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Can Puppies Chew Bones? An Expert Perspective (It’s Not That Simple) - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

Can Puppies Chew Bones? An Expert Perspective (It’s Not That Simple)

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

can puppies chew bones

Many pet parents go through a nightmare when their puppies are teething, and are desperate for safe chewing options, since many puppies will choose your running shoes over their chew toy. But can puppies chew bones? The short answer is that it depends on the type of bone.

Dental health is vital for dogs of all ages, and it’s a good idea to invest in canine mouth rinses from a young age. Raw bones, such as those from beef or chicken, can be a healthy and enjoyable treat for puppies to chew on. These bones are rich in nutrients and can help keep a puppy’s teeth clean and strong. 

However, it’s important to supervise puppies while they chew on bones to ensure they don’t accidentally swallow any large pieces that could cause choking or digestive issues. To get into this topic, we will refer to various studies on diet and dental health in dogs and puppies.

For older puppies, the type of bone matters. Brittle bones, such as chicken and turkey, are not recommended, as they can splinter and cause choking or digestive issues. Cooked bones are also not safe for puppies, as they can become brittle and break into sharp pieces, which can cause injury to the mouth, throat, and digestive tract and cause life-threatening inflammation in the gut called peritonitis.

But hard femur bones from a cow are not ideal either as they can break teeth and wear them down. We will discuss which bones you can give your puppy below.

Bones and the danger of calcium excess for puppies

Before we continue, I want to underline one of the major issues with bones that most sources on the internet overlook. This is the danger of getting too much calcium in their diet. We will discuss the other risks of bones for puppies below, but first let’s address something that many experts overlook when it comes to giving puppies bones.

Eating too many bones can cause a calcium excess in dogs, leading to white poop and constipation. But far more dangerous is the possibility of calcium excess in dogs. Yes, too  much calcium for puppies is very dangerous. Studies show that excess calcium in growing puppies causes abnormalities in their skeletons, leading to more hip and joint issues later in life.

Further, research shows that calcium and phosphorus need to be in the right ratio to work correctly, especially during the key growth period for a dog. In extremely simplistic terms, phosphorus binds with calcium in the gut and can prevent it being absorbed.

So if calcium and phosphorus are not balanced in the right ratio and amounts a dog could get:

  • renal trouble, 
  • calcium phosphate kidney stones, 
  • hypercalcemia,
  • hyperparathyroidism,
  • and degenerative bone and joint disorders in growing puppies, particularly large breeds. 

In fact, a study on Great Danes proved that excessive calcium intake can be particularly dangerous for large and giant breed puppies (just as a calcium deficiency can be dangerous too).

What’s more, these calcium and phosphorus in bones interfere with the absorption of other minerals, notably, iron, copper, manganese, and especially zinc. High amounts of calcium are known to cause zinc deficiencies. This is also important because large breeds are prone to a type 2 zinc deficiency and northern sled dogs are prone to type 1 zinc deficiencies, which can to crusty skin and hair loss, as well as a compromised immune system.

This means that more calcium from bones is not really good for dogs, especially if puppies are already getting all their calcium in a balanced dog food. 

For interest sake, the ratio should always ideally be between 1.1:1 and 1.4:1 calcium to phosphorus. That is, just slightly more calcium than phosphorus in the food. Or, to be even more precise, when accounting for your dog’s diet on a dry matter basis, about 1.1% should be calcium and 0.9% should be phosphorus. 

Types of Bones for Puppies: Which Bones Are Okay For Pups?

Nevertheless, you can give puppies bones to chew on occasionally as a special treat. I find a great way to keep them busy while they are teething is to ask a butcher for cow ribbons or kneecaps as these are softer bones with a lot of cartilage that is less likely to wear down or break their teeth.

Many people look for large raw beef bones that are either marrow bones or femur bones. These bones are rock hard and meant to be load carrying bones for a 2000 lbs animal. Do not give these to your puppy as they can easily break their teeth or wear their teeth down prematurely.

I will occasionally give a dog a large marrow bone. However, I supervise it to make sure that they are licking the marrow out of the bone and not chewing on it. If I have a heavy chewer that will grind down on a marrow bone, then I stick to the softer rib bones.

When giving a bone to a puppy, it is important to supervise them at all times and take the bone away if it becomes too small or if the puppy starts to chew it aggressively. Puppies should also have access to plenty of fresh water while chewing on bones.

Cooked Bones

Cooked bones, such as chicken or turkey bones, should never be given to puppies. Cooked bones can splinter and cause serious injury to a puppy’s digestive system. Cooked bones can also become lodged in a puppy’s throat or intestines, causing blockages that require surgery.

Rawhide Bones

Rawhide bones are made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. They can be beneficial for teething puppies because the act of chewing can help soothe the discomfort associated with growing new teeth. Rawhide bones also help to keep a puppy’s teeth clean by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. 

However, it’s important to supervise your puppy while they’re chewing on a rawhide bone, as pieces can break off and potentially cause choking or digestive blockages. Some puppies may also have sensitivity or allergies to rawhide, so it’s essential to observe your puppy for any signs of distress or discomfort.

Dog Dental Chews

Dog dental chews are specifically designed to help improve a dog’s dental health. They come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors, and are typically made from ingredients that can be safely ingested. 

Dental chews help to remove plaque and tartar from a dog’s teeth and can also freshen a dog’s breath. Again, supervision is key to ensure your puppy doesn’t choke on a piece that has broken off.

Artificial Bones

Artificial bones are a popular choice for puppies because they are long-lasting and come in a variety of flavors. These bones are typically made from nylon or rubber and are designed to withstand heavy chewing. Artificial bones can be found in pet stores and are a great alternativ-e-archive to raw bones. They should also be pretty pliant, because if they are too hard they can also lead to teeth breaking.

It is important to choose the right size and type of artificial bone for a puppy to prevent choking hazards. Artificial bones should also be inspected regularly for signs of wear and tear.

Overall, puppies can safely chew on a variety of bones as long as they are given in moderation and under supervision. It is important to choose the right type of bone for a puppy’s age and size to prevent choking hazards and digestive issues.

Benefits of Chewing Bones for Puppies

Chewing bones is a natural behavior for puppies that provides numerous benefits beyond simply satisfying their urge to chew. Here are a few benefits of chewing bones for puppies:

Dental Health

Chewing bones can help keep a puppy’s teeth clean and healthy. The mechanical action of chewing helps remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, chewing bones can help strengthen a puppy’s jaw muscles and remove loose milk teeth.

Mental Stimulation

Chewing bones can provide puppies with mental stimulation and help alleviate boredom. Puppies have a natural urge to chew, and bones can provide a safe and appropriate outlet for this behavior. Chewing bones can also help reduce stress and anxiety in puppies by providing a calming activity.

Essential for teething

It’s vital to have something on hand that is safe for your puppy to chew on when they are teething, or they will need to take out their discomfort on your shoes, furniture, or laptop charger.

If you have a teething puppy, keeping a variety of high-value and appropriate chews or bones available for them to chew on is a lifesaver.

Risks Associated with Puppies Chewing Bones

Choking Hazard

Puppies are known to be curious and playful, and they tend to put anything they find in their mouth, including bones. However, bones can pose a choking hazard to puppies, especially if they are not properly supervised. When puppies chew on bones, they can break off small pieces that can get stuck in their throat, leading to choking. In extreme cases, the puppy may require immediate medical attention to remove the bone piece from their throat.

Digestive Complications

Another risk associated with puppies chewing bones is digestive complications. When puppies chew on bones, they may swallow small pieces that can cause blockages in their digestive system. 

This can lead to constipation, vomiting several hours after eating the bones, and other digestive problems. Additionally, bones can splinter and cause damage to the stomach and intestines, leading to internal bleeding and infections. 

It’s a good idea to know how long dogs take to digest something if you suspect they swallowed a chunk of bone.

Dental Damage

While chewing on bones can help clean a puppy’s teeth and strengthen their jaw muscles, it can also cause dental damage. Bones are hard and can wear down a puppy’s teeth, leading to chipped or broken teeth. Additionally, bones can cause gum damage, leading to infections and other dental problems.

In conclusion, while puppies may enjoy chewing on bones, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with this activity. Proper supervision and caution can help prevent choking hazards, digestive complications, and dental damage. 

How Long Should You Let Your Puppy Chew a Bone?

As a general rule of thumb, puppies should be allowed to chew on a bone for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. After this time, the bone should be taken away and put out of reach until the next time the puppy is allowed to chew on it. This will help to prevent the puppy from accidentally swallowing large pieces of bone or developing any dental problems from excessive chewing.

It’s also important to supervise your puppy while they are chewing on a bone. This will allow you to keep an eye on them and ensure that they are not chewing too aggressively or for too long. If you notice that your puppy is starting to chew too hard or for too long, gently take the bone away and redirect their attention to a toy or treat.

In addition to monitoring your puppy’s chewing habits, it’s also important to choose the right type of bone for your puppy. Avoid giving your puppy cooked bones, as these can easily splinter and cause harm to your puppy’s digestive system. Instead, opt for raw bones or specially designed puppy chews that are made with safe, digestible materials.

By following these guidelines and being mindful of your puppy’s chewing habits, you can help ensure that they stay safe and healthy while enjoying the benefits of chewing on bones.

Choosing the Right Bone for Your Puppy

When it comes to choosing a bone for your puppy, it’s important to consider a few factors to ensure their safety and enjoyment. Here are some tips to help you choose the right bone for your furry friend:

  1. Size Matters

    Make sure to choose a bone that is appropriate for your puppy’s size. A bone that is too small can be a choking hazard, while one that is too big can be difficult for your puppy to chew and potentially damage their teeth. As a general rule of thumb, the bone should be slightly larger than your puppy’s muzzle.

  2. Raw or Cooked?

    Raw bones are a great option for puppies as they provide a natural source of nutrients and can help clean their teeth. However, it’s important to supervise your puppy while they are chewing on a raw bone to ensure they don’t break off any small pieces that could be a choking hazard. Cooked bones, on the other hand, can splinter and cause serious harm to your puppy’s digestive system, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

  3. Type of Bone

    There are a variety of bones available for puppies, including beef, chicken, and lamb bones. Beef bones are a popular choice as they are durable and can provide hours of entertainment for your puppy. Chicken bones, however, can be brittle and break easily, so it’s best to avoid them. Lamb bones are a good option for puppies with sensitive stomachs as they are less fatty than beef bones.

Which bone you choose is important too. Forget the giant meaty femur and marrow bones, they are just too hard and will wear down teeth and break them. Ask your butcher for softer rib bones or knee caps that have plenty of cartilage.

Supervising Your Puppy While Chewing

Puppies love to chew on things, and bones are no exception. While chewing on bones can be a great way for puppies to relieve stress and keep their teeth clean, it’s important for pet owners to supervise their puppy while they chew.

First and foremost, it’s important to choose the right type of bone for your puppy. Avoid cooked bones, as they can splinter and cause serious health issues. Instead, opt for raw bones or specially designed chew toys.

When giving your puppy a bone, make sure to supervise them closely. Keep an eye on their chewing habits and make sure they don’t try to swallow large pieces of the bone. If your puppy starts to break off large chunks of bone, take it away immediately.

Additionally, it’s important to teach your puppy proper chewing habits. If they start to chew on something they shouldn’t, redirect their attention to an appropriate chew toy or bone. Consistency is key when it comes to training your puppy to chew on the right things.

Alternatives to Bones for Puppies

While bones are a popular choice for many dog owners, they may not be the best option for puppies. Puppies have delicate teeth and jaws that are still developing, and chewing on hard bones can cause damage. Fortunately, there are several alternativ-e-archives that can provide the same benefits without the risks.

One option is to give your puppy chew toys made specifically for teething. These toys are designed to be soft and pliable, making them gentle on your puppy’s teeth and gums. Look for toys that are made from safe, non-toxic materials and are the appropriate size for your puppy.

Another alternativ-e-archive is to give your puppy rawhide chews. Rawhide is a natural material that is safe for puppies to chew on, and it can help satisfy their natural urge to chew. However, it is important to choose high-quality rawhide chews that are made from a single layer of rawhide and do not contain any added chemicals or preservatives.

You can also try giving your puppy frozen treats, such as frozen carrots or frozen peanut butter in a Kong toy. These treats can help soothe your puppy’s gums and provide a fun, tasty distraction.

Finally, consider incorporating dental chews or treats into your puppy’s diet. These treats are designed to help clean your puppy’s teeth and freshen their breath, and they come in a variety of flavors and sizes to suit your puppy’s preferences.

Overall, there are many alternativ-e-archives to bones for puppies that can provide the same benefits without the risks. By choosing safe, appropriate chew toys and treats, you can help your puppy satisfy their natural urge to chew while keeping their teeth and jaws healthy and strong.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age can a puppy chew bones?

Puppies can start chewing bones once they are around 3-4 months old and have all their adult teeth. Before that, they may not have the jaw strength or teeth to properly chew bones and could risk choking or injuring themselves.

What kind of bones can a puppy have?

It is important to only give puppies raw bones that are appropriate for their size and breed. Large bones or bones that are too hard can cause damage to teeth or pose a choking hazard. Some good options include raw chicken necks, turkey necks, or beef marrow bones.

Is it OK for puppies to chew on raw bones?

Yes, raw bones (specifically the softer rib bones or kneecaps from a cow) can provide a healthy and natural way for puppies to clean their teeth and exercise their jaws. However, it is important to supervise them while they are chewing to ensure they do not choke or swallow large pieces. Do not give them bones that are too hard or too brittle.

What can an 8 week old puppy chew on?

At 8 weeks old, puppies are still developing their teeth and jaws and should not be given bones to chew on. Instead, provide them with soft toys or chew treats specifically designed for puppies.

Can 12-week-old puppies have bones?

At 12 weeks old, puppies may be ready to start chewing on raw bones that are appropriate for their size and breed. You can try soft cartilage rib bones from a cow. However, it is important to monitor them while they are chewing to ensure they do not choke or swallow large pieces.

Final Thoughts

In summary, puppies can chew bones, but it’s essential to choose the right type of bone and supervise them during the chewing process. Bones that are too small or too soft can break and cause choking hazards or digestive issues.

It’s also crucial to note that not all puppies enjoy chewing bones, and some may prefer other types of toys or treats. Owners should pay attention to their puppy’s preferences and adjust accordingly.

Additionally, bones should not be the primary source of nutrition for puppies. A balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs should be the priority.

Overall, bone chewing can be a healthy and enjoyable activity for puppies when done correctly. However, owners should always prioritize their puppy’s safety and well-being above all else.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.