If you have dogs, you’ve probably heard people speak of bone broth at some point. That’s especially true if you’ve had a sick dog or one with cancer. Many people drink bone broth for its health benefits so it’s little wonder that we also give it to dogs for healing. Learn more about bone broth and how it can help your dog below.
What is bone broth?
Humans have made bone broth for thousands of years. It’s probably one of our earliest foods. It’s also easy to make.
Bone broth is made by simmering bones and connective tissues of animals on low heat for a long time to break them down as much as possible. The bones and tissue are strained out, leaving just the broth and all of its rich nutrients.
Bone broth can be made from just about any kind of animal so if your dog has allergies, you should be able to avoid them.
Chicken and beef are popular sources of bones but you could also use pork, veal, turkey, lamb, bison, buffalo, venison, or fish. You could also toss in some hooves and beaks, like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, if you wish, but most people probably skip that step today. Even gizzards are good to use.
Bone broth will vary in nutrition depending on the kind of bones used and the other ingredients in the broth. For many people, making bone broth is a good way to get rid of leftover meat bones in the kitchen so no two batches of the broth are the same.
According to WebMD.com, most bone broth has at least trace amounts of several nutrients. Beef stock is one of the more common kinds of bone broth made so here’s a look at its nutrition. One cup of bone broth made from beef has the following nutritional values:
- Calories: 31
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1.7 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 0.5 grams
The protein helps build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Bone broth also contains small amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium. Magnesium and phosphorus are also present in small amounts. These are the same minerals needed to build and strengthen your bones and your dog’s bones.
If you use fish to make the broth, it contains iodine. Iodine is necessary for healthy thyroid function and metabolism. Some people also like to add sardines to their bone broth for its omega-3 content. Omega-3 helps the skin and heart. It is also beneficial for the immune system and the joints.
The connective tissue in animal bones such as chicken, beef, pork, and other animals provides glucosamine and chondroitin. These natural compounds are found in the cartilage. They are well-known for supporting joint health.
Bone broth made with marrow bones can provide vitamin A, vitamin K2, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and minerals such as zinc, iron, boron, manganese, and selenium.
The animal parts mentioned here to use in bone broth all contain collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen becomes gelatin when it’s cooked. Then it provides a number of important amino acids.
These nutrients are released into the broth during cooking. They will be easy for your dog to digest later.
The health benefits of bone broth
For humans, bone broth has a number of health benefits. It can help with weight management, improve sleep, and provide the body with better hydration because of its high water content.
Bone broth also has health benefits for dogs.
Bone broth is believed to be good for the digestive system thanks, in part, to the gelatin that forms. This is because the gelatin naturally attracts and holds liquids. That’s why it congeals when it’s refrigerated. It will also bind water in your digestive tract, helping with digestion. For these reasons, you shouldn’t skim off the gel that forms on the top of your broth when you keep it in your refrigerator. That gel is an important nutritional benefit of the broth. Simply heat the broth and the gel will dissolve back into the broth.
The gelatin is also believed to help protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. At least it has done so in some animal studies.
The amino acid glutamine found in the gelatin helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall. It has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut is associated with several chronic diseases and does occur in dogs.
The amino acids in bone broth such as arginine and glycine are also thought to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, especially, may help fight chronic inflammation.
Studies have shown that arginine has been beneficial with the inflammation associated with asthma. It may also help protect against the chronic inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and many kinds of cancer.
The nutrients in bone broth have also been shown to help with joint health. The aminio acids from the collagen/gelatin are especially beneficial for joints.
Two amino acids in the gelatin – proline and glycine – are used by the body to build its own connective tissue. The body uses these amino acids to make tendons that connect muscles to bones, and ligaments to connect bones to each other.
Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin which are well-known for decreasing joint pain and reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin come from animal cartilage.
Bone broth also helps with weight loss. It’s low in calories but still able to satisfy hunger since it provides a good amount of protein.
The amino acid glycine in bone broth has been found to help people relax. It may do the same for dogs. Taking glycine before bed allowed people to fall asleep faster, maintain a deeper sleep, and wake up fewer times during the night.
Glycine also appeared to help reduce daytime sleepiness and improved mental function and memory.
You may recognize some of these amino acids and nutrients from the label of dog foods. Dog food companies often have to add them to their foods. You can easily add them to your dog’s diet with bone broth.
How to make bone broth for Dogs
There are lots of recipes for bone broth online but you don’t really need to use a recipe. You do need a large pot, water, bones, and some vinegar. Apple cider vinegar works well.
Here is a sample recipe:
- 1 gallon (4 liters) of water
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) apple cider vinegar
- 2–4 pounds (about 1–2 kg) of animal bones
(Salt and pepper to taste if you are making it for people. Omit the salt and pepper if it’s intended for your dog.)
- Place all of the ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker.
- Bring the pot to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook between 12 and 24 hours. The longer it cooks, the more nutritious it will be.
- Allow the broth to cool and then strain it to remove any bones and tissue. Discard them. They have no more nutritional value.
You can use all kinds of different bones: marrow bones, knuckle bones, pig’s feet, chicken feet, and so on. The more different bones you use, the wider the range of nutrients you will include in the broth. Before you scoff at using pig’s feet and chicken’s feet, they contain lots of protein and collagen. The collagen, in particular, is great for joint health.
If you’re wondering about the vinegar, it helps to break down the bones and bring out all of the nutrients in them.
As you can see, bone broth is very easy to make.
If you don’t really want to spend 24 hours waiting on your bone broth, you can also buy ready to heat bone broth at the supermarket. It’s in the soup aisle. Bone broth forms the basis for various soup stocks.
There are also powdered mixes to make bone broth. Check the supermarket and health food stores.
Several dog food companies also make bone broth for dogs.
- Stella & Chewy’s Broth Toppers
- The Honest Kitchen Daily Booster Bone Broth
- Open Farm Bone Broths
- Nature’s Logic Dehydrated Bone Broth
Any of these bone broths could be a good addition to your dog’s regular meals. Do keep in mind that bone broth is not a complete and balanced diet by itself. It shouldn’t take the place of your dog’s regular food. It adds nutrients to the diet but your dog still needs to eat his normal food.
What can you add to bone broth for dogs?
If you make your own bone broth from scratch, some people like to add some herbs to the mix for specific health issues.
Bone broth should not cause any problems for dogs. That’s true whether they have health problems or not. However, if your dog is ill, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian before adding some herbs and remedies in his diet. Not all herbs are benign. If your dog is being treated or taking medication, some herbs can be contraindicated*.
With that in mind, some of the ingredients that are sometimes added to bone broth for dogs include:
- Turmeric (pain, anti-inflammatory)
- Mushrooms (immunity; turkey tail, shiitake, and Reishi are recommended for health purposes)
- Ginger (gas, stomach issues; nausea)
- Parsley (immunity)
Some sites recommend adding green-lipped mussels to bone broth as a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. But bone broth is already full of these nutrients from the bones.
Milk thistle is also sometimes added to bone broth as a liver detox. Milk thistle, under the name silyrubin, is also used in some chemotherapy for dogs, especially for lymphoma. Talk to your veterinarian before adding milk thistle to your dog’s bone broth if he is being treated.
Other people like to add vegetables to their bone broth. Adding vegetables can increase the nutritional value of the broth. You still need to strain them out after they have cooked for hours.
*Important. If your dog is being treated for cancer such as lymphoma or any other kind of serious health problem, there are lots of good sites online that discuss bone broth, herbs, chemotherapy, and other treatment options. Please work in tandem with your veterinarian and a good canine nutritionist. Bone broth is a healthy addition to the diet but before you start adding lots of herbs to the recipe, it’s important to talk to professionals.
How to use bone broth
There are several different ways to give your dog bone broth.
Broth. You can simply give your dog the bone broth in a bowl as a broth. This is often a good way to give it to your dog if he’s sick, recovering from surgery or injury, or old. Bone broth is a healthy food addition for older dogs who don’t always eat enough.
Meal topper. Bone broth makes a good meal topper over your dog’s regular food. It’s very tasty so it’s a good way to encourage a dog to eat his food if he’s a little picky. If it’s warm, it can be especially tempting. It adds more flavor to kibble.
Rehydration. Lots of people feed frozen or dehydrated dog foods today. These foods may need to be “rehydrated” in order to be edible for your dog. You can use some warm bone broth instead of warm water to rehydrate them. It adds some extra nutrition and flavor to the food.
Hide medicine. If your dog takes medication, you can use bone broth to hide it. Bone broth is very tasty and most dogs love it. If your dog doesn’t like to take his medicine, just powder it and stir it into his broth. He shouldn’t even notice it.
Bone broth as a treat. You can also use bone broth as a treat for your dog. Pour bone broth into an ice cube tray to make some cubes for your dog to lick and eat on a hot day.
How long can you keep bone broth?
Many people like to keep their bone broth in a mason jar. These clear jars allow you to see the contents. This is a good way to keep bone broth in your refrigeration. Fill the jar and leave about one inch space at the top.
Bone broth will keep in your refrigerator for 3-5 days.
If you make bone broth in large batches, you can freeze it in small containers and heat up individual servings as needed. It should keep in the freezer for several months. Be sure to label your containers so you will remember when you made the broth.
Bone broth is a great, healthy addition to a dog’s diet. It has many health benefits for the joints, digestion, inflammation, and more. It’s also easy to make or you can buy it at your grocery store. Even dogs that are picky eaters usually like bone broth over their food. If you’ve never given your dog some bone broth, try some and see how he likes it.