Give your dog a bone of contention!

Do you consider yourself to be a SNAPO - a Sensitive New Age Pet Owner??  SNAPO'S are the pinnacles of pet owning society - blessed with more than the average share of compassion towards the creatures we share our lives with - the soul mates of canine cognition and feline philanthropy.

Well, here's a brain teaser - would a SNAPO feed his dog or cat a chicken bone?  While that may sound a bit pedestrian to you, or to your pooch or moggy, it is quite important.

To a dog, there is nothing as pleasurable as a wholesome bone to gnaw on and, generally speaking, bones are good for dogs. While the feeding of bones to cats is, regretfully,  a little less common, there are still great benefits to be gained from throwing your tranquil tiger a bone two or three times a week.

Bones are an essential part of a pet's diet and are especially useful to maintain dental health and to aid in alleviating the often humdrum normality that is a tragic part of the lives of many Twenty-First Century pets.

Bones are an excellent source of protein and minerals and they perform the very useful function of keeping a pet's teeth free from scale and tartar.

It's easy for us vets to determine which of you pet owners are SNAPO's just by looking inside your pet's mouth when you bring them to our clinics. Dogs and cats that receive a regular bone come into the clinic with what we call a 'Bona Lisa' smile.  Their teeth are a sparkling white colour and there is a total lack of that awful, telltale yellow discolouration of the molars, typical of a pet with dental calculus.

Bona Fide Bones

The first rule is that raw bones are preferable to cooked bones as raw bones are digested a lot more easily.  There are one or two exceptions to this which I will mention later.

The best types of bones to feed are the softer types.  Soft brisket bones are excellent, knuckle bones are good and so are large marrow bones.  It is much better if the bones have big chunks of meat attached as this provides excellent exercise for the teeth and gums. 

The best types of bones to feed are the softer types.

Recent research has shown that ox tails, chicken wings and chicken necks are particularly valuable - but some dogs even like raw carrots!!  A raw carrot is totally safe and cleans the teeth as well as a bone.

At this point, I am sure that many pet owners are shrieking in horror at the thought of feeding their pets chicken bones.  Has not the veterinary industry been saying for years that chicken bones are dangerous because they splinter?  Times change and the birds that are sent to market now are young, immature birds of about 12 - 14 weeks of age.  Their bones are soft, especially the bones of the wings and necks, and are quite safe.  

Alternatively, pig's ears and similar smoked chews are enjoyed by most dogs and are generally quite safe.

Cats are a bit more cerebrally endowed than dogs and to some, the idea of chewing a bone in public is just too low class to be considered for a creature of such superior station.  It all comes back to the catch phrase of the cat lobby - Cats Rule Dogs Drool.  However, if they are sure no one's looking, even the haughtiest of felines will usually succumb to a chicken wing if the flesh is browned in a frying pan or masterfully roasted to purrfection.  So, as an exception to the 'raw bone rule', cats do often seem to prefer their chicken wings at least seared brown or roasted.  In reality, it is rare indeed for chicken wings from a roast chicken to cause cats (or dogs) problems.

Boney Tails

Ox tails are almost scientifically designed to suit your pet's needs.  They are fat and broad near the butt of the tail and, of course, are smaller and thinner at the tip.  Therefore, ox tails are designed to cater for different sized mouths.  Great Dane owners would do well to choose the thicker cuts while cat owners should choose the thinner ones near the tip of the tail.  You will find all sizes in the meat cabinet of your local supermarket.  The shape of an Ox Tail is ideal as, being a meaty bone of cylindrical shape, the animals really get their molar teeth grinding away at the meat and bone.  It is this very grinding action that also grinds away the scale on your pet's teeth.

By comparison, the wrong types of bones can certainly cause problems.

The wrong types of bones can certainly cause problems.

Bones such as chop bones, T-Bones and fish bones should never be given to pets. These bones have a dangerous tendency to splinter into sharp fragments and, when swallowed, they can perforate the dog's bowel with life-threatening consequences.

Occasionally, when a dog crushes a bone, it can also wedge inside the dog's mouth.  It often wedges transversely between the teeth on the left and those on the right side of the mouth, or it can lodge over a molar tooth where it becomes stuck like a bulldog clip.  However, problems like this are almost always caused by cooked bones and only rarely by raw bones.

Bones lodged inside the mouth can sometimes by removed by levering the bone out with a blunt instrument such as the rounded metal handle of a sturdy dessert spoon.  However be careful as this can be very difficult and dangerous as the dog may be so frantic that it will try to bite.  The best solution is a quick trip to the veterinarian.

Bone Idle Dogs

There are other advantages with feeding dogs and cats bones. The biggest advantage of a meaty bone is that dogs and cats enjoy them so much. 

So often our domesticated pets lead a dull life.  Dogs lie in the back yard for hours with little to interest them.  No wonder they leap into a paroxysm of barking whenever a stranger or another dog walks past their front gate as this is likely to be the highlight of their day.  A bone can change all that.

A large, raw bone will keep a dog content for hours.  If you are in the habit of leaving your dog unattended during the day, leave a raw bone out for it occasionally.  This will delay the onset of boredom and may help to stop the dog barking during your absence. Even cats will benefit from the boredom relief that a bone affords.  

Don't forget to hug your pet.