Are Bones Safe to Give to My Puppy?

A puppy happily chewing a safe bone alternative

Giving bones to puppies is a controversial subject among dog moms and dads, so before you give your puppy a bone to chew, be sure to understand the cons, and some pros, of doing so, which we will discuss in this article.

Why Is There Controversy over Whether or Not to Give Bones to Puppies?

Truth be told, I never gave my puppy, Thurber, a bone to chew — he loves bones that are filled with a solidified peanut-butter filling that takes him a good hour to lick clean — until he was about 16 months old and fully mature.

The controversy centers on some of the risks that bones pose. Some think it is OK to give puppies bones after than are 12 weeks old, reports fellow dog-lover DoggySaurus, however, some think it is not a good idea until they are much older — and even then one must do so with caution.

What Are The Risks Of Giving Bones To Puppies?

Though bones offer some benefits to puppies 12-weeks and older, they also pose some risks, including:

Impaction — If the size of the bone is too small, a puppy may swallow it whole and the bone can get impacted in his intestines. If the bone has sharp edges it can even rupture the intestine when stuck. Surgery is often required to remove an impacted bone (enterotomy or “surgery of the intestine”) and you certainly don’t want to put your puppy through that. If you will allow your puppy to chew a bone, make sure it is on the larger side and larger than the size of her head.

Oral Injuries — If the bone contains a sharp edge or, somehow, your puppy breaks the bone causing it to have pointy splits, your pup could experience oral injuries. Pointy edges can rupture the oral cavity and cause bleeding in the esophagus. If you give a bone to your puppy, monitor his chewing and check his bone often to make sure it is as safe as it can be.

Choking — Small bones, or pieces of broken bones, can result in choking if swallowed. Choking could be fatal to your puppy. Again, if you give your bone a puppy, make sure it is a larger bone and monitor the chewing activity to make sure the bone is as safe as it can be.

Diarrhea and Vomiting — Bones from the butcher may look tasty to your pup, but the scraps of meat sticking to them offer the perfect conditions for bacteria and pathogens to flourish. Bones that may not appear to have any meat left on them may also have bacteria and pathogens. Bacteria and pathogens can cause gastrointestinal upset in puppies. Be cautious when choosing bones and make sure they are pathogen-free.

Tooth Chip — If the bones are frozen or too hard your puppy might chip his tooth. If the bones are too soft, they may splinter and be ingested, causing other problems. Be very cautious picking bones for your puppy. And it’s always a good idea to ask your vets what they recommend as safest.

Are Their Some Benefits to Giving My Puppy a Bone?

Yes, some people believe there are some benefits to letting your puppy chew a bone. These benefits may include:

Improved Dental Health — Bones help reduce the buildup of tartar on teeth, reduce bacterial growth and promote good gum health.

Relives Boredom — Puppies can be restless and can become easily bored if there are not constantly playing. Chewing on bones is a good way to keep them busy and active, and, because it gives them a job to focus on, it helps promote a happy spirit as it reduces the potential for anxiety.

Reduces Teeth Pains — Like human babies, puppies need to chew on something to lessen the pain and discomfort they experience as they grow new teeth. Chewing on bones provides relief for puppies while teething — and also distracts them from chewing on your iPhone or TV remote!

Increases Jaw Strength — Chewing on bones helps puppies develop jaw muscles, which is part of their healthy development. Strong jaw muscles will help a puppy eat better and also enjoy better dental health throughout his life.

Proper Shape of the Face — For some dog breeds, such as German Shepherds, it’s important to chew on bones to help with the proper development of their facial structure. Chewing on bones increases muscle mass to bring out the characteristic face shape of some breeds of puppies.

If I Still Choose to Give My Puppy a Bone to Chew, Which Is the Best Kind?

Again, the “best” bone is one that is larger than the size of your puppy’s head and has smooth rounded edges. Beef and lamb femur bones (thigh bones), humerus bones (shoulder bones) and tibia bones make the best choices for puppies.   

Which Bones Should Be Avoided for Puppies?

The following bones are especially NOT recommended for puppies:

Cooked Bones — Cooked bones should be avoided because when bones are cooked or boiled, they lose their strength and become brittle. A puppy can easily break a cooked into small pieces resulting in the formation of pointy edges. Broken pieces of the can be ingested by puppies leading to injuries and impaction, as mentioned above.

Frozen Bones — Frozen bones are too hard for puppies and they can break their teeth while attempting to chew them. If you freeze bones to persevere them for longer use, thaw them well first.

Chicken Bones — Small and hollow chicken bones are a very bad choice for puppies. Rather than chewing a small bone, a puppy will try to swallow it, which could lead to the serious issues of choking and impaction. 

What Bone Alternatives Should I Consider for My Puppy?

There are many healthy alternatives to bones — in particular rawhide bones, which may pose their own unique health risks, especially to puppies — that can be equally beneficial for the dental health of your puppies. According to East Meadow Vet Clinic, some of these alternatives include:

Carrots — Carrots have just the right firmness and structure for your puppy to enjoy, and they offer an excellent source of nutrients, as well.

Bully Sticks — Bully Sticks are protein-rich bone-like treats that have no added chemicals. Though their strong odor may be repulsive for some dogs, they do have a long shelf life.

Antlers — Deer and elk antlers make excellent “bone” chews for dogs. Cut them into long pieces and smooth the edges to make them safer for chewing. Elk antlers are preferred over deer antlers for pups.

PegetablesPegetables are specially designed dental chews for puppies that are comprised of different vegetables, such as peas, sweet potatoes and carrots. They have high palatability and digestibility and they are gluten-free. They are very nutritious and improve the dental health of puppies by cleaning their teeth.

Safe and Happy Chewing

When Thurber was a puppy, I was very happy with Kong and Nylabone puppy products that offered safe alternatives to bones, while providing all of the benefits of actual bones.Be sure to avoid discount bone alternatives that may not be safe.

And always ask your vet if the bone alternative you plan to use is going to be safe for your puppy, so she may enjoy a healthy puppy experience on the way to becoming a healthy adult!

Visit for regular column updates, funny dog videos, well-researched articles explaining why our dogs do what they do, and Tom’s new book, “Tips from a New Dog Dad.” The Thurber’s Tail blog is managed by nationally syndicated humor columnist Tom Purcell and his beloved Labrador puppy, Thurber!

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