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The Importance of Bones in Your Pet’s Diet


Story at-a-glance
  • Dogs and cats need the minerals provided by animal bones as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
  • The primary nutrients provided by bones are calcium and phosphorus. Both the total dietary amount and the ratios of these two minerals are important considerations when feeding your cat or dog.
  • All AAFCO-approved commercial pet food formulas contain bone meal in some form – typically steamed bone meal in the case of the most inexpensive, popular formulas. When supplementing a homemade pet diet, either human grade bone meal made in a USDA plant or MCHA (microcrystalline hydroxyapatite) is the best choice.
  • Your dog can benefit from both edible raw bones (from poultry) and recreational raw bones, which are the big marrow-filled bones of large animals.

By Dr. Becker

In order to be optimally healthy, your pet’s body requires nutrients — specifically calcium and phosphorus — provided by bones derived primarily from beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey.

Nutritional Components of Bone

In order to understand the nutrition bones provide to pets, it’s first necessary to nail down exactly what we’re talking about when it comes to bones.

Raw bones contain marrow.

However, marrow isn’t bone.

It’s comprised primarily of fat and blood components, which are high quality nutrients – just not nutrients provided by the bone itself.

There is also cartilage attached to raw bones.

Cartilage also isn’t bone.

It is connective tissue composed of about 50 percent collagen and mucopolysaccharides (chains of glucose molecules combined with mucous).

Collagen is fibrous connective tissue that is poorly digested by pets.

According to Miller’s Anatomy Of The Dog, 2nd Editioni:

"Bone is about one third organic and two thirds inorganic material. The inorganic matrix of bone has a microcrystalline structure composed principally of calcium phosphate."

So bone is composed primarily of calcium phosphate. Calcium and phosphorus ratios and total amounts in a pet’s diet are important. This is especially true for large breed puppies with unique nutritional requirements (0.8 percent calcium and 0.67 percent phosphorus is considered the ideal ratio for these pups).

The ideal total amount of calcium in dog food is 1.0 to 1.8 percent of the dry weight of the food. Many inexpensive, poor quality dog foods contain higher amounts of calcium – sometimes twice the recommended percentage. This is because large quantities of ground bone wind up in meat, poultry and fish meal pet food ingredients. Any pet food with "meat and bone meal" at or near the top of the ingredient list probably has an excessive amount of calcium, which can be detrimental for growing animals.

Bone Found in Commercial Pet Food

According to PetfoodIndustry.com, there are several forms of bone available, including:

  • Whole, fresh or frozen bones
  • Fresh bone meal or "green" bone meal
  • Bone meal or "raw" bone meal
  • Steamed bone meal
  • Bone meal ash or calcinated bone meal

Steamed bone meal is the type of bone used most often as an ingredient in mass-marketed commercial pet food. It’s made from bones that are pressure-cooked to remove tissue and fat, then dried and ground. It ends up as a grayish granule or powder.

Manufacturers of steamed bone meal provide a guaranteed analysis for minimum calcium and phosphorus, minimum crude protein and maximum moisture.

According to PetfoodIndustry.com, much of the bone meal sold to U.S. pet food manufacturers is imported, typically from China, Pakistan or Thailand. It may or may not exceed safe maximum limits for lead or other heavy metals. This is a question you’ll want to ask the pet food company whose products you purchase.

Supplementing Bone in Homemade Pet Meals

If you feed your pet boneless meats, you’ll need to add a bone replacement for proper calcium and phosphorus balance.

I recommend healthfully sourced bone meal or microcrystalline hydroxyapatite (MCHA). Bone meal is cooked bone that has been ground down to a powdery substance. It provides the same minerals as whole, raw bone, minus the fat and protein.

You want to use human edible bone meal made in a USDA plant. Most of these companies offer independent heavy metal analyses demonstrating their product is safe. Never feed bone meal sold by fertilizer or garden supply stores.

MCHA is freeze-dried bone, usually from New Zealand. It’s the highest quality bone replacement because it is uncooked (the bone is freeze dried raw) and livestock feeding standards in NZ are superior to those in the U.S.

Bone meal products vary greatly in the amount of calcium and phosphorus they contain. Make sure to read labels carefully and add bone meal based on the recipe and the pet you’re feeding. Dogs and cats have different requirements for these minerals.

Feeding Raw Bones to Dogs

There are two types of raw bones you can feed your pet as part of a healthy raw diet.

  • Edible bones are the hollow, non weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, don’t contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder.

    These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals to a raw food diet. (When you feed meals containing edible bones, you should not supplement with bone meal.)

  • Recreational bones are the big beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow. They don’t supply much nutrition (because they should be gnawed on only, not chewed up and swallowed), but they do provide great mental stimulation and oral health benefits.

    When your dog chews on a raw recreational bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, his teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease.

That being said, keep in mind there is some basic information you should know about or discuss with your proactive vet prior to offering recreational bones:

  • Dogs that are aggressive chewers can chip or fracture their teeth on raw bones (my veterinary dentist says uneducated pet owners offering raw bones with no background information have funded most of his brand new building through expensive dental repairs).
  • Marrow is fatty; it can add lots of calories to your pet’s daily caloric intake and should be avoided if your pet has pancreatitis.
  • Marrow can cause an impressive bout of diarrhea if consumed by dogs with ‘sensitive stomachs.’ My recommendation is to scoop out the marrow (I call these ‘low fat raw bones’) until your pet’s GI tract has adapted to the higher fat treat. Or permanently offer bones with no marrow if your pet is battling a weight problem or needs a low fat diet.
  • Raw bones are usually sold frozen. When they thaw and your pet chews on them, they become a goopy delicacy that can leave ‘bone prints’ of grease, a little blood and small bits of meat around your house until your dog has completely cleaned them up. Many people offer bones outside, in crates, or on a surface that can be mopped afterwards. Don’t offer raw bones on white carpet!
  • I tell people to match the size bone offered to your dog’s head. Dogs can’t be given a bone that’s too big, but they can be given a bone that is too small. Bones that are too small can be choking hazards and cause significant oral trauma.
  • If your pet breaks off pieces of raw bone I recommend removing them.
  • Never cook raw bones; cooked bones splinter and are dangerous.
  • Always supervise dogs when you’ve given them raw bones.
  • I recommend separating even the best of dog friends when offering raw bones.
  • Recreational bones do not supply adequate calcium for homemade meals that don’t contain edible bones or bone meal.

References:


May 2, 2012 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Chihuahua, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , | 11 Comments

Table Scraps

Sure, you’d like Fifi to share in the joys of the holiday table, but resist the urge to be generous. Foods and drinks you digest easily, like the following, can cause trouble for your pooch:

Dinner rolls — Dough expands in the stomach, creating distressing gas.

Onions and garlic — These flavor enhancers contain a compound that could damage a dog’s red blood cells, causing anemia.

Rich sauces — Gravy upsets the stomach and may lead to pancreatitis.

Bones — Sharp pieces of bone can choke a dog or pierce or block her gastrointestinal tract.

Alcohol — Even slightly spiked eggnog can be toxic, so don’t leave any drinks unattended.

In addition to avoiding the “no-nos”…  how much people food you share at the holidays should be gaged by whether you normally cook for your pets and their main diet is so-called people food, whether they eat only traditional dog food, whether they eat raw food, or whether they normally eat dog food with a little cooked or people food or get  some scraps here and there.  But sharing a little of your holiday food is certainly not a bad thing!!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

no-no-doggie-foodsChocolate, Macadamia nuts, avocados…these foods may sound delicious to you, but are actually quite dangerous to our animal companions. Our ASPCA nutrition experts have come up with a list of top 10 people foods that you should not feed your pet. If ingestion of any of these items should occur, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.      

 

1. Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

2. Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.

3. Avocado
The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

4. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

5. Grapes & Raisins
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

6. Yeast Dough
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

7. Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella [ital] and E. coli [ital] that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. 

8. Xylitol
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

9. Onions, Garlic, Chives
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.  (The garlic argument is on-going.  Adding garlic powder to their food is a natural flea deterent among other things.  But no garlic cloves, chunks or even bits.)

10. Milk
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

 

“Must” Resources For Every Pet Parent: 

Every Dog’s Legal Guide 

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment