Sharpei chewing on a marrow bone.

Marrow Bones For Dogs & Puppies -
Are They A Safe Option?

What dog doesn’t like to chew? Especially when they chew on something that’s hard on the outside but juicy in the middle, like a marrow bone.

But these delicious dog treats are surrounded by controversy. While some swear by them, others are against them. So which one is it?

Today, we’re getting to the bottom of this question.

two pieces of raw cut marrow bones.

Are Marrow Bones Good For Dogs?

With so many people raving about them, marrow bones must be doing something right. In fact, there are a couple of ways chewing on them can be beneficial for your dog.

Related: The Best Bones For Dogs.

Oral Health

Chewing on a marrow bone can help your pooch remove tartar and plaque buildup on teeth. With regular use, your dog’s breath should be fresher, teeth cleaner and gums healthier. Of course, that’s given that the dog is chewing on marrow bones the right way. With periodontal diseases being a common health issue for dogs, marrow bones can be a good way to prevent them.

Nutrients

Marrow bones contain tons of different nutrients dogs need in their daily diets. From minerals and vitamins to amino and fatty acids, all these can be found in this tasty part of the bone. If your pooch is on a BARF diet, marrow bone can be a great source of additional vitamins and minerals.

Besides the calcium and phosphorus that come from bone matter, bone marrow also contains collagen, glucosamine and linoleic acid, which are compounds that promote skin health and alleviate joint inflammation. It is also a rich source of B12, a vitamin that’s crucial for maintaining a healthy nervous system as well as digestion.

Occupation And Mental Stimulation

Giving your pooch a marrow bone is a great way to keep them occupied for a long time. Whether you’re doing that to keep your dog’s attention off fireworks, food on the table or the halfway chewed-through chair leg, marrow bone works well in different situations.


The Risks Of Giving Your Dog Marrow Bones

Many vets don’t recommend giving your pet a marrow bone to chew on. They have valid reasons to believe marrow bones can potentially be hazardous to dogs, and we’ll discuss each of them in detail.

Tooth Damage

While chewing is a dog’s natural behaviour, it doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous. If your pooch chews too hard on a marrow bone, there’s a high risk of wearing down the enamel and even breaking teeth. Unfortunately, slab fractures are a very common issue, and a very costly one as well. Not to mention it requires putting the dog under anaesthesia which, like any medical procedure, poses certain risks.

Intestinal Obstruction

If your pooch is very greedy and gets too excited about eating and chewing, there’s also a risk of swallowing. As you know, bones aren’t digestible, so they’ll just pass through the stomach. But as they reach the intestines, that’s where they can potentially get lodged and create obstruction.

Contamination With Pathogens

Raw marrow bone, just like any uncooked meat, can be infected with all kinds of pathogens commonly found in cattle, such as Salmonella and E.Coli. Now, these sneaky bacteria can keep a low profile inside your dog’s system for quite a while, which makes treating even harder. What’s more, your pooch can potentially infect family members as well, including yourself.

Upset Stomach

Food with a high-fat percentage can be quite difficult to digest. And bone marrow is basically like a triple cheeseburger for dogs. If your Fido already has a sensitive stomach, consuming bone marrow can be rather hard on the gut.

Pancreatitis

Long-term consumption of high-fat foods can put a dog’s pancreas under too much stress. This causes inflammation, which is a condition called pancreatitis. While it could be acute, pancreatitis more often turns into a relapsing condition. As such, it requires aggressive medical care, and it can be fatal if left untreated.


Should I Cook Marrow Bones?

If you decide on treating your canine companion with a marrow bone, at least make sure it’s raw. Cooked bones, whether boiled, steamed or baked, can be dangerous (1). When treated with heat, bones lose collagen, causing them to turn soft and brittle.

“Cooked bones should always be off-limits. They become brittle and easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract.” - T. J. Dunn Jr., DVM, PetMD (2)

And the worst part is that, more often than not, dogs might not show signs of injury caused by a splintered bone right away. You need to read between the lines and notice little things that are different in your pooch’s behaviour.

Some signs that something is wrong include:

  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Thirst
  • Excessive panting
  • Constipation

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms within a few days from chewing on a cooked marrow bone, visit the vet as soon as possible.


Things To Keep In Mind When Giving Your Dog A Marrow Bone

As you can see, the situation about giving your dog a marrow bone isn’t black or white. There are some clear benefits your canine companion has from chewing on it. Then again, some potential dangers make us question whether the risk is worth it.

Can dogs eat marrow bones? We believe they can every now and then, as long as you stick to certain rules.

Supervision At All Times

If your pooch is capable of gently chewing on a marrow bone for hours, you might think that using it to keep your dog occupied when you’re not at home is practical. But while tempting, this is not recommended, as there’s always a risk of accidents. And in case that happens, you want to be able to help your pooch out.

Where You Buy Matters

Ideally, you want to buy marrow bones in your local grocery shop or a butcher. Why you might ask? Because they keep marrow bones stored in fridges or freezers, which prevents bacterial contamination. When packed in plastic packaging and stored on shelves at room temperature, marrow bones, like meat, will spoil.

Choose The Right Size

Don’t just pick the first packaging you get your hands on. You want a marrow bone to be the right size for your dog. If you buy one that’s too small, your pooch can easily swallow it. But it can get stuck somewhere along the way, whether it’s the throat or the intestines.

Of course, you don’t want it to be too big either. It’s not uncommon to see dogs with a marrow bone stuck around their lower jaw (3). In some cases, vets had to work together with firefighters to remove the bone and free the dogs’ jaws.

All In Moderation

Remember, marrow bones have a pretty high amount of fat. Unless your dog is a highly active working breed, this can be too much fat intake for your dog’s body. Refrain from treating your pooch with marrow bones no more than once to twice a week.


Marrow Bones For Puppies - Yes Or No?

Marrow bones can provide your little pup with a much-needed dose of nutrients. Minerals like Calcium and B12, which marrow bones are high in, are essential for growth. And as far as high-fat content goes, that’s a good energy boost for any playful pup.

But should dogs chew on marrow bones at such a young age? That’s something vets agree on.

The main problem with marrow bones is that they’re simply too harsh against a puppy’s teeth. From five weeks until they’re about six months old, puppies have a set of milk teeth that are very sharp yet very fragile. They can easily break when chewing on something as hard as a marrow bone.

Related: The Best Bones For Puppies.

This issue can somewhat be solved if you get a marrow bone that’s cut in half. By cutting it along its length, your puppy can easily get all the juicy marrow without having to chew on the actual hard part of the bone.

Another problem with puppies enjoying marrow bones is more of a physiological nature. A marrow bone, like any other type of bone, can be seen as an object of high value, something that should be guarded. If you have more than one dog, this can cause your puppy to aggressively defend the valued resource from their furry brothers and sisters.


Marrow Bones For Dogs: The Verdict

A marrow bone can be a great source of nutrients as well as entertainment for your dog. That is, of course, if consumed safely and under supervision. There’s just one rule that applies in every case: only use raw marrow bones. When cooked, bones turn brittle which greatly increases the chances of your dog getting hurt.

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References

  1. June 08, 2022. “Cooked Bones are Dangerous for Dogs.” Animal Emergency Service. Retrieved July 08, 2022. https://animalemergencyservice.com.au/blog/cooked-bones-dangerous-for-dogs/
  2. Dunn,T.J. March 08, 2011. “Can Dogs Eat Bones? Raw & Cooked Bones for Dogs.” PetMD. Retrieved July 08, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_raw_bones_or_cooked_bones
  3. March 13, 2020. “Vets Warn Dog Owners Of The Dangers Of Marrow Bones.” Caesar’s Way. Retrieved July 08, 2022. https://www.cesarsway.com/vets-warn-dog-owners-of-the-dangers-of-marrow-bones/
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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