Proper nutrition plays an important role in the overall health of your pet. Added to this is the family environment, you play an essential role in your pets nutrition and overall well being. Our philosophy at the hospital, “eating food as close to the original source” is best, but we do not always have the time or inclination to prepare food at home. This is why we feed commercial foods, they are very convenient and provide good nutrition for most pets.
How can we figure out what is best for our pets? There is only really one good rule, choose what is best for you: commercial or home prepared, feed for three weeks and observe, 1- behaviour 2 – coat & skin. Your pet should be enthusiastic and have a healthy shiny coat with no odor or no dander. If after the three week period you notice any changes, you may have to revise the diet. When choosing your pets diet nothing else should be added such as treats or table scraps in order to really know if the diet is truly working for your pet. If choosing a commercial food try a food that is naturally preserved with vitamin E, Rosemary, etc.
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TO CHEW OR NOT TO CHEW
Dr. Marilyn Sthamann
There has been much debate about the pros and cons of offering bones to our dogs and cats. In the past, we have witnessed many dogs become quite ill after chewing on bones. We advised against offering any bones to our pets. We now recognize that the biggest reason for much of this illness is that the bones offered had been cooked. The cooking had changed the bones – making them brittle and lessened their digestibility.
In the past few years, since recognizing the heath benefits of offering more raw, fresh food, I have been recommending offering raw bones to our pets. The benefits of this practice are:
- The bones are a great benefit psychologically; i.e. A lot of fun! Dogs and cats carry the bones around, hide them, and exercise many muscles when they bite and chew on them. They take such a keen interest in their bones, making it a great way to occupy a pet’s day!
- Bones provide nutritious marrow, amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fiber, enzymes, antioxidants, and multiple minerals and vitamins in the usable form. Therefore, meaty bones are an integral part of may recommended homemade diets. If feeding primal food, the bones are present in a ground form.
- An excellent way of exercising teeth and gums. The teeth stay much cleaner, less frequent need for dental scaling.
THE CONCERNS THAT HAVE SURFACED RE: NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF EATING RAW BONES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
- Possible fractures of teeth. (Until recently, none of my patients in the past 3 years have fractured teeth by chewing on bones.) This is a risk. It can happen in dogs fed dog food, after chewing on other hard toys, rocks, etc. I have seen fractured teeth occasionally over the years before the use of bones returned to popularity. Note: Don’t give frozen bones. These are too hard and will contribute to fractures. Dogs are also more likely to break their teeth when eating knuckle bones and bones that have been cut lengthwise.
- Bone impactions in the gastro-intestinal tract. I have personally only seen this happen once – in a dog allowed continual access to a deer carcass over a period of weeks. The dog ate so much bone that passing it all became impossible. Having said this, anything eaten and swallowed could potentially cause obstruction in a dog or cat. In our practice, we see obstructions from all sorts of things: toys, string, plastic containers, rocks, etc. Some pets are real chewers, craving anything and everything. Would bones that are relatively digestible be a better choice?
So, are there risks involved with offering raw bones to chew? Yes. My best advice is to do what you feel comfortable with. You can try crushing the bones, offering bones appropriate for the size of your pet, letting him chew on it for an hour before taking it away. Then monitor his GI response – any upset or diarrhea? If your pet is so aggressive with chewing, and you’re concerned about him breaking teeth or swallowing large pieces, consider options such as turkey necks pieces, or using primal food to supply needed nutrients, without any worry.
I will continue to search for any ideas that would help to completely eliminate the risks of bones. Unfortunately, from 17 years of experience, I realize that zero rick is not usually possible – we just try to make the best choices with the information available.