Dog owners are much more savvy now than they were before. We research the best dog food for our dog (sometimes it’s individual, sometimes it’s breed-specific), we look at supplements, we consider the health benefits of the same “superfoods” that we can use in our bodies (ahem kale), and how they might help our canine companions. Our educated, focused attention on our dogs’ health can only serve to better their quality of life.
Bone broth is nothing new for people, and its becoming increasingly more common to give to older or sick dogs as well. It can serve a variety of purposes, and packs a nutritious punch to your pup’s diet. Of course, bone broth on its own is not a balanced meal. If needed, use when your pup has a tender tummy, but progress to a fuller, more regular meal after that (or of course, use it as a topper for their regular meals, whether you feed kibble, homemade cooked, or raw).
Bone broth can be a great first meal for dogs who have been sick (gastric irritation or vomiting) or for dogs who just don’t want to eat anything (typically, this is for older dogs) because it provides concentrated nourishment. It’s great as a meal topper for picky eaters, which in our case, is the reason why I decided to whip up a batch of bone broth this past weekend.
(Oh, naturally cats love it too.)
There isn’t any set recipe for bone broth. Quite simply, it’s made of bones and water, and simmered down until every last bit of nutrient is pulled away from the bone and into the broth. You’ll also need an acid, which helps leech the minerals from the bones. You can add a variety of different things to the broth, like kale or spinach, carrots, or even pieces of chicken (finely chopped). You can tailor your recipe to better suit your individual dog’s needs, which is awesome!
- Bones (beef bones, chicken/turkey bones, rabbit bones, etc.)
- An Acetic Acid (like Apple Cider Vinegar)
If you can, try to provide the best for your pup and use organically raised, free-range animals for your broth. Better yet, we store all our extra trimmings and bones (raw) away in a bag in the freezer until we have enough to make a hearty broth for Archer. If you trim your meat of the fat and other unsavory bits, you’ll end up with quite a lot of trimmings after a few weeks! Waste not, want not!
- Chopped Kale
- Chopped Spinach
- Chopped Parsley
- Chopped Green Beans
- Diced or Shredded Carrots
- Shredded Sweet Potato
- Chicken/Turkey trimmings
- Put all your raw bones in a large stock pot (or, if you prefer, this works great in a crock pot!), then top with enough water to fully submerge the bones, as well as last the simmering time. For 4 beef bones and 4 chicken drumsticks, I used about 4 L (1 gallon) of water. As it simmers, some water will evaporate and you want to have enough to keep the pot simmering for a while.
- Add 1 tbsp of vinegar per 4 L (1 gallon) of water.
- Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for a few hours. The longer it simmers, the better, but at the very least give it 4 hours to simmer away so that the bones break down and release all their nutrients (especially that rich marrow). I let mine simmer for 6 hours, but you can let it go ever longer (8–12 hours is more ideal).
- If you’re just making a simple bone broth, you can strain out the bones now and store it away in the fridge for about a week or so.
- If you’re adding more ingredients, strain out the bones and return the broth back to the stove on low. Add in your options (we used chicken trimmings) and let simmer until your add-ins are cooked and have released their own nutrients into the broth.
As an all-natural multivitamin supplement, 1 cup for homemade bone broth daily is perfect for large breeds, ½ cup for medium breeds, and ¼ cup (or less) for small breeds.
If being used as a first meal (post-illness) or during end-of-life care, double the serving size and offer it to your dog.
Note: Let broth cool completely before offering it to your dog.
Packed With Nutrients
Bone broth is a nutrient-rich stock liquid made from raw bones. The oily broth is packed with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals and makes a great addition to your dog’s diet. Because it is so rich in nutrients, it can serve as a natural multi-vitamin of sorts.
Prepackaged, commercially made broth purchased from the supermarket should not be used in place of homemade bone broth. The prepackaged stock is often loaded with sodium, as well as other unsavory ingredients that can be harmful to dogs. It’s best to make your own broth (and it’s easy!) or none at all. There are some organic broths available, but be careful when reading the ingredients to be sure it is low or no-sodium, and contains only safe ingredients for your dog.
There are a few supplements out there to help with joint care for dogs. A common supplement is MSM (methyl sulfonylmethane) Glucosamine, which many large breed owners or owners of dogs with known joint/hip issues will begin feeding to their dog before any visible signs of joint pain arise. This is something worth discussing with your vet, and she will let you know what dosage to give (if any), and when to start providing it to your dog.
Holistically, bone broth is a great supplement for joint care as well. The healing properties from chrondroitin in the bones, which is often sold with glucosamine, can help treat osteoarthritis.
For the Older and/or Sick
As mentioned above, this is a great, nutrient-rich option for older or sick dogs as it packs some great nutrients and minerals, but also serves as a means of keeping your dog hydrated. It is often used for end-of-life care with older dogs who simply can no longer (or no longer want to) eat in their final days.
Additionally, it is used for dogs who have been ill and are still too weak to accept whole foods. For tender tummies, we often use bone broth with chicken and a bit of rice for Archer to give her a full meal that isn’t hard to digest.
A Meal Topper
Ever notice that your pup sometimes just doesn’t find his regular food appealing? Who could blame him! We like to change things up with different toppers and broth is one we use often.
Another great thing about using some bone broth is that is adds moisture to a typically dry meal. Dogs tend to drink a lot of water after their meals of dry kibble to combat this, but you can add some of it right at the source with some broth in their food. It moistens the food, brings out delicious smells, and of course is good for them.
If you’re dealing with picky eaters, it’s worth trying to add some broth to their meal. Try it once, and see how they like it. You don’t want the food to sit in the liquid long though, it’ll just become a pile of unappealing mush.
Note: It is important that you never feed your dog cooked bones. Be sure to discard any remaining bone fragments from your broth and strain thoroughly to ensure none are remaining in your stock before adding additional ingredients, or offering the broth to your dog.