4. Give A Dog A Bone (02/2008)
‘But won’t it get stuck?’ is the question on everybody’s lips when confronted with the concept of bones as food for the dog. And who hasn’t seen a dog leap for joy at the site of a drumstick, and crunch, crunch it’s all gone! Thousands of dogs all over the world eat and digest Raw Meaty Bones (RMB) every day with no problems at all and remain in perfect health.
However, the bones must not be cooked. Also they must not be chopped up into bite sized chunks. Your dog needs to negotiate the bone properly before biting off a piece to chew. Cooked bones can splinter into very sharp and indigestible pieces which have been known to cause problems. If your dog has never been given bones, which is sad but often happens, don’t suddenly present a big pile of bones. Rather introduce them slowly after the usual meal.
‘What kind of bones?’ Bones from most animals are suited to dogs: remember that it is as important for your dog as it is for you to source meat and bones from farms known for good agricultural practice which take into account the welfare of the farm animals till slaughter. So ask for free-range chicken, extensively farmed sheep, pigs, and cattle, and also game; and avoid the meat from intensively farmed animals which are usually full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Some beef bones are too big and hard for most dogs to chew and can lead to broken teeth if nothing smaller is provided.
In addition to bones, or if the bones aren’t meaty enough, meaty bits of offal can be given, especially tripe, raw. RMB should make up 90% of your dog’s diet in an ideal situation…but as much as you can. The quantity will vary, but as a general rule give 1-2% of the body weight daily (so if your dog weighs 10kg, 100-200g of bones should be sufficient because it can all be used). Also feed table scraps and some cooked vegetables, and fresh fruit. In the winter months, or if your dog expends a lot of energy, you may want to supplement with some carbohydrates in the form of cooked oats, maize, potatoes or rice. This is not essential, and certainly should not constitute the bulk of the diet.
There is a fear that dogs fed raw meat will hunt and kill livestock. Most dogs can be effectively trained to live in harmony with domestic livestock. The Africanis or African hunting dog for example has always lived freely among the chickens, sheep and cattle in rural Africa, and will only hunt specific game. In the last few years many dogs have been summarily shot on local farms for killing sheep, and most of these dogs were fed an exclusively dry pellet diet which could indicate something lacking in the diet or in the manner in which they were raised which contributed to the undesirable behaviour. Less serious is the chewing of furniture and other destructive behaviour, which in the absence of boredom can be alleviated by the provision of bones to chew.
Being natural scavengers, dogs will survive on just about anything, being natural scavengers. But to achieve optimal health and immunity we must aim for the best nutrition for man’s best friend.