Can Dogs Have Bone Broth?
Absolutely! Bone broth, especially when homemade like the bone broth recipe below, is extremely beneficial for your dog.
But you may be asking, “What is bone broth?”
At its most basic, bone broth is a nutrient-rich gelatinous broth made from slow-cooking animal bones in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar. It is not only completely safe for your dog, but also incredibly nutritious!
In this post, you will learn:
- The benefits of feeding bone broth to dogs,
- How to make bone broth using a simple slow cooker recipe,
- What you can add to your bone broth to make it even better
- And a few tips that will help you if this is your first time making it.
Whether you are a raw feeder or you feed a commercial kibble diet, bone broth should be a part of your dog’s diet!
Let me start by sharing a few reasons why…
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Bone Broth Health Benefits
One of the many goals of a dog owner is to provide the very best nutrition for our dog without having to get a second job to pay for it. Big dogs are NOT cheap!
Thankfully, there are some terrific ways to optimize a dog’s diet for little or no money. One of my favorite inexpensive dietary supplements is bone broth.
While not limited to just these, here are the top 7 health benefits to feeding bone broth to your large or giant breed dog:
1. Maintain a Healthy Gut
Bone broth helps maintain a healthy gut, especially for dogs with digestive issues.
The gelatin in bone broth binds to water in your dog’s digestive tract, which helps foods move through your gut more easily.
In addition, as discussed in my interview on gut health with Dr. Franklin with Full Bucket Health, gelatin has the amino acid glutamine which helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall and has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as “leaky gut.”
Watch our interview for more detail on the importance of glutamine for dogs and humans!
2. Immune System Support
While some might believe that, “What happens in the gut, stays in the gut.” but that is not the case for dogs or humans!
As we discussed in How to Protect Your Dog’s Gut Health While on Antibiotics [Easy!], 70% of your dog’s immune system is controlled by his/her gut. In other words, your dog’s ability to fight off infections, absorb nutrients in his or her diet, and support the necessary functions for all the other systems in the body, are directly impacted by the stability and homeostasis in the gut.
Put simply, by maintaining a healthy gut, feeding bone broth will support your dog’s immune system.
Secondarily, bone broth will help to detoxify the liver through an amino acid called glycine. Glycine helps the liver perform its main function: filtering toxins from your dog’s body.
The liver is the organ primarily responsible for getting rid of unwanted substances in our bodies – things like toxins, bacteria, pesticides, food additives, chemicals, etc. And while our dog’s liver is able to detox his body of thousands of toxins, an onslaught of toxins over many years can take its toll on even the healthiest of livers.
Lastly, adding turmeric to your bone broth (see below) will provide even more liver detoxing benefits!
3. Joint Protection
One of the most important health benefits of feeding bone broth to large and giant breed dogs is joint protection.
Bone broth contains high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as collagen and gelatin, all of which help build and protect your dog’s joints.
Let’s take a look at each one of these important nutrients one at a time.
Glucosamine helps to regulate the synthesis of collagen in cartilage and may provide mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Chondroitin inhibits destructive enzymes in joint fluid and cartilage.
**Both glucosamine and chondroitin contribute to the synthesis of glycoaminoglycans and proteoglycans, which are building blocks for the formation of cartilage. (1)
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our dog’s bodies – a major component of connective tissues, about a third of total body mass. It is the “glue” that helps hold the body together so it’s essential to joint and tendon health.
Gelatin is a natural form of hydrolyzed collagen – a smaller unit of collagen after it’s broken down. Sometimes referred to as “the cooked form of collagen” because gelatin is formed from heating collagen. Stabilizes gut mucosa by decreasing damage from excess acid.
4. Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Once fully cooked, the final bone broth gel will be full of minerals, including silicon, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus – in an easy-to-digest form due to the method of slow cooking.
Beyond these, if you choose to add vegetables, turmeric, mushrooms, garlic, or anything else, obviously your bone broth will be even more nutrient-rich for your dog!
5. Reduce Allergies
A dog’s immune system plays a huge role in inflammatory allergies.
Therefore, driven primarily by gut health and, by extension, immune system benefits, bone broth helps reduce common food and environmental allergies.
6. Condition Skin and Coat
Because collagen is found throughout the skin, hair, and nails, it provides the skin with strength and suppleness. This is why many dog owners use it to enhance their dog’s skin and coat.
In addition, collagen-rich bone broth can help with dry, itchy skin and aid in conditioning your dog’s coat.
Additional Bone Broth Benefits
Beyond the impact on your dog’s health, here are a few other benefits of feeding bone broth to your dog from my experience.
1. Easy to make
Bone broth is the epitome of a “set it and forget it” or “throw and go” meal. With just a few ingredients and a slow cooker, making bone broth couldn’t be more simple.
Instead of throwing away the bones from your family’s dinner, save them! Combine them in a slow cooker with some apple cider vinegar, and you can make bone broth for nearly no cost. I will share some ways I enhance my bone broth with other vitamin-rich ingredients, but this is not necessary.
3. Perfect addition for raw and kibble feeders
No matter what you feed your dog, bone broth is a perfect addition to your dog’s diet. Simply spoon a little over a raw meal or mix it in with a bowl of kibble. Your dog will LOVE it!
4. Terrific add-on for picky eaters
If your dog turns his nose up when you set down his bowl, don’t lose hope. Try some bone broth! Particularly good for dogs who are fed commercial dog food, bone broth can improve the taste and palatability of kibble.
5. Great for humans and dogs!
Bone broth is NOT dog food. It’s an amazingly simple recipe that can be eaten by dogs, cats, AND humans.
6. Can be used with other recipes for added nutritional benefits
Whether you consume bone broth straight or mix it in your favorite meal or smoothie, a little goes a long way in adding this health-supporting, skin-enhancing, muscle-boosting superfood into your diet. Consider adding some to a soup or bisque, in a stuffing or mashed potatoes, or simply mix into some sauteed mixed vegetables.
Click here to get a FREE Bone Broth Recipe Card conveniently designed in a one-page PDF.
VIDEO: How To Make Bone Broth | EASY Slow Cooker Bone Broth Recipe For Dogs | FEEDING TIPS & BENEFITS
How to Make Bone Broth for Dogs
This slow cooker bone broth recipe is the most basic method and my foundation.
But keep reading to see how you can make even more nutrient-rich bone broth for your dog…
Fill the crockpot with 2-4 pounds of cooked (or raw) bones. The more joints (like feet) you have the more joint-protecting gelatin you will get in your bone broth. Choose grass-fed if you can to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Consider the following as you add bones to your broth:
- Animal Bones – rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals; contain the protein collagen, which turns into gelatin when cooked and yields several important amino acids
- Fish bones – contain iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function and metabolism
- Marrow – provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, minerals like zinc, iron, boron, manganese, and selenium, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Connective Tissue (joints) – rich source glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health
2. Add 4-6 cloves of garlic (if desired). See my comments below about garlic safety and recommended dosages as the amounts will vary depending on the size of your dogs.
3. Fill your slow cooker (crockpot) with water. Fill to approximately 2 inches above the level of your bones.
4. Add Apple Cider Vinegar – about 4-5 TBS to 1/2 cup depending on the volume of bones and water in your pot. The apple cider vinegar is a critical ingredient as it pulls all the minerals out of the bones and adds the nutritional benefits for gut health.
5. Turn the slow cooker on high for 1 hour (or until boiling) and then turn it down to low for 24 hours or more. The longer you cook your bone broth, the thicker it will be (provided you have added enough apple cider vinegar).
6. Add additional ingredients (vegetables, turmeric, mushrooms, etc) at around 23 – 23.5 hours to allow time to soften and slow cook them into your bone broth stock. Feel free to choose from the list below to further enhance the health benefits of your bone broth.
7. At the end of the 24 hours, strain out all bones and throw them away. Dogs should NEVER be fed cooked bones, so DO NOT feed these!
8. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate or freeze into silicone molds. You can feed or discard the layer of fat on the top. I choose to feed it.
9. Store your delicious bone broth in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for a year or more. Congratulations & Enjoy!
Optional Ingredients for Bone Broth
You might be asking, “But isn’t garlic toxic for dogs?” The simple answer is, “No.” However, in large doses, it can be. Everything in moderation.
Small amounts of garlic have many benefits for dogs, including supporting a strong immune system, boosting liver health, fighting off infection, and some say it can help the body naturally repel fleas and ticks (though in my experience with tick infestations, garlic was not enough to fully protect my giant breed dogs).
How much garlic is safe for dogs? According to the AKC, “Studies have found it takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilogram of body weight to produce harmful changes in a dog’s blood.” (3)
They conclude by stating, “the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between 3 and 7 grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot to get really sick.”
Dr. Pitcairn (author of The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats) recommends the following amount of fresh garlic for dogs, according to their size:
- 10 to 15 lbs – 1/2 a clove
- 20 to 40 lbs – 1 clove
- 45 to 70 lbs – 2 cloves
- 75 to 90 lbs – 2-1/2 cloves
- 100 lbs or more – 3 cloves
Because I am feeding two giant breed Mastiffs, both over 200 pounds, my recommended 4-6 cloves for a full pot of bone broth falls well below the recommended dosage.
I discuss the health benefits of turmeric and turmeric paste (golden paste) for dogs in Natural Pain Relief For Dogs – 5 Simple Methods That May Help as well as in my video tutorial for how to make turmeric paste, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here.
While turmeric boasts many health benefits, its anti-inflammatory properties are the most important to me as a giant breed dog owner.
With aging Mastiffs, I am particularly interested in ways to reduce inflammation and pain caused by chronic health conditions such as hip dysplasia, wobbler syndrome, and arthritis.
Just like with human consumption, a dog’s body absorbs and utilizes turmeric best when it’s mixed with healthy fat and black pepper.
For this reason, if I add turmeric, I typically just add a few TBS of the golden paste I keep stored in my freezer.
Add your turmeric about 10-20 minutes before turning your slow cooker off.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Vegetables
Adding vegetables to bone broth can add not only flavor but a plethora of vitamins and minerals to your dog. Especially for dogs fed a prey model raw diet, these vegetables may help in filling any nutritional gaps that can exist with a homemade diet.
Choosing certain vegetables for their anti-inflammatory properties can provide some potential therapeutic benefits – great for big dogs, like mine, who suffer from painful chronic conditions.
The following are terrific vegetables you can consider adding, however, don’t feel limited to just these.
- Green beans
While most vegetables are completely safe for dogs, do not add onions (or onion powder) to your bone broth as they contain a toxin known as N-propyl disulfide which can cause a breakdown of red blood cells.
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
As I discussed at length in Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Must Know, nearly all diets (raw and kibble) are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are most well known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, and because they are not manufactured in the body, must be taken in through our dog’s food.
For that reason, you can consider adding sardines or canned salmon, or tuna. If you choose a whole fish, you will want to be very careful about the bones. Everything that I have read suggests whole sardines would be safe if you remove the backbone before cooking since they have “soft bones.” However, I might consider just opting for canned options or leftover fish meat from your dinner and adding that.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms
In all transparency, mushrooms are not something I have any experience with. But I wanted to include them as an optional ingredient for your bone broth as many animal nutritionists I know recommend them.
The key with mushrooms is knowing what you should and should not feed your dog.
For that reason, I recommend sticking with a commercial source of medicinal mushrooms made for dogs.
According to Ihor Basko DVM with Dog’s Naturally Magazine, “I’ve seen some amazing results using mushrooms as a natural remedy for many different health issues…. everything from regulating blood pressure to treating cancer. There’s not any one plant that can do as much as a mushroom can. In short, they’re miracle plants.” (5)
Some examples of safe mushrooms to feed are Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, Turkey Tail, and Cordyceps mushrooms.
Click here to get a FREE Bone Broth Recipe Card conveniently designed in a one-page PDF.
What You Need to Know BEFORE You Make Bone Broth for Dogs
1. Bone broth is NOT a replacement for bone content in a raw diet!
I understand how tempting it might be, especially to dog owners concerned about feeding raw bones to their dog, to assume any food with the word “bone” counts towards your dog’s daily 10% ration of bone.
It doesn’t. Dogs eat bones for calcium (and for the physical and mental stimulation of chewing them).
Let’s see how much calcium is present in bone broth…
Remember that bone broth has been around for centuries and has been used as a healing tonic since the beginning. Take a look at this widely-cited study from 1934 by King’s College Hospital in London.
Researchers wanted to determine just how nutritious this ancient tonic was. Interestingly, here’s what they say about the calcium content in bone broth:
“The calcium and phosphorus contents of the commercial and kitchen broths are extremely low, and compare unfavorably even with human milk.” Additionally, they found the most calcium-rich bone broth was actually from batches that contained the most vegetables. (6)
So, for this reason, consider your bone broth a delicious and nutritious supplement to your dog’s raw meaty bones.
2. NEVER Feed Cooked Bones to Your Dog!
I feel like a broken record with this warning, but I suppose it never hurts to say it again.
According to PetMD, “Cooked bones should always be off-limits. They become brittle and easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract.” (7)
Therefore, be sure to strain ALL bones from your bone broth BEFORE feeding it. You can do this before or after it is cooled.
3. Variety is key!
By choosing many different types of bones and from a variety of different animal sources, your bone broth will be richer in collagen, protein, marrow, gelatin, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Consider some chicken legs, duck feet, beef knuckles, turkey frames, duck necks, etc. The more, the better!
Additionally, the more joints you include, the more joint protection your big dog will get!
My recommendation is to keep a Ziploc freezer bag in your freezer and add to it leftover bones from your meals. Bones you would normally dispose of, toss in this bag. When the bag is full, it’s time to make some nutrient-rich slow cooker bone broth for you and your big dog!
4. Help! My Bone Broth Didn’t Gel!
If your bone broth doesn’t gel, don’t worry. This has happened to me more often than I’d like to admit.
If your bone broth doesn’t gel up once refrigerated, it means you likely didn’t add enough apple cider vinegar. Simply feed what you made this time and be sure to add more apple cider vinegar next time you make it.
My bone broth recipe purposefully keeps the amount of apple cider vinegar in a range from 4 TBS to ½ cup for this reason.
Store-Bought Bone Broth For Dogs
While making homemade bone broth is super easy and inexpensive, I realize not everyone has the time nor the desire for their kitchen to smell like fermenting bones.
Strange, I know. 😉
So for that reason, I’m going to provide a few commercially available store-bought bone broth options from retailers and brands I recommend.
Organic Chicken Stock – Made from chicken bones, carrot, celery, and turmeric. All-natural and made fresh in small batches weekly. Made in the USA.
Solid Gold Bone Broth with Turmeric – 4% collagen, 100% human-grade, and made in the USA. Comes in a super convenient, easy-to-pour pouch. Available in beef, turkey, chicken
Honest Kitchen Bone Broth Booster Packets! Pack of 12 single-serve packets. 100% made in the USA and all-natural human-grade ingredients. Available in beef. Turkey bone broth is available in a 3.6oz jar.
Brutus Bone Broth – all-natural, human-grade ingredients, made in the USA. Available in beef and chicken.
Bone Broth for Big Dogs
It is rare that large and giant breed dog owners can find a way to reduce waste AND save money at the same time!
Making bone broth for large dogs allows us to use what we would normally throw away while making one of the MOST nutritious and delicious treats for our big dogs.
Embrace this amazing opportunity and fire up your slow cooker…
Your dog will love you for it!