Eating raw bones is as completely natural as eating fresh meat for dogs and cats. They come hand in hand, in the wild. Both dogs and cats are natural hunters, cats always eating their food fresh, and dogs happy to eat fresh, or decaying. Either way, catching and eating prey has always involved the consumption of bones. Feeding bones to domestic dogs has been a time honoured tradition, and is still practised by knowledgeable dog breeders and pet owners. The feeding of bones to cats has had less emphasis in the past, as cats have always been able to catch and eat their own prey, complete with bones. Since the advent of “ready to serve” commercial pet foods, there has been a noticeable decline in the practice of feeding bones to dogs by many pet owners, particularly raw bones. And now that the modern domestic cat’s natural hunting abilities have been limited by their confinement, there is a marked decline in the consumption of raw bones by cats also. This decline in consumption of fresh bones has been matched by a marked increase in dental disease in dogs and cats, and the evolution of an entirely new industry, veterinary dentistry.
Raw bones are consumed first and foremost for their nutritional value to the cat or dog. A natural, and highly digestible source of calcium is provided by raw bones, and is required to provide a natural balance to the higher levels of phosphorous found in raw meat.
Adequate calcium is vital for normal growth and development, for correct mineralisation (strength) of the teeth and bones, and structure of joints. It is vital for muscular contraction in the body, including the heart muscle, and is involved in a wide array of metabolic processes. The calcium in raw bones can be up to 4 times more digestible than most common calcium supplements available. Bones also supply smaller amounts of cartilage (natural glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate to prevent arthritis), bone marrow, and other minerals, like boron, which are vital for bone health.
Raw bones also play an integral role in dental hygiene for dogs and cats. The process of macerating the meat and bones actually massages the animal’s teeth and gums, cleaning away any food residues or tartar development. This prevents plaque formation, bad breath, dental cavities, gingivitis, and expensive veterinary teeth scaling and extractions. A good supply of calcium and other nutrients during the early growth stages of puppies and kittens will also help to ensure strong healthy teeth.
And finally, a good bone feed actually has a beneficial effect on the dog or cat’s digestive tract. It has a cleansing / scouring effect, providing much needed roughage in the diet, and provides bulk for healthy faecal motions that stimulate anal gland emptying.