Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ember. Ember Wonders, “Why do dogs eat bones?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ember!
We were having a picnic in the Wonderopolis park the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between two dogs:
Dog 1: Hey Charlie! What have you got there? Is that a t-bone?
Dog 2: What's up, George? Yeah, it's a t-bone. You want to chew on it?
Dog 1: No, thanks! Did you already eat the steak?
Dog 2: Unfortunately, no! It's so . They said I was a good boy and they had a treat. I could see the steak right there on the plate. Next thing you know, the meat is on the grill and they toss me this bone.
Dog 1: Wow, that's just rude. Did you wag your tail and give them the sad eyes?
Dog 2: Of course, I did! It's like they don't know me at all! It was a huge missed steak!
Their conversation gave us pause. We've been guilty many times in the past of giving a dog a bone without really considering whether they'd rather have a nice, juicy steak.
Even if they miss the steak, make no mistake: dogs love bones. Recently, scientists have made some progress in figuring out why it is that dogs love bones like they do.
Research has revealed that modern dogs descended from wolves that, in turn, descended from ancient canines that began living and hunting in packs about eight million years ago. These ancient ancestors were "hypercarnivores" that had a diet that consisted of more than 70% meat.
Over time, these animals developed strong teeth and jaws that allowed them eat larger prey. Those strong teeth and bones have been passed on to modern dogs. Since they can eat any part of their prey, including the bones, they did so and continue to do so today.
There are many good reasons for dogs to love bones. First of all, they can be tasty and nutritious. Bone marrow is rich in fat and the bone hiding the marrow is high in calcium. Meat left on the bone contains a lot of protein.
Chewing bones is also pleasurable for dogs. It alleviates boredom and satisfies their innate urge to chew. Chewing can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which are the hormones associated with happiness.
Dogs also get dental benefits from chewing bones. As bones scrape their teeth, plaque gets removed, helping to reduce tartar build-up. Chewing on bones can even help curb that bad doggy breath.
Bones aren't without risk, though. Veterinarians will tell you that some dogs simply don't have the teeth and jaw bones to chew bones. Other potential dangers include broken teeth, stomach problems, and infections resulting from bone fragments poking holes in the stomach and intestines.
To avoid dangers, dogs should always be supervised when they're chewing bones. Owners should also be careful about what types of bones they give their dogs. For example, experts warn that owners should never give dogs cooked bones, since cooking makes them brittle and more likely to splinter when chewed.
Raw marrow bones are best for dogs. Just make sure that the bone can't be swallowed whole. If you don't want to take any risks with raw bones, there are a variety of artificial bones specially made for dogs to chew, including rawhide, nylon, and starch-based bones available at pet stores.