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Are Marrow Bones Safe for Dogs? 3 Dangers & Safer Alternatives

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Raw marrow bone

Is there a more cliche image than a dog with a bone? Dogs love to chew, and chewing on the right things can be good for their dental hygiene. It is our duty as dog owners to make sure all of our pet’s needs are met, and for dogs, that means making sure they have something healthy and safe to chew. Unfortunately, marrow bones are not safe for dogs.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about marrow bones and why there are much better options for you to give your furry friend. Despite their popularity, most vets don’t recommend giving marrow bones to your pets. Let’s talk about why.

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Top 3 Dangers of Marrow Bones For Dogs

So, why can’t dogs eat marrow bones? There are three primary reasons that vets don’t recommend giving your dog marrow bones to chew.

1. Bone Marrow for Dog’s Teeth

While chewing is a natural and healthy behavior for your dog, chewing on hard objects can damage their teeth. If your dog spends time gnawing on something hard, it can wear down the enamel on their teeth over time. Over the course of your dog’s life, the cumulative effect builds and can eventually cause them dental problems as a senior.

There are shorter-term risks, too, however. Marrow bones are extremely hard objects, and your dog’s teeth are no match for them. If your buddy gets too into chewing a marrow bone, they can chip their teeth if they get overzealous. A chipped tooth will most likely need to be treated to eliminate pain, which means a trip to the vet and anesthesia.

In addition to the hefty bill dental surgery for dogs comes with, it’s always best to limit your dog’s exposure to anesthesia. The best option is to avoid the marrow bone altogether and choose a better option.

2. Marrow Bones Can Split

Even though marrow bones are exceptionally hard, they are also prone to splitting and splintering. When marrow bones break, they usually split into small, sharp pieces that can damage your dog’s mouth or be swallowed and wreak havoc in their digestive system. In some cases, damage caused by a swallowed splinter can cause extensive, possibly even life-threatening, injuries.

No amount of monitoring or careful watching will be able to prevent your dog from swallowing a shard if a marrow bone breaks while they’re chewing it. You might not even be able to tell that your furry friend ate a piece until it’s already too late.

Image Credit: Pixabay

3. Its Shape Causes The Bone to Get Stuck Easily

Since marrow bones are tube-shaped, some dogs can get their jaw stuck inside the bone as they try to get just a little bit more marrow. Once their jaw is trapped, it can be impossible to remove it without special equipment. Most often, a dog will have to undergo anesthesia and have the bone removed by a veterinarian.

In some cases, the bone can clog your dog’s airways while it’s stuck, creating a dangerous emergency situation. Even if your dog can breathe, having a marrow bone removed exposes them to other risks associated with removing it, like tooth or jaw damage.

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Better Alternatives to Marrow Bones for Dogs

Now that we’ve convinced you that marrow bones aren’t the best option, what else can you give your dog to chew instead of marrow bones?

1. Rubber Treat Holders

terrier with red kong playing outside
Image credit: anetapics, Shutterstock

There are tons of treat-holding rubber toys on the market that are excellent alternatives to marrow bones. Kong is the most popular brand, but you can purchase any similar toy, and it will work just as well. We like to fill the beehive-shaped toys with healthy snacks and let our dog get to work getting them out.

2. Bully Stick

Another popular option is a bully stick. Unlike marrow bones, bully sticks are hard enough to provide dental hygiene benefits but soft enough not to break your dog’s teeth. Bully sticks are digestible and safe to swallow, although some dogs will attempt to swallow the end prematurely, which can be a choking hazard. If you want to let your dog chew bully sticks, we recommend purchasing a holder that prevents them from swallowing the end.

3. A Right-Sized Toy

dog swimming with a toy in its mouth
Image Credit: Victoria Rak, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, most common chews for dogs have drawbacks and risks associated with them. Chewing is a great way for your dog to keep themselves busy, redirect excess energy, and keep their teeth plaque and tartar-free. The safest bet is to find a toy that your dog likes in the pet store. When choosing a toy, look for one that is not so hard it could break their teeth, not small enough to swallow, not prone to breaking into small pieces.

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Conclusion: Marrow Bones for Dogs

Marrow bones aren’t safe for dogs since they could damage their teeth, splinter into dangerous pieces, or get stuck on their jaws. Chewing is an important behavior that helps keep your dog happy and their teeth clean, but finding the right stuff to chew can be a challenge. The best options, in our opinion, are rubber treat dispensing toys, bully sticks, and regular toys that fit the proper criteria.

It can be hard for some owners to accept that bones aren’t safe for their best friends, and we realize that it seems like nothing is safe for dogs to chew, but we hope this article helps you find some safe alternatives that your dog will love.

Featured Image Credit: Adam J Chan, Shutterstock

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