Ah, dog chews. Dogs love them, and some serve all kinds of essential purposes — they promote gum health, provide mental stimulation, and supply minerals and proteins for skin elasticity and joint health!
We also know that bones aren’t the best choice of chews because of their health risks, whether cooked or raw. Instead, here’s a natural alternative — cooked soft bones. These are the hyaline cartilage at the ends of the ribs of a pig and easily found in supermarkets, which makes them readily available for all dog owners!
What’s in a soft bone?
Hyaline cartilage is rich in collagen, which is a protein that gives cartilage its strength, flexibility, and wearability. The other constituents that make up a soft bone are sugars, minerals, and water. In a nutshell, it is a rich source of proteins, minerals, and collagen.
Why should I cook it?
As with all raw foods, raw cartilage may risk contamination. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria that may have contaminated the raw cartilage, such as enterococcus, salmonella, and listeria. These can all lead to deadly health complications in your dog, so never feed your dog raw soft bones!
Besides making it safer for consumption, cooking also increases the digestibility of the cartilage, which makes it easier for your dog to absorb the nutrients locked in it. Collagen is poorly absorbed through the small intestines, so if you wish, you may cook it with slow or high pressure to convert it into gelatin, which is broken down easily by intestinal digestive enzymes and readily absorbed by the intestines.
This is very important for puppies and dogs with chewing difficulties (perhaps due to severe gum or dental disease) because feeding soft bone pieces to young puppies may injure delicate gums and cause choking, vomiting, or get lodged in the intestines if swallowed whole. On the other hand, dogs with severe gum or dental disease will find it difficult and painful when dealing with the firmness of soft bone.
What are the benefits of giving cooked soft bones as dog chews?
- Chewing soft bone is an activity that dogs will enjoy because of its firm, crunchy texture.
- Chewing on a cooked soft bone helps to keep a dog’s teeth clean and promote healthy gums, as the cartilage acts like a brush that breaks down
- Cartilage is rich in proteins (in the form of collagen and protein-sugar complexes) and minerals while low in calories. Since collagen is the main structural protein in skin, cartilage, muscles, tendons, and ligaments and the body’s collagen production naturally decreases with age, feeding soft bone regularly to your dog may improve your dog’s skin elasticity and promote joint health and repair!
How do I ensure that it is safe to give to my dog?
As mentioned earlier, par-boiling or cooking the soft bone ensures the killing of bacteria present, and cooking the cartilage will increase the availability of its nutrients. In addition to that, only give soft bone as a chew if your dog is a delicate chewer! Dogs that tend to swallow and gobble their food rather than chew may choke or experience intestinal obstruction if given a large piece entirely.
How do other animal-based dog chews compare?
Commonly-sold dog chews that are made from dried animal parts include pig’s ears, bully sticks, and rawhide. Here’s a quick low-down on why they may not be the best choice for your pooch, and why you might want to consider switching to cooked soft bones if it’s suitable for your pet:
Commercial dried pig ears
- Its principal constituents are cartilage and fat, making it high in fat and calories
– Pig ear treats average about 130 calories per ear, depending on the size of the treat. This could be up to about 20% of your pet’s total daily energy needs if you have a toy breed dog!
- May contain preservatives
- May be contaminated with salmonella and other bacteria
- Not all products that are sold as dried pig ears are genuine pig ears. Some are pieces of rawhide that have been cut to look like real pig ears!
- Often advertised as dried cooked strips of beef, but the truth is that they are uncooked dried strips of a bull penis, which contains fibroelastic cartilage that is tougher but also more flexible than hyaline cartilage
- Studies have found bully sticks to be high in calories, containing about 9 to 22 calories per inch
– A 6-inch long bully stick would provide 9% of the daily calorie requirement for a 23kg dog and 30% of the daily calorie requirements for a 4.5kg dog
- Known to harbour dangerous bacteria if not handled correctly
- While bully sticks are softer and easier to break up than rawhide, they can still cause intestinal obstruction
- Made from the uncooked inner layer of cow or horse skins
- Rich in a protein known as elastin and calories with a high fat content
- Generally not easily digested, which is why large chunks that break off and get swallowed pose high choking and intestinal obstruction risk
- As with pet toys and other edible pet foods, rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals or be contaminated with salmonella or E. coli
– Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide chews!
This article was written in consultation with Dr Lennie from The Animal Clinic.
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