone marrow is where most of the nutrients lie, which contains iron, proteins, fats, and antioxidants that support your dog’s health. Some owners report that giving their dog bones has led to a shinier coat and a stronger skeletal development.
2. Defeating boredom
This is a big one! I am sure you would much rather your dog chew on a big tasty bone than on your prized oak-wood furniture.
It makes sense to distract your dog with something ultimately much more enticing to chew overall to avoid this destructive behavior.
Chewing bones is a great past time for dogs and puppies alike.
3. Cleaning teeth
Your puppy will start to build up tartar on their teeth after 1 year of age. If tartar is left to build up uncontrollably, it can cause many dental hygiene issues.
The American Kennel Club writes:
“Tartar build-up can cause gum inflammation and disease, tooth decay, abscesses, and other oral infections impacting a dog’s overall health.”
Chewing toys or bones can help scrape off tartar from their teeth, keeping them clean and maintained for longer.
4. Soothing teething gums
If you have had the pleasure of having a wisdom tooth grow through, you know how uncomfortable it is to grow new teeth!
As puppies’ teeth, it can be a kindness to give them something to chew on to massage those aching gums.
I would argue that bones are not the best candidates for this purpose, as softer rubber chew toys are much gentler on sore gums, but some owners do opt to give their puppy bones to help with their teething.
What types of bones can you give to puppies?
Let’s discuss the types of bones that are advisable to give to puppies if you choose to let yours eat and chew them.
The general advice is to choose a bone that is at least the size of your puppy’s head and has round edges. Lamb and beef bones are very popular for this reason.
You can get these raw fresh bones from your local butcher.
Here is a list of bones to avoid:
- Cooked bones: Cooked bones become brittle and easy to break. If they are breakable, your dog may snap them and swallow. Even the splinters of bone can be dangerous which we will discuss in more depth later.
- Chicken bones (whole): Unless you are grinding them up to give to your puppy, chicken bones, in general, are very hollow, small, and brittle. A recipe for disaster if you feed them to your puppy whole.
- Small bones: This is a choking hazard so it’s always best to choose large, rounded bones.
- Frozen bones: This is bad for your dog’s oral health. If you choose to give your puppy bones, get one fresh from the butcher – not frozen. If you do freeze bones to keep them longer, ensure it is fully thawed before giving to your pup.
What are the dangers of giving bones to puppies?
And this is why I don’t think there’s any age to give puppies bones. It’s all personal opinion, but here it is.
1. Cracked teeth
Bones are extremely tough. Even extreme chewers cannot easily break bones – and they shouldn’t. The fear of giving your puppy a bone is that they may become a bit overzealous and attempt to break the bone.
This will almost definitely hurt them rather than make a single scratch on the hard shell of the bone.
This is why vets often report broken or cracked teeth in dogs and puppies who have been given raw bones to chew on.
2. Swallowing bone pieces
I have had the unfortunate delightful experience of swallowing a shard of bone as a child. Not only is it super painful, but it is also hazardous to your puppy’s digestive tract.
The bone is not digestible at all, so it can cause an obstruction down the windpipe which chokes them. Or it can stay lodged in their stomach. It is as nasty as it sounds.
Some vets have had to operate on puppies with bones stuck in their insides. It is certainly a great risk to your dog’s health.
Safer alternatives to giving puppies bones to eat
So, there are pros and cons to giving your puppy a bone at their tender age or at any point in their lives. You may decide that the cons outweigh the pros here, and I don’t blame you. What could be good alternatives to the raw bone life?
It depends on your intentions in feeding your dog bones in the first place. Is it for the nutritional benefits or just as a chew toy? I have recommendations for both.
Rubber chew toys
Yes, the classic Kong toy is popular for a reason (get one on Amazon). Non-toxic rubber chew toys have the benefits of being softer of your puppy’s sore gums than bones, whilst providing hours of entertainment.
Chew toys are known as boredom busters. Many also double up as treat-dispensing toys; even more fun!
Chew toys for dogs with textured surfaces are good for maintaining your dog’s teeth in the same way that bones are.
For the nutritional benefits: Ground up bones & cartilage
But hang on. Didn’t I just make a huge argument to say that bones are essentially the devil for puppies to chew on?
Well… the devil is in the details, dear reader. There of course is nuance to this argument.
Most of the issues with giving your puppy bones to chew on, boils down to the fear of large chunks of bones getting stuck in their system or breaking down their brand new teeth.
Luckily, if you are after the nutritional benefits of bones and bone marrow for your pup without the choking hazard, you can always grind them up and sprinkle it on their meals.
Cartilage is also amazing for your dog’s health. It contains a lot of glucosamine which is reported to help with keeping your puppy’s joints supple and mobile as they age.
I don’t agree with letting puppies chew bones, no matter what their age. For me, the risks outweigh the benefits, particularly as the benefits can be got from other things.
Ultimately you need to make the decision but do so after asking your vet what age you should be giving your puppy a bone.
You might also like…
Here are some more popular puppy guides:
- The age you should buy a puppy legally and ethically
- What age you can start puppies eating solid food
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/puppy-bone-dog-pet-animal-food-1502565/