Give Your Dog a Bone (Broth)!

Did you know that bone broths are some of the healthiest infusions we can give our pets? Here’s how to make them!

With a new year fast approaching, it’s time to turn over a healthy new leaf with your dog. Time to truly focus on your pup’s whole-body wellness. Time to … boil a bunch of bones in a pot?

Okay, agreed, this sounds a little Neanderthal-ish, but it turns out that bone broths — basically, broths made by simmering animal bones in liquid for several hours — are some of the healthiest infusions we can give our pets.

The reason? Those humble-looking bones creates brews absolutely brimming with protein, amino acids, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, keratin, gelatin, glucosamine, collagen, and more. As a result, these broths can help improve digestion, heal the gut, strengthen the immune system, support joint mobility, and even rejuvenate skin and soft tissue.

If you’re a fan of the Paleo diet, you may be well acquainted with bone broths already. In fact, Chase Williams, author of The Bone Broth Bible, confirms that these mineral-packed potions have been used medicinally — for both humans and animals — since way back in prehistoric times. The broths also happen to be a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, which advocates the addition of specific grains and/or vegetables to address a host of ailments.

The enduring popularity of bone broths probably makes a lot of sense when you consider that the basic stock is a snap to prepare. Bone broths also keep well and can be consumed any time of year. They’re even enjoying time in the spotlight, having become something of a recent soup du jour across culinary circles and in celebrity Hollywood.

Tasty, nutrition-packed bone broths have helped increase energy and vitality in my own dogs, including Airedale Beethoven (left) and Bichon Sparky (right). (Photos courtesy of Marybeth Bittel)
Tasty, nutrition-packed bone broths have helped increase energy and vitality in my own dogs, including Airedale Beethoven, left, and Bichon Sparky. (Photos courtesy Marybeth Bittel)

Interestingly, the University of Nebraska Medical Center examined the nutritional content of chicken soup and discovered that it has much in common with these ancestral broths. So as a first step, let’s concede that our grandmothers were definitely onto something. As a second step, let’s explore how bone broths can help improve the well-being of our loyal canine companions.

Dishing up bone broth stock is a convenient way to provide pups with ready nourishment, support recuperation from illness, and provide a natural energy boost after strenuous play. We serve it warmed in the winter and frozen into “pup-sicles” during the summer. My own dogs have unanimously decided that bone broth also makes one heck of a tasty meal-enhancer. It instantly improves the nutritional content of kibble and definitely encourages picky eaters to chow down.

The ingredient choices for bone broths are almost limitless — though I’d personally suggest starting with organic, grass-fed/pastured meats free of added hormones or antibiotics. If you’re using fish such as salmon, stick with those caught in the wild. More of a landlubber? Choose from turkey, duck, chicken, goose, or beef. Our vet even adds chicken liver to impart iron and assist with digestive detoxification.

Beef marrow bones by Shutterstock.
Beef marrow bones by Shutterstock.

To make your first batch of broth, simply combine bones, filtered water, and about a tablespoon of an acidic agent such as citrus juice or apple cider (not white) vinegar; then simmer for several hours. The natural acid helps those bones release beneficial minerals and trace amino acids. Once you have your base stock, you can add a variety of beneficial ingredients.

Chinese medicine, for example, suggests that brown rice can help support the bladder and kidneys, carrots can ease digestion, quinoa can help enhance circulation, celery can help soothe the large intestine, and fennel can help calm an upset tummy. Other popular stir-ins include mushrooms (reishi and shiitake are especially tasty options), kelp, spinach, parsley, peas, green beans, and kale. You can even add chunks of wild-caught salmon or salmon oil to any stock variety.

So … ready to whip up some for your furry friend? Get started with the super-easy recipe below. Since bone broth is healthful for humans, you might even reserve a little extra for yourself! Just remember that when cooking for your pet, it’s generally safest to avoid controversial or potentially damaging ingredients such as garlic, onion, and avocado. Otherwise, get creative … and share your own recipes in the comments!

Bowser’s Basic-‘n’-Beneficial Bone Broth

Ingredients:

  • 1  to 2 pounds duck, chicken, goose, or turkey bones (or 2 large beef marrow or knuckle bones).
  • Filtered or purified water, to cover.
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or juice from 1/2 lemon).

Directions:

  • Place everything into a large stock pot or slow cooker.
  • Bring to a boil, skimming off any foamy particles that rise.
  • Simmer on low — if possible, all day or night.
  • Drain broth and discard bones (though save the remaining meat and cartilage as an incredibly nutritious meal-topper).
  • Store broth in your refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in containers, pre-portioned freezer bags, or ice cube trays for about five to six months.

Tip: For extra-flavorful beef broth, you can bake the bones before adding them to the pot. Just place in a roasting pan for 30 to 45 minutes in a preheated, 400-degrees-F oven.

If you can’t leave the stove on all day (or night) consider a powdered form of bone broth, such as the Project Paws™ Premium Grade Bone Broth Powder available at iheartdogs.com. The healthful two-ingredient blend has all the benefits of bone broth in a convenient, easy to administer form.

Bone Broth Powder for dogs

Top photo: Beef broth by Shutterstock.

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.

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