Can a Dogs Stomach Acid Dissolve a Bone?

dog eating bone in backyard

A dog’s stomach acid will typically dissolve a bone before the bone can cause a blockage. The pH level in your dog’s stomach is what determines how fast a bone will dissolve. The lower the pH in the dog’s stomach, the faster the stomach enzymes will break down bones.

We have associated bones with dogs from our earliest childhood experiences—from every cartoon we watched, to the pictures we drew in school, to the dog-art currently hanging on our wall—when there’s a dog, a bone is never far behind. 

We know dogs enjoy chewing on bones, but are they safe for consumption? This article will talk about bones, why dogs like them, what the dangers are, and if a dog’s stomach acid can actually dissolve bones or if the fragments will end up causing a blockage.

First – Why Do Dogs Love Chewing Bones?

Dogs were domesticated from wolves in Europe over a thousand years ago. Somehow, from the wild wolf to today’s affectionate tail-wagging friend, dogs never quite let go of the bone. 

I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…or maybe better said, a new dog doesn’t forget old tricks? Anyway, let’s look at why dogs chew bones.

Teething

Puppies go through a teething phase as their adult teeth grow in. This can result in a lot of discomfort to your little guy. When this happens, puppies turn to the comfort of gnawing on something to relieve the pressure on their gums and help the new teeth break through.

Bored or Anxious

When dogs have too much time on their hands or are anxious from life changes, their old instincts may kick in. They may turn to bones to relieve their stress or excess energy.

Like the wild animals you see on TV spending a lazy afternoon chewing on bones, many dogs flashback to their days before domestication when overcoming boredom.

Pleasure

Dogs can also crave bones just for the sheer pleasure of chewing. The deep pressure of chewing bones releases endorphins that give your dog the feeling of happiness. 

This may be why your dog is happy enough to share his ball with you but doesn’t play when it comes to his bone!

So now that we’ve seen a little of the ‘why’ behind dogs’ obsession with a bone, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the different types of bones.

Good vs. Bad Bones

While some experts say to avoid all bones as a safety precaution, others acknowledge that some bones have their place in a dog’s life. But the experts agree that not all bones are equal in their risk factor. 

How do you know which bones are good and which to avoid at all costs? Let’s break it down.

Uncooked Bones and Large Bones = Safe

There are many health benefits to uncooked bones. The marrow provides healthy nutrition and protein. They can also help with natural teeth cleaning. 

Larger marrow bones are considered much safer for dogs than small bones. Their bendy and springy nature prevents them from breaking into sharp knife-like pieces. 

Bones from mammals such as beef and lamb are some of the safest bones for dogs. To avoid the risk of bacteria, wash any raw bones thoroughly before giving it to your dog. 

A rule of thumb is to give dog’s bones that are at least as long as their muzzle. This way, Fido can chew without the danger of small bones becoming lodged in his throat or intestines.

Now let’s look at what bones we should toss out…

Bird Bones and Cooked Bones = Dangerous

Bird bones (including chicken) and any cooked bones are not safe for dogs. This is because bird bones are hollow, thin, and brittle. These bones allow birds to fly because they are lightweight. But they are not beneficial to a dog’s digestion system!

Cooked bones are missing the collagen and nutrients present in raw bones. This causes them to become brittle and  easily break/fragment. 

They can cause problems by becoming a choking hazard, causing a blockage in the esophagus, or puncturing internal organs. 

This means the bones from grandma’s homemade chicken dinner are a no go for your dog!

The Big Question – Will A Dog’s Stomach Acid Dissolve Bones?

So now that we’ve discussed a bit about why dogs enjoy bones and what types of bones have high-risk factors, it’s time to answer our main question: Can a dog’s stomach acid actually dissolve bones?

Dogs are omnivores, which means they eat both food and plants. Their digestive tract differs from ours. It is the shortest of all mammals. 

A dog’s mouth is designed to eat large chunks, and they have a powerful esophagus to help push food down into the stomach. 

A dog’s stomach also breaks down food faster. This is why we spend an hour eating dinner and a dog is done in 5 minutes. 

The simple answer is yes. For most dogs, their stomach acid will dissolve a bone. However, the speed at which a bone is digested depends on a few factors. 

Size/Strength

While domesticated breeds have lost many aspects of their origins, breeds that have remained more genetically similar to their forefathers will be more prepared to take on a bone. 

Larger dogs usually do better with chewing and digesting bones than smaller dogs because of the strength of their jawbones and teeth.

Diet

The pH in your dog’s stomach helps a dog break down bones. How much or how little pH the dog has in its system will depend heavily on what you are feeding them. 

Dogs that are mainly fed a kibble diet (which has more grain content) will have a higher pH. Dogs that are on a raw diet will have lower pH. The lower the pH in the dog’s stomach, the faster the stomach enzymes will break down food and bones.

Health

While dogs need to chew on things as puppies, as dogs get older, their joints, bones, and muscles weaken. Their teeth are also more likely to chip. 

It is generally not recommended for older dogs or dogs with stomach issues to chew bones. Healthy dogs should have no issues chewing on and digesting bone fragments.

Should I Give My Dog a Bone?

To wrap it up, let’s highlight the benefits and the risks as you decide if bones are suitable for your dog. 

The American Kennel Club and other experts recognize that bones can provide health benefits to the dog, including:

  • Minerals
  • Nutrients
  • Oral health
  • Protein
  • Calcium

But these benefits also have flip-sides. Some possible dangers that come with bone-chewing are:

  • Broken/chipped teeth
  • Intestinal upset
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Gastroenteritis

If you notice your dog acts differently after eating his bone, it is best to consult a vet. 
Some signs to watch out for are:

  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

You know your dog best and should decide what you think is right for them. A bone will often be a better option than chewing the splinters off your porch rails. 

As we have seen, there are some health benefits, and it can be an enjoyable experience for your dog. But almost any pleasure also comes with some risks.

If you are uncomfortable with giving Fido a bone, there are alternative ways to let your dog relieve his boredom in satisfying ways. Bully sticks, chew toys, and treat-filled play toys are recommended by many experts. 

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