Can Dogs Eat Deer Bones? Benefits and Drawbacks

From the time when a dog was first domesticated to the present, people gave bones to their dogs. 

Considering that wolves and wild dogs hunt their prey, i.e., deer, and don’t waste anything edible, it’s only a natural assumption that their domesticated counterparts can eat venison bones as well.

But because dogs went through many changes from their ancestor form, it means their diet changed as well.

Is it then safe to give your dog deer bones?

Can I Give My Dog Deer Bones?

Deer bones are a great addition to your dogs’ diet. Dogs can consume a moderate amount of deer bones. There are many benefits to giving deer bones to your dogs, such as increased nutrition and improved oral health.

Just as deer meat is safe for your dog in the proper amount, so are deer bones. It means that you can give your dog deer bones.

I feed my dogs deer meat regularly, and naturally, they also get deer bones. 

Chewing is a way for dogs to release stress and anxiety. It has a calming effect on the adrenal-pituitary axis in the brain. 

That means chewing deer bones releases endorphins, which are the hormones associated with happiness.

It is, therefore, a lot of fun for your dogs to try and get to the deer bone marrow.  

Like with any other bones you may give your dog, it’s always best to monitor them when they get a deer bone to chew on. 

Types of Deer Bones

Can dogs have deer bones

There are many bones in the deer you process, but not all of them are a great choice to give to any dog. 

Depending on the size of your pup, you have to pick the proper size of the deer bone to make the most out of your dog’s experience.

There are a few choices of deer bones you have that are best for the size of your dog:

Epiphysis 

Commonly known as knuckle bones (although not a real knuckle bone), these are an excellent choice for medium and large dogs who are aggressive chewers. 

There is one epiphysis at each end of the bone (the big knobby part), which you can saw off for your dog. 

Knuckles are dense and tough and provide your dog with a challenge. It’s challenging for even the most aggressive chewer to get into the middle of an epiphysis. You can be sure this bone will last.

Kneecaps

Kneecap (patella) is a small triangular bone located between the femur and the tibia in a knee joint. It’s a good bone for all sizes of dogs. 

Cartilage covers the backside of the kneecap. It contains a lot of glucosamine. That, in turn, is what helps your dog prevent arthritis in old age. Humans take glucosamine supplements as well!

Unfortunately, considering its size, it won’t last long in a large dog’s mouth, and you should take care that your dog doesn’t swallow the kneecap whole.

Long bones

You can find long bones in deer’s legs, like femur, tibia, or metatarsal. They are best for large dogs. 

Most long bones you give to your dog should not be designed for eating, instead chewed on. 

It helps your dog with their oral hygiene, prevents boredom, and releases endorphins, making your dog more calm and content.

Flat bones

You can find flat bones in the ribs, pelvis, or spine.

The flat bones are much softer than long bones, and they don’t contain so much marrow. That makes them a perfect choice for introducing deer bones to a puppy or a small dog.

Because marrow content is lower than in long bones, flat deer bones are a good choice if your dog has loose stool problems.

Hooves

Deer hooves don’t hold many nutrients, but they present an engaging chew because they’re pretty tough. Deer hooves are best for small and medium-size dogs.

Deer hooves are made of keratin, and much like keratin supplements for you, keratin for dogs can soften their hair and make their coat shinier.

Should I Feed My Dog Raw or Cooked Deer Bones?

While in most instances it’s better to give your dog raw bones there are some cases where you may need to feed cooked bones to your dog. For example an older dog might not be able to chew on a raw bone, but will still get nutrients from a cooked bone.

Cooked bones

Before giving a deer bone to your dog, your first instinct is probably to boil or bake the bone to eliminate any germs from raw meat.

That can be very dangerous for your dog. Boiled bone becomes more brittle and more apt for breaking when chewed, which in turn may cause teeth to fracture and potential perforation of the intestines or throat.

If you insist on not giving your dog a raw bone, you could slow cook it for few hours. It’ll make a bone soft enough for your dog not to harm them while chewing on a bone.

Slow cooking deer bone is also good if you have a small dog with not enough bite to deal with raw bone.

Raw bones 

Because dogs’ enzymes and digestive systems kill much more harmful bacteria than ours, many people feed their dogs a BARF (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet. 

I feed my dogs a BARF diet, and that also includes raw deer bones. BARF diet consists of raw meaty bones amongst other natural raw foods.

Raw deer bones with meat left on them are safe for dogs; they are easily absorbable and will not splinter like boiled bones. 

Another reason not to boil or bake deer bone before giving it to your dog is that heat processing removes most of the bone’s nutrition.

A deer bone with some meat on it is an even tastier snack for your dog when it’s still raw.

Freezing the deer bones for later is also a good idea. It preserves bones for later, and during scorching summer days, it’s an excellent way for me to help cool my dogs down.

Regardless if you want to give your dog a raw deer bone or decide to cook it first, you should always supervise your dog. 

That way, you can control if the bone is breaking and prevent any harm to your dog by taking the bone away.

Benefits of Giving Dogs Deer Bones

  • Oral health

Raw deer bone acts as a natural toothbrush. It helps eliminate plaque build-up, keep my dogs’ teeth clean, and their gums healthy. My dogs never had problems with any oral disease.

  • Nutrition

As I mentioned before, deer bones also have great nutritional value. 

It doesn’t matter if your dog eats kibble or raw food, deer bones are a great addition to the food dogs consume daily. 

  • Entertainment

When giving my dogs deer bones, I usually have a few hours of peace. Deer bones are great to offer lots of entertainment to my dogs and remove boredom. 

They can consume hours chewing on deer bones without any difficulties. 

  • Training

Deer bones are great for training as well. They have a more pronounced smell, and I like to drag the bones on the ground before hiding them and letting my dogs find them.

Possible Dangers of Giving Dogs Deer Bones

When giving your dog anything new it’s important to know the possible dangers it may introduce. While there are not many dangers with giving your dog deer bones there are still a few things you should keep an eye for.

Bacteria

The first thing about raw deer bones is that any raw bones might contain salmonella or E. coli, making dogs sick with fever, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Everything depends on how the meat, and in extension the bone, was handled before giving it to your dog. 

While processing the bones yourself, you have complete control over how you handle deer meat and bones.

Swallowing Bone Shards

As a rule, try to avoid giving your dog any bones that are smaller than your dog’s mouth. They pose a more immediate choking risk. 

Also, make sure you catch when the bigger bones break into smaller pieces, or your dog chewed them down. 

If they are small enough, there is a risk of injury. At that point, you should remove the deer bone.

Broken Teeth and Bowel Problems

Like with any goodies and toys for your dog, deer bones are best in a moderate amount. 

If exposed to deer bones too often for long periods, they may cause some health issues. They may include bowel problems, constipation, loose stool, and broken teeth. 

And if you wonder about diseases carried by deer, like Blue Tongue or CWD, you don’t have to worry. Most deer diseases don’t cross over to dogs. 

How to Introduce a Dog to Deer Bones?

Can dogs have deer bones

1. Keep first sessions short.

Most dogs love deer bones at first sight, but few reluctant ones don’t realize how much fun they are missing.

Like introducing anything new to your dog, it’s best to do it in short sessions and constantly monitor them while they have the deer bone.

You should not rush the introduction of the deer bone, even when your dog loves it.

There is no set length of time for your dog to have the bone initially, but you could start with just a few minutes a day. Increase the bone time gradually, watching for any changes in your dog.

If your dog doesn’t have a bad reaction to the deer bone and if he enjoys it after the “trial period,” you can give the bone to your dog for as long as an hour or two.

2. Monitor for adverse reactions

Ensure you constantly monitor your dog’s progress with the deer bone and be ready to step in when it becomes too risky (pointy parts or small pieces).

Always remember that your dog can have a bad reaction to any new food you give them, and therefore, you should make sure after every “deer bone session” you check your pup for any signs of discomfort or change in behavior.

3. Split bones if necessary

When you try to introduce deer bone to your dog, and they are not sure about it, you can cut the ends of the bone before giving it to your dog or split it in half horizontally.

This practice exposes the marrow, which is the part of the bone dogs usually eat first.

When your dog is not keen on trying the whole bone, you can try grinding few smaller deer bone pieces and mix with their food.

That’s a good practice for puppies and small dogs as well.

4. Keep dogs separate

When you try to introduce deer bones to more than one dog, you should plan to separate your dogs from each other while they have their bones.

Even the best doggy friends can fight over new toys or food. You want to avoid any unpleasant situations, especially when introducing new things to your pups.

Deer Bones Nutritional Info

As I mentioned above, deer bones have a lot of nutrition.

The main contribution is calcium and calcium phosphate, amongst other minerals. Raw deer bones provide essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

There are blood-forming factors found in the deer bone marrow, including copper, iron, collagen (which prevents arthritis and improves bone and joint health), and cartilage.

The marrow also provides proteins and plenty of amino acids, including lysine. 

Nutritional analysis of deer bone marrow: 

Can dogs have deer bones
RDI – Reference Daily Intake

Conclusion

Deer bones are safe for your dog as a treat and a great supplement to their diet. They have many health benefits if given in moderate amounts. 

Giving your dog a deer bone a few times a week can help keep their teeth clean, their coats, and their joints healthy. It also provides them with something to occupy them, preventing boredom and potential misbehavior.

Make sure you watch your dog while they are chewing on deer bones, so you know that they are safe enjoying a nutritious chew.