Introduction to Raw Diets Part V

 Raw Bones

Throughout this introductory series on raw diets, we have covered the basics of selecting and feeding several different forms of raw diets including raw frozen, freeze dried, and air dried. We have discussed the differences and the unique benefits associated with each type of raw diet. In this fifth blog, we will focus entirely on the benefits of feeding raw bones to your pet.  

While your dog may appear drastically different
from this wolf, genetically speaking they are nearly identical.

Why are raw bones important for my pet?            

While raw frozen diets are the core of any raw feeder’s program, raw meaty bones might have the most far reaching health benefits of any particular aspect of feeding raw. What is more natural than a dog chewing on a bone? A dog chewing on a raw bone! Before kibble, domestic dogs ate table scraps and  scrounged up raw dead animals to feed on. Whether they were hunting and eating small vermin, or whether they were feeding on leftover carcasses of already dead animals, chewing on and through raw meaty bones was integral to their overall health and well being. On the very simplest level, it kept their teeth and gums clean and healthy. After all, there were no dental treats for dogs back then. The raw meaty bones also provided many nutrients that they otherwise may not have gotten such as calcium, phosphorous, and other vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.

 Fast forward to present times, and it seems that people have forgotten the benefits of raw meaty bones for their pets (yes, even cats and ferrets will benefit from raw meaty bones). While people willingly give their pets cooked, sterilized, or smoked bones without question, there is hesitancy in trying a raw bone. Why is that? Part of the reason may lie with the anti-raw community at large making accusations about the safety of feeding raw and raw meaty bones to your pets. Numerous groups have come out and stated the following dangers of feeding or supplementing raw meaty bones:

·      Fractured teeth
·      Intestinal obstructions
·      Esophageal perforations
·      Intestinal perforations
·      Choking
·      Bacterial contamination

So are these actual dangers of feeding raw bones? Yes and no. These dangers are shared by cooked, smoked, sterilized, and raw bones alike, as well as bone alternatives such as the common hard plastic bone shaped toys that are available. You may think that raw bones would have a higher chance of causing a bacterial contamination but the opposite is true. More cooked, smoked, and sterilized bones have been recalled than any raw bones on the market to date. As far as your pet experiencing any of the other dangers listed above, there are slight risks to feeding raw bones. These minor risks are outweighed by the positive dental benefits.  Dental health directly affects the overall health in our pets, and raw bones directly affect their overall dental health in a positive way.  
Examples of recreational bones (top) and RMB's (bottom).

Are there different types of raw bones?   

There are two types of raw bones, and they are vastly different. The first type of bone is a raw meaty bone. While there is no formal definition of raw meaty bones (often seen as RMB's for short), for our purposes it means this:  

A bone that is surrounded with a significant amount of meat, tendons, and fat  so that if fed, your pet would experience an adequate meal.

Again, while this isn’t an exact definition, it does present two significant clauses that are agreed upon by the raw community. One, that there is a significant amount of meat surrounding the actual bone. Two, that if fed it would provide an adequate meal. Raw meaty bones are meant to be incorporated as part of your pet’s raw diet and not meant to be used as a treat or reward. The reason raw meaty bones must be incorporated into the raw diet is because they provide a significant source of protein, fat, and calories. If you were to simply feed raw meaty bones in addition to what you currently feed, your pet would begin gaining weight over time.

Let me give an example on how to incorporate RMB’s into your pet’s diet.

                        Say your dog weighs 100lbs. You are currently feeding 2% of your pet’s body weight in raw food per day. This equates to a total of 2lbs per day. If you wanted to then integrate raw meaty bones into the diet, you would then scale back the total portion of raw. To start, you might want to try 85% raw, and 15% raw meaty bones to see how your dog reacts to the new diet. Thus, you would then be feeding 1.75lbs of raw, and a quarter pound of raw meaty bones. This can all be customized to you and your pets liking.

There are many types of raw meaty bones available within the modern pet supply store. The most common  within pet supply stores are typically chicken backs, chicken necks, and turkey necks. All three of these are readily available, are pretty inexpensive to feed, and are the most user friendly for people just getting into feeding RMB’s.  

Raw recreational bones are the second type of raw bones available today, and are the most commercially available through pet supply stores.  Again, there is no definition but for our purposes we will take these to be:  

A bone surrounded with little meat, tendons, and fat that can be given as a treat, that could not be considered adequate enough to be fed as a meal. 

 The most common type of raw recreational bones would be beef marrow bones sometimes referred to as soup bones. These are typically 2”-6” cut pieces of beef bone, that contain rich marrow. In general, recreational bones have very little meat surrounding them. You can also find recreational bones from bison, lamb, and venison pretty easily through retail pet stores. We recommend that you rotate between them, as feeding just beef marrow bones may be too rich for your pet. These bones are considered a treat, so feeding too many may result in your pet gaining weight. If you aren’t treating your dog with biscuits or other types of treats, you can give your pet a bone every day. You may not want them to eat or chew the entire bone in one day, so you can take the bone and re-freeze it a suitable packaging (original packaging, freezer bags, etc) and give to your pet the next day. This way you can manage how much of the bone they can actually chew in a given day, limiting their overall caloric intake. 

What are the benefits to feeding raw bones?                

Raw bones are nature’s toothbrush. If you start your puppy (raw bones are puppy safe) on raw bones you will have far less plaque build up over time even if you do not feed a raw diet. When you pair a nutrient dense raw diet with raw bones, your pet will be even better off. People who have fed raw bones generally agree that the following improvements have occurred with their pet:

  ·      A decrease in overall plaque across the teeth.
Even cats benefit from raw meaty bones!
  ·      A loosening of plaque off of the teeth.
  ·      A decrease of inflammation in the mouth, especially the gums.
  ·      Better smelling breath.
  ·      Overall healthier, cleaner teeth and gums (less prone to disease such as periodontal disease).
  ·      Stronger jaw muscles.
  ·      A content, entertained pet that is less likely to find their way into trouble. (Puppy people, we are talking to you!)
  ·      A natural source of calcium and phosphorous.

Raw meaty bones are rich in digestive enzymes that pets cannot get while eating a kibble or canned based diet. Raw bones are a great introduction to the raw movement, and are user friendly. To feed a raw bone,  you remove the frozen bone from the packaging and feed as is. There is no need to thaw out the bone.

Using tarps allows easy clean up after dinner or snack time.

Are raw bones messy?

Many people do not feed their pet raw bones because they believe the raw bones will make a mess. Having fed hundreds of raw bones throughout the past several years we can attest that this simply isn’t the case. Raw bones are typically less messy than cooked and smoked bones which tend to be extremely greasy. We recommend feeding them frozen, so when they thaw it will drip moisture. There are precautions that you can take to feed them in a sanitary manner.

·      Take the bone out of packaging and place it on a clean towel, or plastic tarp.
·      If the dog picks up the bone and removes it from the designated area, use your command (“Give” is used often), and have your pet release the bone.
·      Place the bone back on the towel or tarp.
·      Continue this through the first several times that you give your pet a raw bone, and this will condition your pet that they can only have the bone where you allow them to have the bone.
·      After your pet has chewed the bone, wash the towel with hot water, or sanitize your tarp.

It is also a good practice to take away their bone with the use of a command periodically, because you don’t want your pet to begin guarding their bones.. Always give it back to your pet, or replace it with something else that makes them happy so the exchange is a positive instead of a negative.

Some people choose to feed raw bones on their tile floors, and this is fine but you will need to sanitize the floors after every feeding. The only concern with tile floors is it is possible for a large bone to crack the tile if dropped from a significant height.

Other people will only give their pets raw bones outside of the home. Of all of the options, this one should only be done in a special circumstance. Giving a raw bone outside presents several issues, most of which come down to safety. Raw bones thaw very quickly, and in warm temperatures they will begin to spoil exposing the bone to much more bacteria. They might also attract insects such as ants and flies, and can even attract larger wildlife such as coyote, bear etc. Obviously all of this is dependent upon where you live, but even in NJ the threat of a bear, coyote, or fox finding their way to the smell of a bone isn’t out of the question. Furthermore, you don’t want the bone to find its way into any urine or feces that may be present outside.

Are raw bones safe for pets of all ages?
Raw bones are excellent snacks for all ages of dogs, puppies included!

This is one of the most frequently asked questions from customers that are interested in trying raw bones. Many people are afraid or unsure whether they would be appropriate for a puppies, kittens, or elderly pets. Without any question, raw bones are appropriate for all ages of pets. Whether you choose to feed or treat your pet with them is a personal decision, but they are safe enough to do so. Feeding raw bones to puppies has other benefits as well. Not only does this keep their teeth clean and healthy, but it satiates their appetite to chew, saving countless socks, shoes, and furniture legs. Raw bones are also safe for older dogs, but we recommend feeding more raw meaty bones rather than raw recreational bones to anyone whose pet suffers from dental problems. Raw meaty bones will help cushion their teeth while still allowing them to chew and tear. Recreational bones tend to be too hard, and to a pet who has dental issues you are much more likely to encounter problems.

In the next blog of this series, we will discuss Advanced Raw Concepts. Topics such as prey model raw diets, raw meaty bone diets, wolf diets, tripe, and gorge/fast principles will be discussed. These topics are not for the novice raw feeder, but for those more advanced pet parents who are looking for the next step. We will also discuss designing a menu, and how rotation diet principles play a pivotal role in overall nutrition.