Can Labradors Eat Bones – Which Bones Are Safe For Labradors


Dogs and bones, a match made in heaven, right?

We know that certain foods can be bad for our labradors. Can labradors eat bones? or are bones bad for labradors?

In this article, I’m going to go into detail about the relationship between our Labradors and bones.

I’ll look into whether there are any health benefits eating bones can give to labradors, what dangers there might be for labradors eating bones and I’ll list a number of common bone types that people often have specific questions about.

But first, let’s look at this question overall, and give a quick simple answer to whether labradors can eat bones.

Most of the time bones can be a good source of nutrients for a labrador. However, there is always a risk that sharp or large parts of a bone could create damage or blockage if swallowed. This risk is increased for certain types of bones such as cooked bones.

Can labradors eat bones? The benefits

There are many natural benefits labradors can get from eating bones. After all, it’s a very natural instinct for then which has evolved due to the health benefits chewing on bones can bring. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.

Raw bones clean teeth

This is specific to raw bones. Most vets will tell you raw bones are better for labradors than cooked ones. We’ll talk a bit about cooked bones later but for now, let’s see how raw bones can help clean your labrador’s teeth.

Raw bones are softer than cooked bones, they can be chewed down and broken up more easily and as a result, the fragments of bone scraping against your labrador teeth will also scrape off the plaque from their teeth, preventing build-up.

The little fragments are much more gentle on raw bones and unlikely to cause digestive issues. The softer raw bone can be easily digested by the labrador, just as it would have been by his canine ancestors.

Calcium

Bones are also packed with the mineral calcium. Calcium is one of the most important nutrients your labrador can have to maintain strong bone health. It helps build and maintain stronger bones which is fantastic for their long term health.

It’s also particularly important for puppies to have a high proportion of calcium in their diet, much of which they get from their mother’s milk in the early stages and then puppy specific dog food is packed with calcium too.

Calcium isn’t just important for bones though, it will promote healthy teeth, skin and hair, leaving your pooch with that lovey thick and shiny coat.

Additional calcium helps maintain healthy digestion, effective blood clotting, muscle growth and repair and promotes a well functioning nervous system.

It truly is a super-mineral and it’s a vital part of your labrador’s diet.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus works in conjunction with calcium to help maintain and grow strong and healthy bones in your labrador.

Just like calcium, it also plays a role in a number of major bodily functions as well as bone growth.

Phosphorus helps to support cell division, maintain healthy digestion and waste secretion as well as promoting strong motor functions, a regular heart rate and healthy kidney function.

It’s another vital part of their diet and is plentiful in bones.

Are bones bad for labradors? The dangers

The main dangers of bones come from cooked ones. These can be part of a leftover meal, or they can be those bones you can buy packaged up at the pet store.

We’ll talk more about cooked bones later, but first let’s look at one of the health risks for raw bones, bacterial contamination.

Bacterial contamination

Raw bones can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and this does pose their main threat. You shouldn’t let your labrador chew on a raw bone for more than a day otherwise there is a chance they will start to digest harmful bacteria growing on the bone.

This isn’t just a risk to your labrador. If you let your labrador eat a raw bone in the house for a few days you are also putting yourself at risk.

This can be particularly dangerous for young children or people with pre-exciting conditions or weak immune systems.

So, whilst raw bones have fewer risks overall than cooked bones, you do need to ensure you don’t leave them around long enough for bacteria to grow. Or, ensure you only get raw bones that your labrador will be able to finish off within a day.

Digestive issues

The main cause of digestive issues will be from cooked bones. These are bones from a leftover meal or the ones you find packaged up at the pet store.

Most vets do not recommend giving these to your labrador, or at the very least they would probably say a raw bone is preferable.

Cooked bones are very hard, this means they can be difficult to break down into smaller bits. That can cause a choking hazard for your labrador initially, but it will also make them extra difficult for their digestive system to break down.

That can lead to blockages in their digestive system and could cause issues such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain.

Broken teeth

Unfortunately, cooked bones are so hard that there is much more of a chance your labrador could break their teeth on them than raw bones.

This might seem drastic but it’s not uncommon. Ask your vet next time you see them and I’m sure they will be able to tell you how many cases of broken teeth they get, you’ll be surprised!

This is mainly just cooked bones as they’re so hard, most labradors should be fine eating raw bones.

Can labradors eat cooked bones

Cooked bones are not toxic to labradors and they can technically eat them; however, I would recommend that you don’t feed cooked bones to your labrador.

Even though it may seem perfectly natural for dogs to eat bones, cooked bones are extremely hard, much harder than raw bones.

That means that when your labrador does manage to break a piece off it can be sharp, which can cause choking or internal damage but it can also be challenging for your labrador to digest, causing blockages in the digestive tract.

Additionally, harder, cooked bones can chip and even break the teeth of your labrador.

Raw bones are a much better option as they are softer and easier for labradors to digest.

Can labradors eat chicken bones

Labradors should not eat cooked chicken bones, these are going to be hard and could cause the labrador to choke or create blockages in their digestive system.

That’s probably where the common advice that dogs can’t eat chicken bones comes from.

But, they are perfectly able to eat raw chicken bones, these will be easy for them to chew down and digest.

Can labradors eat ham bones

Labradors can eat ham bones but they shouldn’t be given ham bones which have been cooked.

Stick to raw ham bones which are easier for your labrador to chew and digest and they should have no problems.

Can labradors eat lamb bones

Labradors can eat raw lamb bones. These are softer and easier to digest than cooked lamb bones which you should not give to your labrador.

If you only give your labrador raw lamb bones then they should be fine, but avoid the cooked ones.

No left-over treats from your cooked lamb chops I’m afraid!

Can labradors eat bone marrow

Marrow can be a great source of nutrition for your labrador and they will absolutely love the taste and challenge of getting out from the middle of a bone.

The bone marrow itself is perfectly fine for your labrador. The difference comes with the bone that it lies within.

There are cooked bones with marrow centers and these should be avoided. Your labrador is probably going to be even less concerned with probably chewing down the super-hard cooked bones in order to get to the marrow center as quickly as possible so the digestive dangers of cooked bones might be more likely to occur.

Raw bones with a marrow middle are perfectly fine for you labrador to eat.

Can labradors eat raw bones

Raw bones are the best kind of bone to give to your labrador.

They are what their ancestors would have been used to in the wild and as a result, their digestive system is well capable of breaking them down.

Raw bones are softer than hard bones and labradors are more easily able to chew them down into manageable sizes.

The only risk is that you leave them out for too long. Try to pick a bone size your labrador can finish off within one day as there is a risk of bacterial growth if left for multiple days.

Top Tip for raw bone hygiene

You can freeze the bone until you want to give it to your labrador, this will kill any bacteria on it. Just let it thaw out a little before you give it to them.

Can labradors eat rib bones

Labradors can eat rib bones, but again it’s important not to feed your labrador cooked rib bones as they could cause digestive issues.

That means you shouldn’t feed your lab the leftover rib bones from a BBQ. You should only give your labrador raw rib bones.

Can labradors eat steak bones

Labradors should not eat cooked steak bones but raw ones are fine.

Labradors shouldn’t really eat cooked bones as they are hard, they can cause choking and are difficult to digest.

Raw steak bones are fine for your labrador to eat as they are softer and can be digested easily.

Can labradors eat pork bones

Many people believe that pork may be dangerous for labradors because of additional parasites in the meat in certain countries.

Personally, I don’t know enough about these parasites to advise on whether they might harm your labrador, but what I do know is the actual pork bone itself should be harmless as long as it hasn’t been cooked.

You can feed your labrador raw pork bones. Raw bones are softer and easier to digest than cooked ones.

Before you feed your labrador raw pork bones you can freeze them first, that will kill any parasites if they are there, then just let it thaw out and you can give it to your lab.

My Labrador ate bones and is throwing up or has diarrhea

This can happen for a number of reasons, which makes the exact cause very hard to diagnose at home.

It may be because parts of the bone have gotten stuck in the labrador’s digestive tract, they may have had an allergic reaction to the bone or the bone may have had some harmful bacteria which was growing on it.

Ultimately it is probably because your labrador digestive system has been disturbed one way or another, the reaction may be the body’s way of ejecting the harmful substance and your labrador may be fit and healthy again within a day.

You should monitor your labrador closely for the next day or so. Watch for signs of digestive upset such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting or abdominal pain. Pain is tricky to spot in labradors but if they withdraw when you touch their tummy that could be an indicator.

Usually, the symptoms will begin to pass within a day or two but if they don’t then you should consult with your vet.

If your labrador is losing fluids i.e. vomiting or diarrhea but is not drinking any water then you should consider taking them to the vet the same day as it may be a serious issue.

How much bone should a Labrador eat

This is dependent on the individual labrador.

I would only recommend you feed your labrador raw bones as the cooked bones are so hard they can cause health issues.

The problem with raw bones is that they can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Therefore you want to choose a bone that your labrador can finish off within a day, that way there’s little time for any bacteria to establish itself.

The size that your labrador can finish in a day will be dependent on their own size, health and appetite.

Just pick a size that seems suitable for them the first time and then you can always adjust accordingly in the future.

Can labrador puppies eat bones

Bones are fine for puppies to eat. Just make sure it is a raw bone, not a cooked bone.

A cooked bone could damage your puppy’s digestive system.

Also, ensure that the raw bone you choose is of a suitable size and shape so that the puppy cannot fit it all in their mouth as could be a choking hazard.

If your puppy does seem to be choking on a bone continually whilst eating it you should take it away. They should be chewing the bone into suitable pieces before they swallow it, if they’re choking then the bone is probably too hard for them to chew down easily and they’ll just try to swallow large pieces instead, which won’t be good for them!

Final note – All labradors are different

This article provides a general guide for labradors and bones from what I know and my own research. It applies to the average labrador but not all labs are the same.

My own labrador (George) was highly allergic to many foods which are perfectly safe for most labs, so I know only too well that you should treat every labrador as an individual and approach new foods with caution.

That being bones just will not be suitable for some labradors.

When you give your labrador a new type of bone (or any new food) you should monitor them for the next day or so looking for signs of digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation or vomiting.

If you have any concerns you should consult with your vet.

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