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Do Dog Bones Go Bad?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dog bones can go bad, just like any other food.
  • Raw bones are safer than cooked bones, but still pose certain risks.
  • Cooked bones should never be given to dogs, as they can splinter and cause health risks.
  • Synthetic bones, both edible and non-edible, provide a safer alternative to raw or cooked bones.
  • It's important to safely give your dog a bone by setting time limits, supervising, and disposing of brittle bones.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Practicing small pets and equine veterinarian and junior teaching assistant in Veterinary Medicine.
Published on
Tuesday 16 August 2022
Last updated on
Thursday 27 July 2023
Do Dog Bones Go Bad?
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Bones have become synonymous with dogs. Many times you’ll see commercials or print ads showing dogs with bones. Some dog treats or food are even bone-shape. There’s no denying that your four-legged pals love this good-old treat! But when do you toss these bones out? Do dog bones go bad? Let’s find out the answer!

Can Dog Bones Go Bad?

Seeing your dog jump in excitement as you offer him a bone is heartwarming! He’ll show off his quirky tricks just to get that delicious reward. Just like any kind of food, dog bones can go bad too. What bones can dogs eat? Let’s take a look at the different kinds of dog bones.

Raw Bones

It’s a dog’s instinct to desire raw meat. After all, their ancestors hunt for prey in the wild. If it weren’t for domestication, dogs would have continued the same diet. Even with numerous options for dog food, some owners prefer going natural, including bones.  

Feeding raw bones to dogs offer both benefits and risks. Raw bones are safer than cooked ones. Yet, they may still pose a threat, such as when you give the wrong size. A good rule of thumb is giving bones larger than your dog’s head or muzzle. Choose beef bones or bison. Smaller bones can break easily, and the sharp pieces may cause injury to your dog. Raw bones are a good source of nutrition for dogs. Be sure to pick those that contain meat, marrow, or cartilage. 

Because raw bones are fresh and only good for a couple of hours. Don’t keep them at room temperature. Take it from your dog after his chewing session to avoid contamination. Pathogens like salmonella can make your dog sick.

Cooked Bones

On the other hand, cooked bones are a big no-no for dogs. Cooking strips the bones of nutritional value. The bones also change, making them easy to splinter. The broken pieces can cause several health risks for your dog. It also tends to get stuck in the digestive tract. 

Like any cooked food, cooked bones are bound to spoil if left at room temperature for a day. It isn’t even a question of how long a dog can keep a bone. Never offer cooked bones to your dog. If you want to share your rack of ribs with your dog, make him some delightful bone broth instead! 

Synthetic Bones

Don’t feel guilty if you decide to ditch raw and cooked bones. You still have a safe workaround by choosing synthetic bones. Synthetic bones are available in edible and non-edible kinds. Edible ones include dental chews that are as good and as stimulating as raw bones. They are available in different sizes, so pick what suits your dog’s size. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal. You may also opt for digestible bully sticks for protein.

Non-edible options include durable, rubber-based chews that are infused with flavor. These provide a good alternative to bones because the risk for smaller parts is low. Again, always choose the right size. 

Synthetic bones offer a longer shelf-life than raw or cooked bones. They are processed and may contain preservatives. Check the expiry dates on the packet before giving it to your dog. Depending on their ingredients, most dog treats may last from months to a year when kept sealed. 

How to Safely Give Your Dog a Bone

Chewing on bones not only provides joy to your dog but also helps stimulate your dog. Plus, it prevents the build-up of plaque. It is a good alternative instead of dogs chewing on your furniture, shoes, or other items at home. So, what are the ways to keep your dog safe while chewing on a bone? Here are the tips:

  • Have a specific amount of time set for chewing. Dog bones may help dogs exercise their jaws, but too much is unhealthy. Provide about 15 minutes for your dog to enjoy gnawing on the bones.
  • Watch your dog enjoy their treat. Avoid injuries by supervising the activity. You’ll see immediately if they are getting aggressive or have broken the bone. 
  • Dispose of brittle bones. If your dog has spent a lot of time repeatedly enjoying the bone, toss it out. It is likely to splinter or become a choking hazard
  • Consider medical or dental issues of your dog. Dogs with pancreatitis should not be given bones with marrow due to their fat content. Dogs with dental issues should not be given bones at all. 
  • Reward them with the bone after a meal. If your dog is full, he is less likely to swallow the bone. 
  • Avoid giving pork bones or ribs. These aren’t hard enough and will easily break into small pieces. 
  • Offer bones larger than your dog’s muzzle. However, if you know your dog is likely to break the bone, avoid it completely. 
  • Store bones properly. Refrigerate bones that have been gnawed on. Your dog’s saliva may cause bacteria build-up and contamination. Dispose of it after 3 to 4 days. 

Why Bones Are Bad for Dogs

Now you are familiar with your options for dog bones and safety tips for your dog. Let’s discuss why bones are bad for dogs. The health hazards that may arise are:

  • Injuries or lacerations in the mouth or tongue due to sharp, broken pieces
  • Broken teeth from extreme chewing. This may need professional extraction or a root canal procedure.
  • Punctures on the stomach lining due to the sharp chewed pieces.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or severe constipation.
  • Choking 
  • Bones get lodged on the dog’s jaw and limit their food or water intake. 

Treatment for these health risks may break the bank. In the worst case, it may require surgery or cause irreparable damage to your dog’s body. 

So, are bones bad for dogs? Well, it depends on your dog and your choice of bones. Are dogs supposed to eat bones? Consider bones a treat to be offered once or twice a week for fun chewing exercises. When in doubt, speak with your veterinarian to weigh the pros and cons. 

Risks of Giving Bones to Dogs

There are a lot of risks in giving bones to dogs such as dental damage, gastrointestinal issues, bacterial risks, and other injuries. While bones can help clean teeth, they can also cause dental problems.

Hard bones, especially weight-bearing bones like beef or bison femurs, can fracture a dog’s teeth. This can lead to pain, infection, and the need for dental procedures.

Dogs can chew bones into small pieces, which may pose a choking hazard. These small bone fragments can also cause obstructions in the digestive tract if swallowed, leading to serious health issues that may require surgery.

Moreover, chewing on bones can irritate a dog’s digestive system, causing issues such as constipation, diarrhea, or upset stomach. Additionally, some dogs may have difficulty digesting certain types of bones.

Bones, particularly cooked bones, can splinter and cause injuries to a dog’s mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract. There is also a risk of bacterial contamination, such as Salmonella or E. coli, especially with raw or improperly handled bones.

Do Dog Bones Go Bad: FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about dog bones: 

How long is a dog bone good for?

After taking it from your dog, a dog bone is good for 3-4 days when refrigerated. Since the recommended time for chewing a large bone is 15 mins, you can still offer the same bone next time, given that safety tips were followed. If you notice the bone is damaged or close to breaking, toss it and provide a new one instead. 

Can old bones make dogs sick?

Old bones have a high potential for contamination, especially raw bones. Raw bones can easily get spoiled and gather disease-causing bacteria. Don’t give old bones to dogs unless they are refrigerated or previously frozen. 

Are old bones bad for dogs?

Old bones are bad for your dogs, especially when left at room temperature. Previously gnawed on dogs can accumulate bacteria at room temperature. Whether raw, synthetic, or cooked, the dog’s saliva on the bone can cause bacteria to build up. Bones can go bad too. 

Can dog bones be left out?

Raw and cooked bones can’t be left out at room temperature because they can go bad easily. Synthetic bones can be left as is if they are still sealed. However, if your dog has chewed on the bone, no matter what kind it is, it’s best to refrigerate and toss it after 3 to 4 days. 

Are bones from the pet store safe?

Pet stores offer a wide range of options for bones. Bones from the pet store are usually synthetic ones. Some are edible, while some are not. Look for the safety seal from reputable veterinarian organizations. Don’t forget to check expiry dates.

How long are frozen bones good for?

Frozen bones are good for as long as four months. They can be offered frozen to your dog as a cooling treat. Or you can wait until it’s properly thawed before giving it to your pooch. 

Dogs and bones seem always to be the perfect match. Yet, bones can be a hazard to your dog when used the wrong way. It pays to know which dog bones are safe, how to give them safely, and when bones go bad. After all, we all just want to offer the best to our lovable pets, don’t we?

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