Can a German Shepherd Eat Bones? Which Bones Are Safe To Chew And Which Could Be Harmful To A GSD?

There has always been an image of dogs eating or burying bones within the most diverse communities around the world. But can dogs eat bones? Are only certain types of them suitable? Can bones be harmful to a dog?

German Shepherds can eat raw bones. This allows them to cleanse and strengthen their teeth. Bones provide calcium and phosphorus. Raw bones are best. The safest choice is raw beef or lamb bones, which are larger than their muzzle to reduce the risk of choking.

I shall discuss the types of bones you can feed your German Shepherd, the safety rules, dangers and also some of the benefits dogs derive from chewing on bones.

Can German Shepherds Eat Bones?

Bones are a good source of minerals and other nutrients for German Shepherds, as for most dogs. They help satisfy their appetite, stimulate salivary enzymes and prevent plaque build-up and gum disease. And a dog chewing a bone is less likely to scratch or lick its paws excessively.

Rawhide bones act as a kind of toothbrush, removing tartar and plaque to keep teeth clean. They are also great as a boredom chaser, providing mental and physical stimulation. Although safer than boiled bones, be aware of the risk factors associated with them.

In a separate article, entitled:
„What to Feed a German Shepherd? (Advice, Tips, List of Suitable Products)”.
you will learn what the correct diet for your German Shepherd should look like.

However, if you are considering giving your dog a bone, I give you some rules to follow for his safety:

When giving your dog a bone, AVOID:

  • The wrong type of bone:
    • Bones from pork, because they split and break easily.
    • Bones from ribs, because they are small, break more easily and cause obstruction.
    • Poultry bones.
  • Any bones covered with a lot of fat.
  • Giving your dog cooked bones of any kind.
  • Allowing the dog to crush bones into small pieces.
  • Bones that are smaller than the dog’s mouth can cause choking hazards and the formation of blockages
  • Giving your dog a bone if it has stomach problems.
  • Giving your dog one bone to chew on if there is another dog in the house.
  • Giving your dog a bone when he is hungry – he could break his teeth using excessive force or try to swallow it whole.
  • Do not allow your dog to bury the bone, as this is when it rots and bacteria breed in it, causing infection if the bone is dug up and chewed on again.

When Giving your dog a bone, you SHOULD:

  • Give your dog bones made from raw meat.
  • Give your dog fresh bones.
  • After 10-15 minutes, take the bone away from the dog and put it in the fridge.
  • Discard the bone after three or four days.
  • Large breeds such as German Shepherds, give large bones.
  • Supervise the dog while it is being used.
  • Defrost the bone before serving if you have kept it in the freezer.
  • Make sure the bone is large enough that your dog cannot fit it all in his mouth.

Can a Dog Eat Cooked Bones?

Any bones from dinner leftovers, whether they are baked, boiled in water, steamed, fried or smoked, are dangerous for our dogs for several reasons. Cooked bones have their collagen and nutrients washed out of them. That makes a bone – which was previously, in a sense, soft and flexible, now brittle. The jagged fragments can not only cause choking but can also cause fatal internal damage.

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Dogs eating cooked bones, with a bit of misfortune, might be subject to:

  • Tooth fracture
  • Oral injuries (bone chips piercing the tongue and gums)
  • Obstruction of the trachea, oesophagus or digestive tract
  • Constipation by bone fragments
  • Internal bleeding (if fragments pierce internal organs)
  • Peritonitis – a bacterial infection of the abdominal cavity (when bone fragments pierce the stomach or intestines)
  • Pancreatitis due to high-fat content

What Happens When Your Dog Eats Cooked Bones?

If your dog gets his paws on cooked bones, don’t panic. First, make sure he is not displaying any of these symptoms:

  • Choking or coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Sluggishness
  • Straining to defecate
  • Excessive thirst
  • Licking of lips
  • Has restless behaviour
  • Unable to sit/lie down comfortably

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of injury caused by consuming a cooked bone. The likelihood of injury also depends on the size and shape of the swallowed bone. If your dog has swallowed a cooked bone and is manifesting any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should see your vet immediately.

Pay close attention to your dog over the next few days. Make sure the bone has passed. If the bone does not pass and your dog has bowel problems, there is blood in his stool, his stomach seems to swell, he vomits or seems restless, see your vet immediately.

Is a Dog Without Bone Access Able to Enjoy Health?

It’s surprising what people mistakenly think about giving dogs bones! Dogs are hunters by nature and therefore meat eaters. However, as a result of domestication, dogs have had to dramatically change all their eating habits and behaviour. For example, the fact that German Shepherds stopped hunting for their food and rely entirely on our care.

In primitive times, dogs tore apart the meat of their victims with their teeth and savoured their bones. With this historical picture in front of us, we are inclined to think that dogs have to gnaw on bones to be fully healthy. But is this really the case?

Does a German Shepherd need the nutritional value of bones?

The bone of contention in the question of whether dogs should or should not be given bones is primarily their nutritional value. It is mainly worth looking at this from the side of the organic components (meat, marrow, fat and connective tissue) and about the inorganic component, which is the bone proper.

There are several nutritional benefits that your German Shepherd can gain:

  • If the bone is fresh, your dog will gain a lot of protein from it. Keep in mind the nutritional needs of your dog, e.g. the recommended daily protein intake for an adult dog is around 18-22%. A German Shepherd will not get this amount of protein from a bone that has virtually no meat, let alone one that he has been chewing on for a good few days.
  • Large bones contain marrow, which is the soft tissue in the centre of the bone, consisting mainly of fat and blood. Although the nutrients contained in the marrow are beneficial, experts suggest that the small amount a dog can get from a bone is not essential in a dog’s diet.
  • Bones also have cartilage, a connective tissue that consists of half collagen and the other half of mucopolysaccharides (glucose molecules and mucous tissue). These tissues have little nutritional value and only promote the formation of mucus in the dog’s digestive system. However, they can act as a fibre necessary for digestive processes.
  • Bone is the inorganic part, which consists of 2/3 of a microcrystalline structure containing mainly calcium phosphate.
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The daily recommended intake of calcium and phosphorus for an adult German Shepherd is 1g and 0.75g respectively. This corresponds to approximately 0.8% of the calcium and 0.67% of the phosphorus contained in the dog’s meal.

Calcium and phosphorus are essential for skeletal and bone health. As with other nutrients, a low intake of calcium and phosphorus has disastrous effects on your dog’s development and health. So does excessive intake of these nutrients.

Some of the health ailments a German Shepherd may suffer from when calcium and phosphorus intake is low or exceeded:

  • Rickets – Insufficient phosphorus and/or vitamin D and, rarely, calcium deficiency.
  • Osteomalacia (rickets in mature bones) – low levels of phosphorus, calcium and vitamin D.
  • Rubber jaw syndrome (fibrous osteodystrophy) – poor metabolism of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Hyperparathyroidism due to kidney disease – high phosphorus, low calcium.
  • Hypoparathyroidism – low calcium, high phosphorus.

Note that calcium and phosphorus intake is often discussed with vitamin D in mind, as it helps with the absorption of these two minerals.

Does a Dog Need to Eat Bones to Replenish Calcium and Phosphorus Levels?

Although shepherds need calcium and phosphorus from their bones, they do not necessarily need to chew a bone to get the recommended dose of these two minerals. Most commercial dog foods contain the recommended amount of calcium and phosphorus, and some are also enriched with ground bone.

Your dog can get calcium and phosphorus from other household food sources. Meats are rich in phosphorus and fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon and trout are rich in calcium and less prone to mercury. Do not give fish to your dog raw or with extra spices and oils. Also, make sure they have no bones.

Vegetables are another good source of calcium for your dog. Broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots and peas are safe. Click here to see what types of vegetables and fruit you can feed your shepherd.

CanGerman Shepherds Eat Beef Bones?

Dogs can eat cow bones as long as you know where it comes from. A sizable raw beef bone is safe for your dog – just make sure it has been kept in the fridge beforehand. Choose one that is thick, firm and about the size of your dog’s head, which will allow him to chew on it without the risk of a piece breaking off and being swallowed.

You can even give an adult German Shepherd a raw beef shin bone. However, you should take it away from him after a few hours as it may wear out, break into pieces or start to spoil.

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Can German Shepherds eat pork bones?

Pork bones, whether raw or cooked, can splinter and break. Dogs often try to swallow whole pieces of food, and small pieces of pork bones can lead to choking, intestinal blockage, or various internal injuries. All these cases are dangerous.

Because pork bones are relatively small, large dogs such as the German Shepherd may try to swallow them whole, which, as I have mentioned several times, is dangerous.

Can German Shepherds eat chicken bones?

German Shepherds cannot eat chicken bones – either raw or cooked. Chicken bones can cause obstructions, perforations, and cuts and are a choking hazard. The sharp pieces can pierce the dog’s oesophagus and damage the chest, lungs and heart.

If your pet happens to scrape a chicken bone off the street, vets advise against inducing vomiting as this can cause an obstruction. Instead, watch your dog for the next 24 hours. Most breeds – especially the larger ones – can swallow them easily, but still, to be safe, do not give him chicken bones.

Can German Shepherds eat pressed bones?

Pressed skin bones, which are made from dried animal skins, although they seem to be a popular snack – are not a safe option. There have been a couple of recalls of pressed bones from shops in the past due to possible chemical contamination or risk of salmonella infection. And these were quite well-known brands!

If a pressed bone is not hard enough for your dog, it can break and lead to a blockage of the intestines or oesophagus. And if it is too hard, your dog can break his teeth.

I must also mention that pressed bones can cause a blockage in the digestive tract because they can swell up to four times in the stomach… If your dog eats too many at once – it could end badly.

Will a bone dissolve in a dog’s stomach?

A dog’s ability to digest bones or bone fragments varies significantly based on several factors. The size of the bone, the type of bone, the size of the dog and the intensity of the dogs chewing have an impact on whether the bone can be digested.

For example, chicken bones are very thin and most are filled with large air bubbles. Because of these anatomical characteristics, chicken bones are easy to chew. Once swallowed, some or all of the small bone fragments may be broken down by the dog’s stomach acid. While this may seem like a good thing, it is actually risky. Small bone fragments can become lodged in the intestines or even puncture the intestinal walls, allowing intestinal contents to leak into the abdominal cavity.

Unlike poultry bones, coarse, heavy pork or beef bones can be much more difficult for a dog to grind. This reduces the risk of bone fragments becoming lodged in the intestines, but at the same time increases the risk of intestinal obstruction, which can be caused by a large piece of bone becoming lodged inside the intestine.