It’s a well-known fact most dogs love gnawing on bones. The meaty flavor and the rough texture make them the perfect chew toy!
Of course, dogs also like to eat fish, so you may wonder if giving your dog a fish with some bones is okay, or even beneficial for him.
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no (with one small exception.)
In this post, I’ll explain the risks and complications, and what are some safe and healthy alternatives to fish bones.
Why Can’t Dogs Eat Fish Bones?
Fish bones aren’t the same as beef, lamb, or poultry bones. They’re small and brittle, meaning they can easily break and get lodged in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and other organs, causing serious health problems
This can be very painful and even fatal for your dog and will likely cost you an expensive visit to the vet. For your dog’s health and safety, never give him fish bones to chew on, or feed him any fish with the bones still in.
This is especially true for cooked bones as cooking makes them softer and far more likely to break than raw bones.
If you want to give your dog the health benefits of bones without the risk of dangerous shards, try grinding them up.
You can use a meat grinder or, if you’re working with smaller, soft bones, a food processor, to grind them into a fine powder which you can then sprinkle into your dog’s food.
In fact, fish bones may be best for this because they’re so thin.
What About Soft-Boned Fish, Like Sardines?
Soft-boned fish like sardines are the exception to the rule and can be consumed whole by dogs. This is because their bones can be digested easily without getting stuck in your dog’s throat.
If you use frozen or fresh sardines, you should probably remove the backbone because it’s thicker. If you feed your dog canned sardines, purchase only sardines packed in water or olive oil without too much salt.
Sardines packed in vegetable oil or with too much added sodium can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Ate a Fish Bone?
- Things like this happen, try not to panic. As long as your dog isn’t choking or in distress, he should be okay.
- Carefully open your dog’s mouth and see if there’s anything inside that could block his airway.
- Give your dog small pieces of bread to cushion his stomach, and make sure he has access to water.
- Watch your dog closely for the next 24 hours. If he starts to cough or vomit, get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Check your dog’s feces for bone remnants. In case of constipation or bloody stool, your vet may suggest an x-ray.
What Can You Give Dogs Instead of Fish Bones?
Many seasoned pet parents use bones to supplement their dog’s calcium intake.
While experts agree that fish bones are unsafe for dogs, the safety of other types of bones (such as beef, lamb, or poultry) is debatable. They’re not as brittle as fish bones, so many think they’re safe for dogs to chew or even consume.
If you decide to give your dog a bone to gnaw on, give it only when he’s not hungry so that he doesn’t try to consume the entire thing. You might want to completely avoid giving your dog bones if he tries to swallow them or break them with his teeth.
Some dog owners prefer not to give their dogs any type of bones at all due to the possibility of contamination or internal injuries, but what if you’re making your dog’s food from scratch?
Luckily, there are plenty of other sources of calcium for dogs besides bones. Here are some of the best options out there:
- Eggshells, particularly finely crushed eggshells, are a safe source of calcium for dogs. You can use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to grind eggshells to a powder and sprinkle it over your dog’s food to supplement his calcium intake.
- Yogurt is another healthy form of calcium you can safely feed to your dog, and it has the additional health benefit of probiotics, which support digestion and a healthy gut. Just be careful to use plain Greek yogurt or goat yogurt, and avoid yogurts with added sugars or flavors.
- Sardines, again, are a great alternative for dogs (even for those who eat kibble) since the bones are completely edible and contain a lot of calcium and other goodies.
You can also purchase specially formulated calcium supplements for dogs from pet stores or holistic pet care providers.
How Much Calcium Do Dogs Need Per Day?
Dogs need calcium to support the healthy growth of their bones and teeth. It also helps with heart health, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve function.
Ideally, your dog should eat more calcium than phosphorus (2:1) to maintain a balanced diet.
Adult dogs need about 1 mg of calcium per calorie they consume, so if your dog eats 750 calories a day, he also needs 750 mg of calcium.
Check the labels of your dog’s food to make sure he’s getting the correct amount of calcium for his needs. If his dog food doesn’t supply enough calcium or you make your own dog food, talk to your vet to determine the right amount of calcium for your pet.