Digging up Bones...Not literally

Whether you are looking for an answer to boredom, anxiety, or destructive behavior or maybe a teething puppy or your dog just loves to chew we hope that the following discussion will help you decide if a bone could help. There is so much information on whether or not bones are a good idea for your dog that it can be overwhelming. Just the other day, I was at the vet for one of our dog's annual checkups and I was told bones are a bad idea. Needless to say I am sure we are not the only pet parents that have heard that song and dance. So I would like to help shed some light on the subject for the sake of all of you. We will talk about some of the bone options out there and in the end there is always one more. I would like to mention that our research has shown that all of the following have the potential to be a hazard. Some are worse than others, which we will discuss. 


When we talk about Antlers there are a few things everyone should know. Firstly, every animal antler has a different hardness. The 4 we will discuss here are white-tail deer, mule deer, elk and moose. After extensive research we have found elk antlers to be the best overall option for most dogs. 


So why Elk you ask...

Important key factors that Elk offers your dog:

  • nutrient rich with calcium, phosphorus, protein, collagen, glucosamine, magnesium, chondroitin sulfate, iron and zinc
  • non-allergenic
  • real bone and cartilage as well as marrow core
  • gluten-free
  • free of artificial additives
  • less likely to splinter than White-tail Deer antlers
  • medium hardness, when compared to White-tail Deer and Moose 
  • split variety is good for puppies and seniors
  • promotes anal gland expression from the marrow

Alright now what...There are so many choices how do I select the best one for my dog? The best answer is that there is a grading system for antlers, which will help you make the best decision. It is pretty easy to tell what grade they are by looking at the coloring of the antler. The darker the better, meaning it spent the least amount of time outside in the elements and is the freshest shed. Wait why does that matter? I'm glad you asked. The freshest ones have the most benefits all the way around from containing the most nutrients to having the least amount of chance of splintering and causing severe issues in your dog's system. Another consideration is how the antlers are sourced. It is very important that you find antlers that are sustainable and natural. Here is the best news, we only carry A+ Grade antlers from a company that we have vetted and trust with our own dogs. At Mountain Dog Chews they share the same values that we do by providing the highest quality products for your dog.

What about the other antler options? Well white-tail deer antlers as a whole are the hardest and most likely to splinter, with the least amount of beneficial nutrients due to the lack of decent size marrow core. So not much benefit there versus risk other than entertainment for your dog. If you would like to give your dog a deer antler we recommend mule deer which is closer to an elk antler in the density and health benefits. Moose antlers have 2 options, the paddle and the base. The paddle part of a moose antler is the softest option for light chewers, teething puppies and senior dogs. Since the paddle is soft enough for a senior that may be lacking some teeth it is obviously not a good option for aggressive chewers, but the naturally shed base of a moose antler definitely would work. This part of the moose antler is more dense than other antlers which makes it a great choice for those extensive chew sessions.


Rawhide comes from the inner layer of cow or horse hide. The hides are cleaned, cut and ground during the processing stage. After those steps they are formed into a variety of shapes, sizes and coloring may be added. To make them more appealing the manufacturer may add flavorings such as beef, chicken or liver. Risks associated with rawhide can be contamination from toxins, digestive issues, choking or intestinal blockages. Most rawhide is a product of leather industry leftovers and are manufactured in China. Benefits of rawhide are few and far between, such as cleans teeth and helps with boredom. The benefits are definitely not worth the risks in our opinion.

Beef Bones (cooked, raw or smoked)

Raw beef marrow bones have loads of nutritional value from the bone and marrow inside such as calcium and phosphorus. Marrow supports kidney, digestive function and helps generate new red and white blood cells. Raw meat bones can be up to 4 times more digestible than most common calcium supplements, so more bang for your buck. This option can help a dog's skeletal system, adapt and regenerate itself, which is most important for large breed puppies who tend to grow quickly and need the extra boost for their system. Does your dog have anal gland issues? These bones help stimulate anal glands to work properly. 

We do not advocate giving your dog cooked or smoked bones, but many people might not understand the reasons. So here is the most important difference between raw and cooked or smoked bones in our opinion. When or if your dog breaks off and accidentally swallows a piece of a raw meat bone they are more likely to be able to pass it, as it is more digestible without causing issues in their intestinal tract or getting lodged in their throat. The process of cooking or smoking meat bones makes them more brittle and so when shards are broken off they are more sharp, causing severe damage to your dog's system from mouth to butt. I know raw might sound awful to people that aren't used to dealing with a raw diet, but the health benefits are undeniable and your dog is worth it. Just make sure you thoroughly wash your hands and any surfaces the bone comes in contact with to keep you and your family safe. 

Filled Bones                          Red Barn Peanut Butter Filled Bone

We saved the most economical option for last. There are so many options when you talk about filled bones out there that we will just touch on a few to get you thinking. First of all purchase them pre-filled or empty, either way know where they came from. Make sure they haven't come from other countries as all of us pet parents know. So here is probably the best part of filled bones, you can purchase raw beef marrow bones, let your dog have them, then reuse them. Now once again I want to mention, please be sure to wash your hands and surfaces when you are done stuffing a tasty treat in a re-used bone. We cannot stress enough how important that is. As far as stuffing, peanut butter is an obvious choice, but if you or someone you love has a peanut allergy there are other options. I want to take a moment to discuss appropriate peanut butter for your dog. You may give your dog the same peanut butter you eat, but always check the label to make sure there is no Xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs. A favorite in our household is a mixture of yogurt, mixed berries, bananas and coconut oil (we melt the coconut oil before adding to the mix). We always freeze our bones to keep the dogs entertained longer. 

If none of the above mentioned options sound like a good idea for your dog, you could try fish skins. They will not keep your dog entertained as long as a bone would, but they have many benefits for your dog such as shiny coat, cleaner teeth, etc. We offer The Honest Kitchen Wolffish Skins and Cod Skins that are both 100% human grade. These fish skins are enough of a treat to get you out the door if your dog suffers from anxiety when you leave.

So what have we learned....Marrow is a must whether it comes from antlers or beef marrow bones. Why? Beneficial for your dog's teeth, skeletal system, anal glands, mental stimulation and entertainment. Rawhide and cooked or smoked bones are not advised in our opinion. Stuffed bones are a great economical option. Puppies and seniors have plenty of choices. All of the options we have discussed provide an answer for anxiety, boredom, and destructive behaviors. 

A final note from our team. Please remember to always monitor your dog with any bone you decide to give them. Every dog is different, so pay close attention if you're trying something new. 

Please feel free to comment and as always thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We hope it helped!


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