Whether or not puppies can eat marrow bones is always a hot topic. Some recommend it, and others don’t, so what is it? As this is such a common question, we had a qualified veterinarian give us the best answer, so let’s get into it.
It’s recommended to wait until your puppy is 7-8 months old (or whenever they have a full set of adult teeth) before giving them a marrow bone. Marrow bones are likely too large and hard for a puppy to chew or consume before this age anyway.
A full response with guidance is below.
What exactly is a marrow bone?
Marrow bones are often derived from larger animals such as cows and they contain a large amount of bone marrow. Bone marrow is a spongy tissue inside bones from which blood cells are derived. Bone marrow is used as a source of nutrients for humans and is thought to have many health benefits.
These bones may be sold raw or cooked. Sometimes, they are even flavored and packaged, aimed at the canine market. However, are marrow bones ever really a suitable food option for our puppies?
What age can puppies have bones?
Before puppies have their adult teeth and have a more prominent jaw, they simply won’t be strong enough to actually consume or chew bones. Instead, stick to puppy-approved chews and toys from your local pet store.
Once adult teeth have come in and your pup’s jaw is larger, they may be able to have a bone. However, just because they can doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
The reason it’s not so straightforward is that while there are some advantages and proposed health benefits from having bones, there are also some downsides. Let’s cover this below.
Some proposed benefits of feeding Marrow Bones
It is important to us to provide owners with the whole story; the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no denying that bones can offer certain benefits.
Those who are advocates of giving puppies marrow bones may argue there are real advantages to their canine’s health and development. These would include:
⭐ Reduced dental calculus:
In fact, a study performed on a group of healthy Beagles found that feeding marrow bone removed calculus build up effectively. Furthermore, during the study, no adverse reactions to the bones were reported.
⭐ A source of Calcium:
Young pups, especially large breed dogs, have a lot of growing to do. They need ample sources of nutrients such as Calcium to support their skeletal development.
⭐ A good diversion:
We all know how trying it can be to keep a young dog occupied. Much like toddlers, they are always on the lookout for something to do. Without a diversion, they may decide it is a good idea to dig up your garden or scratch at the new sofa. Bones can offer hours of contentment, meaning you have a moment to put your legs up and read your newspaper while your pup relaxes.
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What are the downsides to puppies having bones?
There’s always a flip side to the coin! Indeed, there are some potential downsides to marrow bone feeding. So we must take these into consideration before jumping right in.
There are undeniable risks to the health of a puppy each time they are given a bone. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says, ‘Bones or bone fragments (…) can result in intestinal obstruction or perforation, gastroenteritis, and fractured teeth.’ Certainly, in this author’s experience, bones are the reason behind quite a few hospital admissions.
Marrow bones contain a lot of fat. While obesity doesn’t tend to be an issue for growing pups as they have such high-calorie demands, too much fat can be hard to digest. For some, the fat can lead to a stomach upset or even a bout of pancreatitis. Sloppy stool is not uncommon after a bone is fed.
Constipation is also frequently reported by dog owners after feeding a bone. Though this is usually a temporary and mild side effect, some dogs may suffer quite a lot. Minimize the risk of constipation by offering lots of water and encouraging exercise. Some dogs may need intervention from the vet in the form of stool softeners (laxatives), intravenous fluids, and enemas.
Bone feeding can lead to behavioral issues and even aggression in some. A marrow bone is seen as a ‘high value’ object, and this can result in a puppy learning to resource guard. Similarly, in multi-dog households, fights may break out over whose ‘turn’ it is with the bone. It can be sensible to offer bones only when a dog is in a crate or a room by themselves.
Are marrow bones safer when raw for puppies?
This is a good question. Cooking the marrow bone can mean it is more prone to fracturing and splintering. These sharp shards are dangerous and are more likely to stick in between teeth, cut the mouth or even lacerate the gut. This is why most advise giving raw bones.
However, raw bones are not risk-free, as discussed above. They can also be a source of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, leading to food poisoning in both dogs and humans.
Owners should be aware that the longer a bone is left out, the more dried up it becomes. Again, this makes it more likely to fragment apart, which is not desirable.
How can I feed bones safely?
If you have decided to feed your pup a bone, stick to one that is appropriate for their size and age. Wait until their adult teeth have come in, which is usually at about 7 or 8 months of age.
Be aware that feeding a bone is never risk-free and that you could be asking for trouble. Raw bones are generally a better option than cooked bones. Closely monitor your dog at all times when they have the bone and never leave them with it unsupervised. Once they are done, take the bone away.
Alternatives to marrow bones for puppies
Thankfully, the market is absolutely saturated with safer alternatives to marrow bones. Business owners appreciate puppies need things to chew on, so they have created a variety of different options for savvy owners to choose from.
Nylon bones, antlers, rubber Kongs, rawhide, treated pig’s ears, bully sticks, dental sticks, chew toys, etc. are all potential contenders. However, even these chew options can pose certain risks, so it is essential to research what you are buying.
Don’t forget, you also have the option of keeping it simple and offering a tasty raw carrot as a treat; yum!
The Bottom Line
There are pros and cons to feeding your young dog marrow bones. While we can’t make the decision for you, hopefully, you can use the information provided above to determine what the best option for your precious pet is.