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Small dogs are prone to dental disease because those tiny mouths can get crowded, allowing tartar to build up between teeth. As much as you brush with doggy toothpaste, you may never be able to reach every tooth. Chewing bones keeps your dog’s teeth clean and prevents oral infection and dental disease.

Why Raw Meaty Bones Are Best

Most dog bones – plastic, rawhide, smoked, dehydrated, chews like pizzles and pig ears – can help clean your dog’s teeth when she chews, but they all have different health risks. None of them are meant to be a part of your dog’s diet, and they don’t tend to be very nutritious.

Raw meaty bones are completely digestible. They’re also the most effective at reducing bacteria in your dog’s mouth. Raw bones have been found to reduce oral bacteria by 79%, compared to brushing, by 70.3%, bully sticks, 60.2%, and VeggieDent chews, 54.6%. 

Like all bones, raw meaty bones can cause choking and blockages, especially if you do not supervise your dog while she chews, and if you choose bones of the wrong size.

In my experience, nothing cleans my dog’s teeth like a raw meaty bone. I look at their teeth before and after they chew anything, and before and after I brush their teeth – absolutely nothing comes close.

Adding Bones To Your Dog’s Diet

If you feed a homemade raw diet, you already know that your dog’s diet needs to include 10 percent bone. Remember, raw meaty bones contain meat, so you need to calculate this ratio with bone percentage in mind.

If you’re feeding a commercial raw, kibble or canned diet, your dog is getting enough calcium, but they can have meaty bones as an occasional treat. Bones firm up poop and can cause constipation.

As with any chew, you need to be able to take away your dog’s meaty bones at any time. If she is eating it without chewing thoroughly, or if you have given her a large bone and need to save some for later, you should trade, don’t just take away her bone, even if she has no history of food aggression. It’s better to maintain her sense of trust that allowing you to take something away is always a good choice.

The Best Raw Meaty Bones For Small And Toy Dogs

Small dogs can enjoy the thin, lightweight bones from birds and small animals like rabbits.

Quail. One whole quail is more than Matilda needs for one meal, so I chop them up into halves or quarters, depending on if they will be served with other food, or alone. Take caution with serving cut bones to dogs, as you can create sharp edges. I make sure she chews it up completely.

Duck and chicken feet. One foot is too much for Matilda, so I chop off the toes and give the rest to Cow. Sometimes it’s better to give your dog big raw meaty bones, rather than small parts that she may be tempted to gulp down and choke on. If I give Matilda a whole foot, I’ll take it away when she’s halfway done with it. Feet also contain glucosamine and chondroitin, perfect for aiding dogs with arthritis (or preventing it.)

Duck and chicken wings. Again, a whole wing is too much for Matilda. I only give her the top half (tips). Sometimes, instead of chopping wings and feet, I twist them apart with my hands. This tears apart the pieces at the joints, so you don’t create jagged parts.

Chicken necks. I recently found these at a local Hispanic supermarket, and they’re perfect for Matilda. Just one makes a perfectly portioned meal for her. She also crunches through them relatively quickly.

Cornish hens. Small, thin poultry bones make Cornish hens a great choice. I don’t buy them because Cow is intolerant of chicken and it’s easier to avoid chicken entirely, but these can certainly be sectioned into manageable chunks. Try to separate wings and legs at the joints.

Rabbit. Rabbits can actually weigh up to 20 pounds, though the one I bought from my Asian grocery store is about five pounds. My dogs would not eat it, so it’s sitting in my freezer. I might try rubbing it down with pieces of raw sardines (one of their favorite foods) and try it again.

How To Serve Raw Meaty Bones

As you’d expect, raw meaty bones are messy, and your dog may be tempted to drag them around your home in search of a private spot to eat it. When the weather is warm, I feed them outside in the grass. Now that it’s getting colder, Matilda will eat hers in her crate, and I’m going to have to train Cow to eat hers on a mat by having her on a leash until she gets the idea.

Do not remove the meat from the bones. You can just serve them as-is, even frozen for a longer-lasting treat. Matilda and other toy breeds may shiver when they eat cold foods, so it’s best to serve room temperature bones.

Always supervise your dog when she’s eating bones. I cannot stress this enough: all bones can be harmful. It’s not unusual for your dog to regurgitate if she’s swallowed a too-large chunk, but if this happens often, you’ll need to hold onto the bone while she chews to keep her from gulping until she learns to chew properly. Be prepared to assist if she’s struggling to bring up a piece that’s caught in her throat.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.