Bones:What no one tells you when they recommend feeding bones to your pet

Bones & Raw Foods Diets.

Oak Flats Vet Clinic Veterinary Surgeons do not support the feeding of raw or cooked bones to companion animals. (1996).

Potential Problems:

  • Dental problems:

Broken Teeth-especially slab fractures of main pre-molars.

Trapped hard palate from sliced bones.

Trapped jaws from hollow or ring bones

  • Aggression:

Risks include winding-up of the Aggression zone in the brain when raw meat alone eaten but also an increased risk of triggering ‘Food-aggression’ or ‘Resource (ie Bone) Guarding’.

  • Pancreatitis.
  • Raw throat and poor finicky appetite.
  • Constipation.
  • Choking: Sadly, we have been called out to animals who have choked to death on a bone. I have never forgotten a comment, sent to me many years ago now, by a distressed owner living in the USA. They had read my warning sheet too late. Their heart-breaking sorrow that no-one had advised them of the risks of feeding raw was put simply and starkly: ‘Better my beloved pet was above ground with funky breath than 6-ft under with pearly whites”. That owner comment scored my heart at the avoidable loss and all because a caring owner was not informed how something could do wrong.
  • Bacterial* food poisoning: both in the pet and also in their human family. This can occur with raw chicken but also when uneaten buried bones dug up and eaten several days later. The dog may fall ill with food poisoning and the owners then contract the bacterial infection from the dog.

The huge concern in 2019 is the emergence of the link with resistance bacteria in pets fed raw food. This is a whole new ball game to now consider.  In the extensively peer-review referenced paper: Journal of Small Animal Practice*, Raw Food Risks: Review and Report 06/2019, funded by: Defra/Welsh Government/Scottish Government‐funded APHA surveillance programmes the following points are of concern for all:

  1. “There are documented risks associated with raw feeding, principally malnutrition (inexpert formulation and testing of diets) and infection affecting pets and/or household members.
  2. Salmonella has been consistently found. Salmonella ingestion lead to amplified shedding in dogs and persisted for up to 11 days post one contaminated meal.
  3. There is also a risk of introducing antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.” as raw food commonly exceeds hygiene thresholds for Enterobacteriaceae bacteria which often encode resistance to critically important antibiotics. Raw-fed pets create an elevated risk of shedding such resistant bacteria.
  4. A 2008 study showed a strong association of raw feeding and the shedding of resistant E. coli showing AmpC-type resistance amongst therapy dogs in Canada.
  5. The wolf model for food feeding re limited capacity to digest carbohydrate is often touted as a reason not to feed cooked foods or carbs. The domestic dog is genetically altered from its ancestors with increased starch digesting capacity owing to different patterns of gene expression. The different balances between domestic and wild esp energy and other nutrient needs plus longevity limits the ability to use the wolf as a model for the modern dog.

Of Concern; Following a 2019 paper describing 13 cats in the UK that appeared to have been infected by Mycobacterium bovis by feeding Natural Instinct Wild Venison, a commercial raw mince for cats, the leader of the investigation, Professor Danièlle Gunn-Moore, of the University of Edinburgh said: “Feeding raw food was the only conceivable route of infection in most cases; this outbreak of tuberculosis has now affected more than 90 individuals in over 30 different locations, with more than 50 of the cats developing clinical disease.”

We as humans don’t eat what our ancestors did so why constrict dogs to a primitive diet? I am often told that dogs and cats never learnt to cook their own food as an argument for raw feeding. True but as the ad says, they ‘found a man who could’ and sat by that man and his camp fires and evolved alongside him into the non-wolf pet companion we love and know and feed today.

Dogs and pets also live a very close life with humans so none should be a danger to the other. Given the risk of disease transmission to owners (and we have dealt with those incidents) and now the risk of evolving bacterial resistance to some of the very effective but less side-effect antibiotics, we need to be careful to whom we say feeding raw to your pet will be safe for All. For families with very young or very old or immunocompromised humans, feeding raw food to your pet has to raise health concerns for that family and the wider community. Antibiotic resistance is not something to be ignored; regardless of what your belief system to this point has been.

  • Parasitic disease; increase need to deworming.
  • Blockage of stomach or intestines requiring a surgical operation to remove.

MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY: identified the consumption of raw chicken meat increases the risk of dogs developing a paralysing condition called Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN) by more than 70 times. In humans, campylobacter can trigger GuillainBarré syndrome.

We continue to advise against the feeding of any raw chicken in any form to pets.

Older references for Zoonotic infection risk etc*

  • Laboratory Service Public Health (UK).

Four Zoonotic infective organisms isolated from humans:

  1. Campylobacter#
  2. Salmonella
  3. E. Coli
  4. Cryptosporidium

Transmission is by food and water. Antibiotic resistant strains of Salmonella have been isolated from cats fed improperly cooked foods.

  • Scientific Information document, Salmonella BSAVA; 38:8

The Old, the very young and sick animals are more likely to develop disease especially life-threatening septicaemia. Infection spread via hands, boots, clothing or feed bowls. Human infection from pet animal is possible and usually follows the development of diarrhoea in the pet or being licked by the pet soon after the pet has eaten a raw food meal. Children especially at risk. Septicaemia can lead to abortion, meningitis, and osteomyelitis and abscess formation in various tissues.

 If you really must insist on feeding OTHER raw animal bones, it must be done:

  1. Under supervision: never leave pet unattended in case it chokes.
  2. Select from human consumption sourced food only.
  3. Use young animal bones such as calf or lamb or else kangaroo tail. Leave the hair/ skin and meat attached, but trim off excess fat.
  4. After a maximum of twenty minutes, the dog should be distracted from the bone and the remainder placed in garbage.
  5. Reduce the rest of the dog food on that day.
  6. Do not give raw bones more than twice a week.
  7. Wash your hands and all pet bowls well.
  8. Keep pet away from humans > an half-hour after that pet has eaten raw food.

Consider the risks and consider if still worth feeding bones to your pet.

None of the Vets at Oak Flats feed bones to their pets…

As a Vet, I don’t have the luxury of using such easy arguments. I have to advise what works safest and best for the greatest number of my patients. I have to have my advice work across tens of thousands of animals not just one family of dogs. It isn’t just important to get it right. It is equally important to know how it can go wrong and then work out the risk benefit analysis for each and every pet and owner in front of me. No one diet works for all, we have to have an ability to move within a range of options but not bring additional dangers into the mix.

The 2019 emergence of resistant bacteria in raw diet fed pets is a cautionary alarm bell.

Ignore it if you want, this post is simply to prevent more animals and humans from falling ill and perhaps dying than needed to happen.


  2. Kurzman ID Gilbertson SR Prognostic Factors in canine mammary tumours Semin Vet Med Surg (SA) 1986; 1:25-32
  3. Joffe DJ, Schlesinger DP. Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets. Can Vet J 2002; 43:441–4
  4. Public health concerns associated with feeding raw meat diets to dogs. LeJeune JT, Hancock DD.
  5. J Small Anim Pract. 2009 Dec; 50(12):649-54. Oesophageal and gastric endoscopic foreign body removal: complications and follow-up of 102 dogs. Gianella P, Pfammatter NS, Burgener IA.
  6. Nemeth, T., Solymosi, N. & Balka, G. (2008) Long-term results of subtotal colectomy for acquired hypertrophic mega colon in eight dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice 49, 618-624
  7. Journal of Small Animal Practice Animal Psychodietetics Volume 31, Issue 10, October 1990, Pages: 523–532, G. Ballarini
  8. Neonatal Sepsis by Campylobacter jejuni: Genetically Proven Transmission from a Household Puppy. Tom F. W. et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 32, Issue 5, 1 March 2001, Pages e97–e99.
  9. Tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis in pet cats associated with feeding a commercial raw food diet. O’Halloran C, et al. 2019 May 13:1098612X19848455. doi: 10.1177/1098612X19848455. [Epub ahead of print] 
  10. Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards 04/2019 JSAP

*Before accusations of bias against this journal, this is probably the only rated journal that published a paper in the 1990s by T. Lonsdale on the potential benefit of bones on dental disease. The 2019 review written from government public healthy authorities- not vet universities- notes some benefit on stool consistency from raw diets. Therefor no bias, no kick-backs, no other straw-man arguments can be thrown at the journal or this review. The serious issues about the high risks from feeding raw raised by this JSAP review cannot be ignored and must be respected.