Labradors and bones tend to be inseparable ”friends”. Dogs enjoy gnawing on bones but on the other hand, I am sure you have heard that bones can be quite dangerous for your Labrador’s health. This contradictory information can be rather confusing.
Labradors can eat bones but the consumption should always be supervised. Raw bones are the best choice. Labradors should stay away from cooked bones as there is a risk of broken teeth, mouth /tongue injuries, rectal bleeding… Pork bones and ribs should also be avoided, it is safer to offer raw chicken, lamb, or beef bones.
Which Bones Are Safe For Labradors?
Edible bones like raw chicken, beef, lamb, or turkey bones are fairly safe for your Labrador. Edible bones are softer than Recreational bones, hollow and covered with some soft tissue.
Make sure the bone you feed your pet has some soft tissues on it ( raw muscle meat, connective tissues). The purpose of bone feeding is to gnaw off soft tissues like marrow or tendon.
Bones with marrow are high in fat. Remember this if you have a Lab on a low-fat diet. Too much fat can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
When it comes to raw chicken or turkey bones, note that not all bones are safe for consumption. Feet, necks, backs, and wingtips are rather safe.
Chicken bones are more suitable for small to medium size dogs while turkey bones are better for medium to large breeds. Since Labradors are medium to large size dogs, they can enjoy both!
No matter raw bones are safer than cooked, still pose a choking risk. Raw bones shouldn’t be given to Labrador puppies until they are at least 4-5 months old.
One of the benefits of feeding a dog with a bone is calcium intake. Poultry bones have the highest level of calcium of all edible bones. For a healthy dog’s bones, the balance of calcium and phosphorus is important.
Raw bones are very high in calcium and phosphorus while the meat is high in phosphorus but poor in calcium. For a healthy Lab, you have to combine both – meat and bones.
Of course, raw bones and meat carry some risk of bacterial contamination. This risk can be reduced to a minimum with proper handling.
Don’t forget to refreeze or refrigerate the bones that still have some soft tissue on them if you plan to offer them to your Lab again.
Recreational bones are much harder than edible bones. These are big hip or femur bones, knuckles, kneecaps, or necks, from beef, moose, deer, or bison. These bones should be gnawed on only and not eaten except for the remaining meat or marrow. The purpose of gnawing on these bones is great mental stimulation and physical exercise ( it builds a strong neck and spine) for your Lab. And not just that, gnawing on a recreational bone has extraordinary oral health benefits, it’s like a real toothbrush for your Lab!
But if your Lab tends to swallow big chunks of bones, then don’t offer recreational bones to him.
Don’t forget that recreational bones do have some nutritional value but since the dog is not eating the actual bone, he doesn’t take all these nutrients.
The general rule of thumb says that when it comes to the size, recreational bones should be the size of your Lab’s head.
Which Bones Are Not Safe For Labradors?
Cooked or smoked bones are not the safe option for your Lab. There are a number of risks associated with them so it is better to skip them totally.
The only cooked recreational bones you can serve to your Lab are knuckles and kneecaps. These bones have a round shape, which makes them more difficult to break and swallow. Also, they have some really tasty bites like cartilage or other soft tissue which will keep your Lab entertained and happy. But still, you should avoid offering any type of cooked bones to your Lab.
Another bone you should skip is weight-bearing bones or chicken legs, even if they are raw. They are not recommended because they can easily splinter.
Splintered bone parts can be very sharp and cause great damage to your Lab’s throat, stomach and intestines.
Pork bones, no matter raw or cooked are not recommended for dogs according to the AKC article – Can dogs eat bones? They can easily splinter and crack while your Lab chews on them.
If he swallows even a small bone fragment, that could cause choking, esophagus, or intestine injuries as well as intestinal blockage.
Make sure your Lab stays away from fish bones completely. These bones are so small, fragile but extremely dangerous.
What Should I Do If My Labrador Ate A Beef Bone?
If your Lab picked the steak bone from your table or ingested the bone you gave him to gnaw on, you are facing rather a serious situation.
The first thing you need to do is to stay calm.
Take your dog and put him in the crate or isolate him in some room and make sure you collect any bones you run into. The point is to prevent your dog from taking some bone parts again.
The next thing you should do is to call your vet for advice. You will need to say the age and size of a dog, a breed, and give more information on the bone he ate.
Follow the instructions given by the vet. Most probably the vet will advise you to feed your dog with bread or pumpkin. This kind of food will ensure that bone fragments get absorbed which would prevent internal injuries.
Never try to make your Lab vomit. This is very wrong, as the bones could make great damage on their way back. It is better to wait for the bone pieces to come out naturally.
Monitor your Lab’s behavior closely for 24-48 h. If you notice that he is lethargic, has bloody diarrhea, or has difficulties passing stools, you should rush to the vet.
In case your Lab ate the whole bone or you see that your dog is choking on a piece of bone, consider this an emergency and go to the vet immediately.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Raw Bones in Labrador’s Diet?
We have already mentioned that calcium and phosphorus intake is one of the greatest benefits of bone feeding. But that’s not all.
According to a PetMed source, Mr. Robert Mueller ( vice president of BARF, ) says that bones provide benefits similar to fibers. That means feeding bones can help with scooting for example.
If your Lab has impacted anal sacs, he scoots on a carpet. If he consumes raw bones, his stool starts to harden which helps to clean anal sacs.
Chewing recreational bones promotes stronger teeth. Chewing bones also create a lot of salivae, which again keeps the teeth clean. It also makes a stronger neck and spine by building Lab’s muscles
We shouldn’t forget the mental health benefits as well. Chewing helps your Lab to fill the spare time during the day but also keeps him happy, as dogs really enjoy chewing on bones.
When Should I Give Bones To My Labrador Puppy?
You should start introducing raw bones into your Lab’s diet once he is around 12 weeks old. At this time, the permanent teeth start to grow and grow rapidly ( approximately at the age of 4-6 months).
It is important to give your Lab puppy some nice, meaty bone to chew on, as chewing during that period can alleviate ”teething” issues and pain as well as keep teeth and gums healthy.
Always give your puppy a raw bone, never a cooked one. The best options are raw lamb ribs and flaps as well as chicken wings. Don’t exaggerate with raw bones though, too much of them can cause constipation. One raw bone per week is acceptable.
Make sure the bone you offer is large enough so your Lab puppy cannot swallow it. Avoid large marrow bones, T-bones, chop bones ( like lamb chops) large knucklebones as your puppy may hurt his teeth on these bones.
Don’t forget always to supervise your Labrador while he is chewing on a bone.
Labradors Bones consumption – Safety Guidelines
- Always supervise your Lab while he is chewing on a bone
- Don’t offer a bone to your Lab if he had some teeth/gum issues
- If your Lab has weight problems and should be on a low-fat diet, avoid offering him marrow bones ( marrow is high in fat)
- Let your dog chew on the bone for 5-15 min only. This will reduce the chance of injury.
- Refrigerate the bone after your Lab has done with it. This will cut the chance of bacterial growth and contamination. If the bones remain in the fridge for 3-4 days, throw them away, and don’t give them to your dog again.
- If your Labrador ate all soft tissues from the bone, throw it away, and don’t offer it again to your dog.
- If your Lab eats fast, swallowing the food quickly rather than chewing, the bone can pose a great risk. Avoid it.
- Offer the bone after the meal. If your Lab is full, the chance of eating the bone fast and injuring himself is minimal.
- Always be aware of the bone size, you should offer the bone that is longer than the length of your Lab’s muzzle.