If you follow dog accounts on social media, or you’ve been around this blog for long enough, you’ve definitely heard of people giving their dogs “raw meaty bones.“
Of course, you can see why dogs love chomping away at juicy, crunchy bones. If you’re a weirdo like me, you, too, probably find those eating sounds kind of satisfying. And it’s wonderful to see how excited dogs get when they realize they’re getting a tasty raw snack.
But do raw meaty bones have health benefits for dogs?
Here’s what we know raw bones can do for dogs, what they might do, and what you should know before giving your dog a bone.
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Do Raw Meaty Bones Actually Clean Your Dog’s Teeth?
There’s this interesting Rutgers University study that found that raw meaty bones were highly effective at reducing oral bacteria, even moreso than brushing with CET toothpaste.
It’s just one study, and there were only 6 dogs involved, so it’s not conclusive evidence that giving your dog a raw bone is better than brushing their teeth or giving a dental chew.
However, it’s the anecdotal evidence that we have plenty of – most raw feeders can attest that their dogs’ teeth have been much cleaner, and their breath, much more pleasant, since feeding raw.
Even I’ve noticed the difference, especially with Matilda.
When I run out of raw food and have to feed her only kibble for a few days, I have to brush nightly, and I find it incredibly difficult to remove black buildup that quickly forms between her tiny incisors (AKA her “nasty Chiclets.”)
Conversely, when I run out of kibble and just feed raw, she doesn’t get that black buildup at all. I still have to brush often and check for the occasional strand of tendon that might get stuck between her teeth, but the difference is incredible.
Left, black buildup after a kibble dinner and a skipped nightly brushing session. Right, after a raw meaty bone. Note that while black plaque has been removed, there is still yellow tartar that will need to be removed during a professional dental cleaning.
She’s already had one tooth extraction, so you bet I’m going to choose the best (in my experience and opinion) possible ways to keep her teeth clean, along with brushing and dental cleanings.
But how, specifically, do raw meaty bones do this?
Raw meaty bones clean your dog’s teeth in a few ways:
- They may contain live enzymes or “good bacteria” that help prevent plaque and tartar buildup. I say “may” because this is common knowledge among raw feeders, but I don’t have solid evidence of that the enzymes in meat are similar to the enzymes you’d find in, say, enzymatic dog toothpaste that is proven to work.
- They DO engage most, if not all, of your dog’s teeth in a way that most dental chews do not. When dogs chew most rawhide treats, bones, and dental chews, they hold it between their front paws and chomp with their molars. With raw meaty bones, you may notice your dog tearing, with their front incisors and canines, then grinding with their molars.
- They have tendons and sometimes, fur, that act as floss when your dog pulls the meat from bone.
- The chewing action massages your dog’s gums, helping to prevent buildup under the gumline – something that happens regardless of what your dog is chewing.
- Chewing stimulates saliva production, which helps wash away bacteria and debris, which is then swallowed and killed by your dog’s stomach acids.
Benefits Of Raw Meaty Bones For Dogs Besides Dental Health
Raw feeders depend on raw meaty bones as a source of calcium in their dog’s diet. For kibble feeders, raw meaty bones make an engaging occasional snack.
Tearing away at a raw meaty bone is a form of physical activity. It gives your dog’s neck, jaws, and shoulders a good workout. It’s also mentally stimulating, perfect for high energy dogs and those with anxiety and behavioral issues.
I can’t neglect to mention the domino effect of raw meaty bones on your dog’s health. When their teeth are in bad shape, oral infections can cause bacteria to circulate through the bloodstream, putting a strain on their heart, kidneys, and liver.
Why Most Vets Don’t Recommend Raw Meaty Bones
Despite the many benefits of raw meaty bones for dogs, most vets do not recommend them, or they will tell you to feed them with caution.
There are good reasons for this.
Vets generally recommend practices, foods, and treatments that have been extensively researched in a scientific setting. The 6-dog Rutgers University study is nothing compared to decades of feeding trials and product testing that commercial foods and dental chews have been through.
That’s the real reason why most veterinarians recommend and prescribe foods that aren’t exactly perfect. Veterinary foods are generally highly processed and high in carbs, but they’re scientifically proven to treat the ailments they are prescribed for.
Please understand that veterinarians do not get commissions for selling food. The companies that develop veterinary formulas also conduct research and develop veterinary textbooks and curriculums.
Also, keep in mind that veterinarians tend to see raw fed patients when something goes wrong. They see dogs who have fractured their teeth on bones, those who have had impactions, blockages, and imperforations, and those who suffer nutritional deficiencies from imbalanced homemade diets.
They also do not want to give you advise that could harm you or your family. Your vet does not know if you will take care when handling and sanitizing raw food, and they would not want to be blamed if you or someone in your household contracted salmonella or e.coli from your dog’s bones.
I do not personally use them due to the higher risk of bacterial contamination. BUT…. in a perfect world without potential bacterial contamination I think they are really good.
Dogs should never be left alone chewing any bones due to the risk of ingesting a large piece and/or splintering of the bone. Also, there is also a risk of cracking teeth…. owners need to be well aware of the dangers before offering there dog a marrow bone to chew.
TCVM [Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine] perspective encourages bone broth for any Chinese pattern diagnosis involving the Kidney (ie. Orthopaedic, neurological disorders, and/or any kidney disease.
Michel Selmer, DVM “The Caring Vet” Integrative Veterinarian at Long Island Veterinary Specialists and and author of Amazon Bestseller The Best of Both Worlds An Advanced Guide To Integrative Veterinary Care For Healthier, Happier Pups (It’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)
You do not always have to agree with your vet, but you should always take their professional opinion seriously.
If you’re interested in feeding your dog raw meaty bones, it’s best to work with an integrative veterinarian who has experience with raw feeding so they can help you decide what diet is best for your dog, and make sure you’re informed of all the risks.