Smoked bones for dogs have always been a popular treat for dogs that love to chew. Many owners will praise smoked bones and raw bones for keeping their dog happily entertained and quiet around the house. And, since they’re sold in pet stores around the world, smoked bones have got to be good for our dogs, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that. Smoked bones do have many benefits, and many owners will have no problems giving their dogs this treat. But, smoked bones still pose the same risks as any other raw bone treats, including dental fractures, internal scratches and punctures, choking hazards, and more. So, you can see why veterinary opinion is quite divided on the subject.
Smoked Bones for Dogs
Smoking is a technique used to give a unique flavor to bones. It isn’t just reserved for doggy treats either. Many people will smoke their own food for barbecues and cookouts. When cooking for ourselves, the smoking process will also cook the meat attached to bones, giving everything that we eat a wonderful smokey flavor. But, most dog owners know that cooked bones are very dangerous for dogs. So aren’t smoked bones dangerous?
Well, there are two main processes for smoking meat. These are cold smoking and hot smoking. Hot smoking will cook meat and bones over a fire with added wood. Cold smoking, instead, is done in a controlled temperature so that meat is flavored without being cooked. Smoked bones for dogs will be cold smoked, to avoid the dangers of cooked bones. However, this doesn’t mean that smoked bones for dogs are without any risk.
Are Smoked Bones Safe for Dogs?
As we now know, smoked bones are slightly different to cooked bones. Although the smoking process technically dries bones and meat, it will not make bones brittle to the same extent as proper cooking. The main goal with smoked bones is to add a specific flavor.
Despite this, there are still a few concerns with smoked bones for dogs. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these in turn.
Internal Blockages and Choking
Cooked, brittle bones will snap easily, breaking off into chunks that our dogs can swallow and choke on. This risk is lowered with uncooked and smoked bones, since they will be less brittle. However, the risk is not eliminated altogether.
If you let your dog chew on a raw or smoked bone for an extended period of time, it’s highly likely that the bone will break. Small parts of the bone that break off will be swallowed by your dog, unless you’re watching them non-stop and removing the bone whenever you suspect it breaks. These small swallowed pieces can cause choking. Or, internal blockages later on in your dog’s digestive system. Both can be fatal.
As well as internal blockages, chipped off pieces of bone can cause internal punctures and scratches. This is because bones are very hard. Chipped off pieces will usually be quite sharp, especially against your dog’s soft digestive organs.
Smoked bones can be just as dry as any other raw bones. Typically, smoked bones are very large, to avoid the issues of choking. But, these larger bones are also much harder. This can be seen as a bonus, since it will entertain your dog for longer. But, there is a downside to this. And that concerns your dog’s teeth.
Veterinarians are seeing more and more dogs who suffer from tooth fractures and other dental issues that stem from chewing on hard bones. Tooth fractures and other dental issues can be painful for your dog, and expensive for you. Many people will give their dogs bones and experience none of these problems. But, it is a rising concern for many veterinarians, which is something owners should take into account.
Are Smoked Bones Good for Dogs?
Generally, smoked bones will provide all of the same benefits that raw bones can, because they are very similar. The only real difference is that smoked bones have added flavoring. They can be a good source of nutrients, like calcium. But, as long as your dog is on a high quality food, they should already be getting the right balance of nutrients. The process of smoking won’t necessarily add any nutrients that could benefit your dog. And many dogs will enjoy the flavor of a plain raw bone just as much.
The main benefit of bones for dogs concerns their dental health. Studies have shown that chewing on a bone has helped to remove dental calculus from dog teeth. This is one of the most widespread oral issues in dogs, so great news, right? As long as your dog is one of the lucky ones that chews on a bone with no issues, it can be great. But, there’s always the risk that they could break a tooth on a tough bone. Or, that a part may splinter off and cause internal issues.
Ultimately, it’s up to you as your dog’s owner to weigh up the pros and cons of this treat. Your veterinarian can also help you decide by discussing the latest evidence, and their own experiences. If you’re concerned about your dog’s dental health, but unsure about using bones, studies have also shown that a more digestible dental chew each day is very beneficial for canine dental health.
Do Dogs Like the Taste of Smoked Bones?
The main reason for smoking bones is to add a flavor that will attract our dogs. But, the impact of this will vary for each dog. Dogs have different preferences when it comes to food, just like us. So, some may love the taste of smoked bones, whilst others may be happy to leave a smoked bone alone.
Generally, most dogs will love the taste of raw bones, whether they’re smoked or plain. So, if you’ve decided that bones are worth the risk, you can always experiment with different flavors.
Are Smoked Ham Bones Safe for Dogs?
Since smoking is a process rather than a specific type of bone, it can be done to any type of bone. This means not all smoked bones are equally safe. So what about smoked ham bones?
Cooked ham bones are very dangerous for our dogs. But, if cold smoked, ham bones should be less brittle, and therefore less dangerous. This doesn’t mean that the risk is altogether eliminated. In fact, some owners have reported that smoked ham bones splintered and caused internal blockages for their dogs. And as we know, this is potentially fatal.
However, this is a potential issue with smoked bones of any kind. Some owners may never experience any problems with smoked ham bones. But, others may be put off for life when their dog gets very hurt by one.
Are Smoked Knee Bones Safe for Dogs?
Smoked knee bones are exactly what they sound like. A knee joint bone that has undergone the smoking process. The type of meat that this bone comes from will vary, so make sure to check the packaging.
In most cases, cooked knee bones are much more dangerous than smoked varieties. But, there are still risks. Smoked knee bones can still splinter, causing internal blockages, or they can break your dog’s teeth. So, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons when considering this treat for your own dog.
Are Smoked Beef Bones Safe for Dogs?
Smoked beef bones tend to be larger and harder than other types of bone available. This comes with its pros and cons. On the one hand, many owners love that these bones last longer. And, large bones are less hard to choke on, as your dog cannot just swallow them whole like chicken wing bones.
However, on the other hand, hard bones are more likely to break teeth. And, this type of bone can still chip and splinter. So, although your dog won’t choke on the entire bone, they could choke on a small piece that breaks off.
Can Raw Fed Dogs Eat Smoked Bones?
Raw feeding is the process of giving your dog a more “natural” diet. One more similar to that of their wild ancestors. Raw fed dogs will eat raw meat, bones and all. So, can you give smoked bones to raw fed dogs?
Smoked bones will still pose the same benefits and risks to raw fed dogs. However, when your raw fed dog eats bones in their normal diet, they will be within a meaty carcass. In contrast, smoked bones are the bone alone, and any marrow within. And, because of this, smoked bones are much larger. So, they naturally pose a larger risk to your dog’s dental health than smaller bones covered in meat.
When a raw fed dog eats a meaty carcass, they will naturally chomp and chew the meat to crush the bones within before swallowing. And, when they do swallow, these bones are wrapped safely within the meat. So, this type of raw food is very different to a large, hard, meatless bone.
Alternatives to Smoked Bones for Dogs
As we’ve already stated, it’s really up to you as your dog’s owner to decide about smoked bones. Smoked bones can help your dog’s dental health, but at the same time, they can cause serious dental issues too. Some owners will have no problems, but others may experience real, fatal issues.
If you aren’t sure that smoked bones are worth the risk, there are still plenty of alternatives you can give your dog. For instance, you can offer them a digestible dental treat every day. Or, you can take a look at the raw meat suggestions in our raw feeding guide.
Smoked Bones for Dogs – A Summary
Smoked bones for dogs are different to cooked bones, as long as they have been cold smoked. This process will add a flavor that many dogs will enjoy. But, those dogs would often be equally happy with a plain raw bone.
Now that you’ve weighed up the risks and benefits of smoked bones for dogs, what have you decided? Does your dog love a smoked bone as a treat? Or is this a snack that you’d rather keep your dog away from? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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References and Resources
- ‘“Bone Treats” Causing Dog Deaths and Illnesses, FDA Warns’, CBS News (2017)
- Friedrich Dourado Pinto, C. (et al), ‘Evaluation of Teeth Injuries in Beagle Dogs Caused by Autoclaved Beef Bones Used as a Chewing Item to Remove Dental Calculus’, Plos One (2020)
- He, F. (et al), ‘Evaluation of Selected Categories of Pet Treats Using in Vitro Assay and Texture Analysis’, Translational Animal Science (2020)
- Quest, B. ‘Oral Health Benefits of a Daily Dental Chew in Dogs’, Journal of Veterinary Dentistry (2013)
- Cohen, H. ‘The Risk of Bones’, Veterinary Nursing Journal (2006)
- van Veggel, N. & Oxley, J. ‘In Dogs Does Feeding Raw Dietary Treats Reduce or Prevent Periodontal Disease’, Veterinary Evidence (2018)
- Maxabella, B. ‘What is the Difference Between Hot and Cold Smoking?’, SBS (2020)
- Mueller, T. ‘Does Cold Smoking Preserve Food?’, Eat Cured Meat (2020)
- Morrissette, M. ‘Real Ham Bones: A Really, Really Bad Dog Treat’, Poisoned Pets (2011)
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