I’ve always thought of broth as something that humans drink when they’re ill and unable to tolerate solid food, or as a hot beverage for a cool fall day – although my preference is for a big mug of hot chocolate when the mercury drops! I never really considered broth as being “dog food,” but there is a trend lately toward bone broth for dogs.
Is it a good trend, though? Or just another one of those “flashes in the pan” that will be all you hear about for a few months, and then quietly slips off the radar? Kind of like the green coffee extracts and raspberry ketones that Dr. Oz was touting a while ago for humans?
Regular readers know that I spend a lot of time doing research, and that I care very much about the health of all dogs, not just my own beloved canine friends. Accordingly, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m going to tell you that I’m not giving bone broth for dogs a completely unreserved endorsement. If you’ve read my post, Milk Thistle for Dogs, you’ll know that there are some supplements that I’ll definitely give “two thumbs up.” I’m not quite there with bone broth for dogs – you might consider my take on bone broth to be “one and a half thumbs up.”
In other words, I think that bone broth could be very good for some dogs, but it’s not necessarily appropriate for all dogs. You’ll learn why in the material that follows. Let’s get started!
What is Bone Broth for Dogs?
Bone broth for dogs is the same thing as bone broth for humans –a liquid extract that’s created from simmering bones over a long time. The bones are strained out of the liquid once the cooking is complete, and you have bone broth.
Is Bone Broth Good for Dogs?
When you think of foods that are good for humans, and for dogs, you can usually assume that almost anything that isn’t processed and is safe to eat has certain benefits. This is as true of bone broth for dogs and humans alike as it is for any other non-processed food.
Here are some of the benefits of bone broth for dogs:
That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? I wouldn’t even try to pronounce it! But what are these unpronounceable substances? They’re collagen molecules, and they work to protect the joints. You may know these compounds by the more common name, glucosamine, which is believed to help with arthritis and other joint issues.
2. Liver Detox
In both humans and dogs, the liver is the first line of defense against toxins. We demand a lot from our livers. Every day, most of us eat things that aren’t really all that good for us, and we breathe in things like car exhaust and other pollutants, along with micro-particles from ordinary household cleaning products. The liver processes these compounds in order to keep us healthy.
Sometimes, even the things that are good for dogs can contain things that aren’t quite so good. For instance, when you worm your dog or do a flea treatment, or give him a bath, you’re doing something to enhance your dog’s health, but some of the compounds in your wormer or flea treatment or doggie shampoo may not be all that desirable. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t deal with parasites or keep your dog clean, but you do have to be aware that there’s a trade-off. It’s the same with bone broth for dogs.
Bone broth is rich in glycine, which is a natural anti-oxidant, protecting against the free radicals that the human and canine body can encounter every day. The effect of bone broth on the liver, however, can be a double-edged sword. More on that later.
3. An Improved Immune System
Actually, this is a “maybe.” Bone broth contains important minerals that can enhance the immune system, but whether your dog’s body can actually absorb those minerals is up for debate – more on that later as well, as whether your dog’s body will absorb minerals depends largely on how the broth is prepared.
4. Gut Health
Inside the lining of the intestine, in both humans and dogs, are literally millions of miniscule holes that deliver nutrients to the body. If the person, or dog, is not enjoying a good diet or is feeling stressed, the holes can get bigger, leading to a condition called “leaky gut.”
But wouldn’t bigger holes allow more nutrients to get through?
Yes, they would, but things like toxins and undigested food can also get through. Then, the body’s immune system perceives these things to be “invaders,” and attacks them. This can lead to food allergies and sensitivities.
Bone broth, properly made (see recipe later), contains gelatin, a gluey substance that works to plug up overly large holes. This leads to improved gut health.
5. Relief from Diarrhea
This probably sounds a bit counter-intuitive – advising a liquid for a dog that’s already passing way too much of it! However, if a dog is passing liquid, he needs more liquid to replace what is lost. In fact, if you think about the last time you had a bout with “the runs,” you’ll probably recall being warned against dehydration. Bone broth can provide the nourishment your dog needs, while ensuring that he stays hydrated. Of course you’ll want to offer solid food as well, if your dog seems ready to tolerate it.
This all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But…
…Is Bone Broth Really Good for Dogs?
As I stated in the introduction to this post, bone broth is very trendy right now. And as you saw in the previous section, it’s touted as helping with everything from liver health to immune function to joint health and more. Do any of these claims have a basis in reality, though, or is it more like Dr. Oz and his waxing ecstatic about natural remedies that are the be-all and the end-all this week, and then consigned to the junk-heap of trendy supplements the week after?
I think it’s actually a bit of both.
There are a lot of claims out there when it comes to bone broth for dogs, and before you jump on the bone broth bandwagon, I think you should consider carefully whether your dog is likely to reap any significant benefits. You should also ask yourself whether you’re willing to invest the time needed to make bone broth, or if you don’t want to make it, the money needed to buy commercially prepared bone broth. Giving your dog bone broth means a commitment, whether it’s in terms of time or money.
Why should you make bone broth for your dog? There are plenty of articles that speak of the wonders of bone broth, claiming that it is packed with tons of vitamins and minerals, does wonders for joint health, and can even help “detox” your dog’s liver! But is this all true, or is bone broth just the newest “miracle cure-all” fad?
Here’s a little “Q&A” that may help you with the decision to give your dog bone broth, or not.
1. Is Bone Broth Rich in Minerals?
The theory is that the process of making bone broth, using slightly acidic water (again, see the recipe later on in this post) causes nutrients to leach out of the bones and into the broth, leading to a broth that is rich in minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium sodium and calcium.
The trouble is, depending on the method of cooking, it often doesn’t happen quite that way. Most of those minerals just end up as sediment at the bottom of the pot. The broth itself doesn’t contain all that much in the way of minerals.
Adding vegetables to the broth can increase the amount of minerals that it contains, but if it’s minerals that you want in your dog’s diet, you’re actually better off making a broth out of assorted vegetables and forgetting the bones entirely. Or you could just feed your dog raw veggies as a treat or an addition to his regular food, and thereby eliminate the time-consuming process of creating broth.
2. Does Bone Broth Improve Joint Health?
It does, to a certain extent. This is because bone broth for dogs contains gelatin, which contains proteins that help to hold together the tendons, bones, ligaments, skin and cartilage. However, a balanced diet will probably have much the same effect.
3. Does Bone Broth Help Dogs with Arthritis?
There are studies that suggest that bone broth, because of its collagen content, may help to improve symptoms in dogs that have arthritis. Other studies suggest that dogs with arthritis would benefit more from foods that have levels of gelatin that are higher than those available in bone broth.
Studies also show that almost any food that is high in gelatin helps with arthritis. Bone broth isn’t the only source, or even the best source. Keep in mind that when it comes to talking about the benefits of bone broth for dogs with arthritis, the important factor is the gelatin that the broth contains, not the other components in the bone broth. Accordingly, if you’re giving your dog bone broth for arthritis, you might be better off choosing a food that is higher in gelatin content, and that takes less time to prepare.
Also keep in mind that according to the available research, gelatin is not considered to be essential for bone and joint health. This is one of those “It might not help, but it won’t hurt” scenarios.
4. Can Bone Broth Detoxify Your Dog’s Liver?
The first thing you need to know about your dog’s liver is that it is generally a high-functioning organ. Its job is to get rid of harmful substances, and if it’s not doing that, you should definitely talk to your veterinarian. A properly-working liver does not need to be detoxified. It’s doing the job of detoxifying entirely on its own. A healthy liver will also repair itself – it’s the only organ in the body, human or canine, that can actually heal itself!
When it comes to bone broth for liver function in dogs, it’s difficult to know when it’s helpful, or harmful. In a dog with a healthy liver, bone broth will do no harm. In a dog with a diseased liver, though, giving bone broth could be dangerous. This is because a diseased liver might have difficulty breaking down the extra proteins that are present in bone broth, and this could cause ammonia to build up in the blood. This pollutes the blood, and in severe cases, can even lead to brain damage.
If you’re reading this and wondering what to do for your dog that has end stage liver disease, then all I can tell you is that I am beyond sorry. Your dog is dying, and there’s nothing you can do other than take him gently out of this world.
Bone broth is not going to help. Nothing is going to help. I grieve for you and your dog.
The trouble here is that there hasn’t been enough research on the benefits of bone broth for dogs.
Should You Feed Your Dog Bone Broth?
From what I’ve read, I think that beef broth most definitely does have its uses. I also think, though, that a lot of the claims are exaggerated, and I wouldn’t rely on beef broth alone to ensure good health for your dog.
Some dogs might benefit from bone broth, and others not so much. Here is a snapshot of dogs that can benefit from bone broth:
1. Dogs That Eat Kibble
Dogs that are fed a diet of kibble can benefit from bone broth, because the broth can provide amino acids that aren’t present to any significant extent in kibble.
2. Dogs With Joint Issues
If your dog has joint issues, adding a bit of bone broth to his diet may help to ease his discomfort.
3. Ill Dogs
Bone broth is known to be very palatable, and as such it is good for dogs that are ill or otherwise reluctant to eat. Keep in mind, though, that bone broth alone is not enough to give your dog the nutrients he needs.
4. Dogs With Diarrhea
As previously suggested, dogs that are having gastric difficulties may benefit from bone broth – it provides nutrients, and hydration for dogs that are experiencing diarrhea.
Bone broth does have its benefits, but I would suggest that it’s not something you should rely on to the exclusion of other remedies. As always, your veterinarian is the best source of advice and information when it comes to dogs that are picky eaters, have aching joints, or are experiencing diarrhea.
How to Make Bone Broth for Your Dog
If your dog is in good health, and you want to make bone broth for your dog, here’s how you do it. It’s time-consuming, but easy to do.
First, obviously, you need bones. You can use pretty much any kind of bones – beef, lamb, pork, turkey or chicken. The main thing that you need to remember is that you will have to strain the broth so that there are no bones remaining – sharp little bones can lodge in your dog’s digestive tract.
Now, get a big pot, and toss in the bones. Cover them with water. Set the burner on “simmer” and go away for a while. A long while. Let those bones simmer all day long.
If you’re convinced of the benefits of bone broth for your dog, then grab a pot and let’s get cooking!
Bone Broth Recipe for Dogs
- Bones (at least 3 pounds, raw or cooked)
- Enough water to cover the bones
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
If you can crack any of the bones to release the marrow, this will greatly enhance the nutrient value of the broth. Place the bones in a large pot, and add the water and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Allow the broth to simmer for at least 8 hours – the longer the broth simmers, the more nutrients will be released.
You can use any type of bones. Raw is best, since the cooking process will already have removed some of the nutrients, but if cooked bones are all you have, that’s fine. Make sure, though, that if you are using cooked bones, you rinse them to remove any sauces or seasonings that could be harmful.
Once the broth is done, allow it to cool completely. Then strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth – this is very important, as you don’t want any bone fragments remaining in the broth.
Your bone broth for dogs is now ready to serve!
Note: You can also make bone broth for dogs in a slow cooker, but since even the biggest slow cooker isn’t as large as most stock pots, you’ll have to make a smaller batch. You’ll probably only be able to use a pound or two of bones, and you should reduce the amount of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to two tablespoons. For best results, cook the broth on low for about 24 hours.
Instant Pot Bone Broth for Dogs
Recently, I bought an Instant Pot, and I can’t even imagine how I ever lived without one! I use it as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice steamer, and a yogurt maker. I even bake cakes in it! Trust me, if you don’t have an Instant Pot, you’re missing out on one of the most amazing, versatile kitchen appliances you can own.
If I sound like an Instant Pot evangelist, I suppose I am, and I make no apologies for that. Something this good needs to be promoted.
You can use the pressure cooker function on your Instant Pot to make bone broth for dogs. The advantages are as follows:
- Pressure cooking allows food to retain most of its nutrients.
- When you pressure cook your bone broth for dogs, it takes a lot less time than it does in a stock pot on the stove, or in a slow cooker.
- Pressure cooking is environmentally friendly – because the food cooks about 70% faster than it does with other methods, you use less electricity. An Instant Pot also doesn’t draw anywhere near the power that your kitchen stove does.
- You may not have to strain the bone out when you pressure cook your bone broth for dogs – depending on the type of bones you use, and how long you cook the broth, they will likely become so soft and mushy that they will do no harm to your dog’s digestive tract, and your dog will get the benefit of the whole bone, not just what’s leached out using other cooking methods.
I can’t say it often enough and loud enough – if you don’t have an Instant Pot, get one.
Additions to Bone Broth for Dogs
If you want to enhance the basic recipe, there are things that you can add to the bone broth you make for your dogs. As previously stated, vegetables make a great addition, as they add minerals to the broth. You can also add dandelion root, mushrooms, nettles and/or kelp. Some pet parents also like to add a bit of garlic, but be sure not to use a lot. Large quantities of garlic can be poisonous to dogs.
Your dog may have ingested too much garlic if he displays any of the following symptoms:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pale gums
- Increased respiration and/or heart rate
If you have a Japanese breed, like a ShibaInu or an Akita, it would be best to avoid garlic altogether, as these breeds are very sensitive to garlic.
Personally, if I were making bone broth for my dogs, I would forego the garlic. You really can’t be sure of getting the amount exactly right, since the “right” amount can vary widely from dog to dog. Besides, you can get the same benefits from milk thistle for dogs, without the risk.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth for Dogs
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I’m not prepared to give bone broth for dogs “two thumbs up.” If your dog has liver disease, it could do a lot more harm than good, and you should also not consider bone broth as being nutritionally complete. However, for most dogs, it can be used as a healthy supplement to the daily diet.
Bone broth is a great way to provide hydration to an ill dog. You can also use it to moisten dry dog food if your dog doesn’t care much for kibble.
Generally speaking, I think adding bone broth to your dog’s diet is a good idea. However, I would suggest that you make the broth yourself, or use only commercial sources that you know you can trust.
One thing I want to tell you that you should never do is buy bone broth that contains ingredients originating in China. This is because the country is heavily polluted, and most of the lead contained in an animal’s body (up to 90%) is contained in the bones. Read the label carefully if you are using a commercially prepared broth.
I believe that you are always better off making the broth yourself. However, there are good commercial products available if you don’t have the time or the ambition to do it on your own. More on these in a bit.
I want to take a bit of time to talk about bones, not the broth that you make from them. You might be wondering if you’d be better off just feeding your dog bones in order for him to derive all the nutritional benefits available from them.
I wouldn’t do it.
There are some nutritional benefits to giving your dog bones, but my opinion is that the risks far outweigh the benefits. If you absolutely must feed your dog bones, please don’t do it unless you are there to supervise. Bad things can happen to dogs that are left alone with bones.
One of the biggest dangers when it comes to feeding bones is that some dogs tend to get so excited when given a bone, they try to swallow it whole. Then you end up with a bone stuck in the dog’s esophagus, and if you can’t get it out, you’re in for an emergency trip to the vet. And you’d better hope that the dog doesn’t die or develop brain damage on the way because he can’t breathe properly.
Some bones are so hard that your dog could fracture his teeth while chewing them. Again, this means a trip to the vet (although perhaps not one that’s quite as rushed as it would be with a bone lodged in the esophagus), and some very expensive dental work – an extraction or a restoration.
You may have heard that knuckle bones are safe for your dog, and they are, generally speaking. They won’t fracture, even under the most powerful jaws, but there is another potential hazard.
Okay, it’s story time!
Knuckle bones are round, marrow-filled bones. Dogs love them because they can extract the marrow, and then the remaining bone makes a great toy. My first Boxer, Gloria, just loved knuckle bones – at least until one day when something bad happened. Having extracted the marrow, Gloria was gnawing on the bone, and somehow, she managed to lodge it on her snout. It made a nice tidy ring over her upper jaw, and try as I might, I could not dislodge that bone.
I ended up having to take Gloria to see our vet, Dr. Kim. Gloria was placed under full sedation so that Kim could saw the bone off her snout.
I know that this probably doesn’t happen all that often, but it can happen, and when it does, it’s dangerous (not to mention expensive to treat!). When you consider this along with all the other risks of giving your dog bones, I just don’t think that feeding bones is a good idea.
Finally, I shouldn’t have to tell you that you should never give your dogs poultry bones of any kind unless they’re pressure cooked. Your dog’s digestive tract does have strong walls, and bones might pass through without any harm, but there is still a risk that they won’t. And if they end up lodged in your dog’s throat, he could die.
I know that you want your dog to be happy, and that one of the ways you show your dog you love him is to give him treats. However, bones are not good treats for dogs.
About Bone Meal
If you want to avoid the dangers of feeding entire bones to your dogs, you may be considering bone meal as an alternative. Bone meal is simply bone that is ground up to the point where there are no large pieces or shards that could cause harm to your dog’s digestive tract.
The problem with bone meal is that it is most often processed using extreme heat, which removes many of the nutrients. Bone meal for dogs also frequently comes from China, and I’ve already pointed out the hazards involved in products that come from a highly polluted source.
How Much Bone Broth for Dogs?
My mother, who had a platitude for everything, used to say “All things in moderation.” Being a perverse child, I used to fire back with “Okay, so I should only drink hemlock in moderation? Only jump off a cliff (which I most assuredly would have done if everyone else was doing it) once or twice? Only brush my teeth every few days?”
I got a lot of “time outs” when I was a kid.
Anyway, that was a digression. As to how much bone broth you should give your dog, the conventional wisdom is that you should offer about an ounce of broth for every ten pounds of your dog’s body weight, per meal. This is based on the usual two meals a day that most people give their dogs. If you’re free feeding, you might want to offer the bone broth as a “beverage” twice a day.
It’s best to start out with just one serving per day, and if your dog seems to be responding well to the bone broth, you can add a second serving. If your dog is reluctant to consume a lot of bone broth at one time, there’s nothing wrong with offering smaller servings several times a day.
Commercial Bone Broth for Dogs
I’ve already suggested that if you want to give your dogs bone broth, the best course of action is to make it yourself. That way, you know exactly where the ingredients are coming from. However, there are a few commercial bone broths for dogs that can be a good alternative if you’re short on time. Here they are – note, please, that this is not a ranking from most to least desirable, or vice versa. These commercial broths are all equally good, and presented in no particular order.
1. Honest Kitchen Bone Broth for Dogs
Honest Kitchen Bone Broth for dogs is represented as being rich in minerals and having a flavor that dogs love. It’s high in protein and low in fat, and can be served on its own or as an addition to dry dog food.
This broth contains not just bone, but anti-oxidant rich turmeric, and easily digestible pumpkin. It’s made from human grade foods, so you know it’s safe for your dog, and it contains no hormones or antibiotics. Dogs at all stages of life can enjoy this healthy broth, which comes in turkey or beef. The turkey used to make the broth is free-range, and the beef is grass-fed. Because this broth is highly concentrated, you only need to use a tablespoon for every ten pounds of your dog’s body weight.
2. Best of the Bone Bone Broth for Dogs
Best of the Bone beef bone broth for dogs is made from bone gelatin from grass-fed cattle, and provides the most collagen protein of any bone broth on the market. It contains valuable amino acids as well.
This bone broth for dogs is highly concentrated, and the manufacturers recommend adding just a tablespoon to your dog’s meal, regardless of the dog’s body weight. They also suggest serving it as a soup, with warm water and vegetables.
This bone broth for dogs is slow cooked for more than 48 hours, in order to extract the maximum amount of nutrients.
3. Caru Grass Fed Beef Bone Broth for Dogs
Caru represents its grass fed beef bone broth for dogs as being much like homemade, and salt-free. It is made from human grade ingredients, in the same manufacturing facility that creates food products for humans. The broth contains 90% protein, which is double the amount contained in most bone broths that are made for human consumption.
Caru bone broth is made in small batches, and contains no artificial colors or flavors, and no preservatives. It also contains no gluten, and is GMO-free.
4. Plato Small Batch Bone Broth for Dogs
Plato small batch bone broth for dogs is all-natural, and contains no preservatives. It is made from human grade ingredients, and slow-simmered for 24 hours in order to preserve nutrients. The protein content comes from whole bones, and additional nutrients come from locally sourced vegetables.
Plato small batch is made only from US grown ingredients, and is made entirely in the USA. It meets all FDA safety standards for human food, so you know that it’s safe for your dog.
If you don’t have the time to make your own bone broth, these are four products that I can highly recommend as alternatives. And as always, I would never recommend anything for your dogs that I would not use for my own.
The Final Word
I’ve spent a lot of time researching this post on bone broth for dogs, and I hope I’ve given you all the information you need in order to decide whether it’s right for your best buddy. I want to emphasize again that it is not generally a good idea to give bone broth to a dog that has advanced liver disease, so if you have any doubt as to whether bone broth is suitable for your dog, I urge you to consult your veterinarian.
Generally speaking, bone broth will not be harmful to a healthy dog, and may in fact be very beneficial. It’s not a cure-all, and it’s not a substitute for your dog’s regular diet, but it may improve joint health, enhance liver function and immunity in a healthy dog, and aid in digestion. It can also be a great way to deliver much-needed hydration to an ill dog.
You can buy bone broth for dogs from a reputable source, or you can make it at home on your stovetop or in your slow cooker or Instant Pot. The stovetop method is more time-consuming and you should monitor the cooking process to make sure that the pot doesn’t go dry.
The benefits of bone for dogs are well-known, but it can be dangerous feeding whole bones to your dog. With bone broth for dogs, you get most of the benefits of the bones and none of the hazards. Bone broth is better than bone meal, too, since bone meal (although not dangerous since it’s finely ground) is processed under extreme heat, which destroys many of the nutrients.
So, would I recommend bone broth for your dogs?
As I suggested before, though, it’s not right for all dogs, so if you’re in doubt at all, talk to your veterinarian. Assuming he or she approves, I have no reservations in giving bone broth for dogs an enthusiastic one and a half thumbs up!