Bone broth has become very popular in the dog world, especially amongst those looking to feed their dogs a more natural diet or species-appropriate raw dog food diet. This post takes an in-depth look at bone broth, including what it is and the potential benefits of feeding it. It also explains how to make bone broth for dogs, along with a simple, easy to follow bone broth recipe.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is inexpensive and straightforward to make but also highly nutritious and beneficial for your dog. Making bone broth involves simmering animal bones in water with the addition of vinegar for an extended period. The resulting liquid is what is known as bone broth.
A well-made bone broth has a wobbly jelly-like consistency. This characteristic gelatinous consistency is because of a protein called gelatin which derives from collagen.
What are the best bones to use for bone broth?
To make the best bone broth you can, you need to select a variety of bones. Ensure you use both meaty bones and joint bones. Joint bones are rich in collagen-rich connective tissue; these are the key to getting that wonderful bone broth jelly jiggle.
Below are some ideas of what bones to use for your bone broth. You can mix various bones from different protein sources unless you are catering for a dog with allergies. In which case, you can make your bone broth single-protein or choose proteins that your dog isn't allergic to or intolerant to and stick with these.
Beef, Lamb and Venison Bone Broths:
Use a combination of neck, spine, ribs, oxtail, knuckle and shank bones.
Chicken, Duck and Turkey Bone Broths:
Use the whole carcass, including the neck, wings, back, legs and feet. Poultry feet are an excellent source of collagen-rich connective tissue. Not only that, they are smaller in size, meaning you can pack a good few into your slow cooker without compromising on space as you do with some of the larger bones.
Pork Bone Broth:
Use a combination of ribs, spine, hocks and trotters. Suppose your dog cannot tolerate poultry feet; pig trotters are a fantastic alternative source of collagen-rich connective tissue. Depending on their size, one or two should do the trick in helping your bone broth gel.
Rabbit Bone Broth:
Use the whole carcass, including the head, back, legs and feet.
Where to get bones from
Kero and Bree are on a raw dog food diet, so most of our bones come from our raw food supplier Stefs Pet Pantry when we place a monthly order. My favourite brands are Manifold Valley Meats, The Dogs Butcher and Kiezebrink, so I tend to get most of my bones from these brands.
You can, however, buy your bones from the supermarket or the butcher. If you ask nicely, some butchers will give you bones for free.
Three benefits of bone broth
So we know that bone broth is highly nutritious and beneficial to our dogs, but what are the benefits of feeding bone broth?
#1 Source of essential amino acids
Like humans, dogs have requirements for essential amino acids that need to come from their diets as the body cannot make them. There are ten essential amino acids that dogs need: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and dogs need these for numerous functions within their bodies. While making bone broth, proteins break down into their constituent amino acids. For example, collagen breaks down into gelatin. Bone broth is fantastic stuff and may contain up to nine of these essential amino acids: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and valine. Of course, the exact composition will depend on the type of animal bones you use.
#2 May support bone and joint health
The gelatin in bone broth contains an array of essential amino acids that may help support bone and joint health. Essential amino acids are fundamental for the synthesis of protein in your dog's body. Proteins are responsible for building and repairing body tissues such as cartilage, ligaments, tendons and muscles, which are all, of course, key for supporting bones and joints.
Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are well known for supporting bone and joint health. Glucosamine and chondroitin help support joints and alleviate joint damage symptoms, pain and stiffness.
#3 May support healthy digestion and gut health
Bone broth is excellent for all dogs, especially those who are not feeling well or are recovering from sickness.
The idea of bone broth supporting healthy digestion and gut health goes back again to collagen breaking down to form gelatin. Gelatin provides your dog with a rich profile of amino acids key to supporting normal bodily functions. Bone broth is rich in nutrients and minerals. It is easily digestible, making it easy on the tummy. It is also said to boost and support the immune system.
Is bone broth suitable for dogs with allergies?
Yes absolutely! A huge benefit of making bone broth at home is that you can use whatever bones you like. You can tailor it to your own dogs' needs.
For example, Kero and Bree are intolerant to multiple animal proteins, including any grain-fed proteins. I avoid using bones from the proteins they cannot have and use ones they can have. I tend to stick to lamb, venison, pork and rabbit bones as I know both Kero and Bree can tolerate these proteins. It means both of them can enjoy the batches of bone broth I make rather than me making a different batch for each of them.
Bone broth recipe
Bone broth is simple and easy to make. To get you started, here is a recipe for bone broth in the slow cooker. You can also make it on the stove or in a pressure cooker; however, the process and timings will vary.
Bones (If frozen thoroughly defrost all bones beforehand)
Apple cider vinegar
Step 1: Set up your slow cooker and place the bones in.
Step 2: Cover the bones with cool water and add 3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the magic ingredient that helps extract all the goodness from the bones and helps your bone broth turn to jelly.
Step 3: Set the slow cooker to its HIGH setting and simmer for 1 hour.
Step 4: After 1 hour on high, turn the slow cooker down to its LOW setting and simmer for 24 hours.
Step 5: Once the bone broth has finished simmering, strain the bones. Watch out for any small, fine bones. Allow the strained bone broth to cool.
Step 6: Once cool, you will notice a fat layer forming on top of the bone broth. Scrape this off and discard, leaving only the tasty bone broth layer.
Step 7: Transfer and store the bone broth in a suitable container. The container you use will depend on whether you want to refrigerate or freeze your bone broth. Mason jars or Kilner jars are excellent choices for fridge storage. Silicone ice cube trays are great for freezing single servings of bone broth. You can then pop them out and store them in a reusable storage box.
Step 8: Feed the bone broth to your dog, who is eager to taste your creation.
How to store bone broth
Bone broth needs to be stored at cold temperatures to stop it from going off. You can keep it in the refrigerator for approximately 3-4 days, storing it in containers like Mason jars or Kilner jars.
For larger quantities, it is best to freeze it for longer-term storage. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months. Prepare the bone broth for freezing by warming it gently to get it back into liquid form, then pour into silicone ice cube trays to portion out. Allow to cool a bit, then pop into the freezer. Once frozen, remove the bone broth cubes from the ice cube tray and store them in a freezer-safe container such as this clip-lock food storage box.
How to use bone broth
If your dog has never had bone broth before, take it easy when first introducing it so as not to cause stomach upset. Introduce slowly and in small amounts, building up to the desired quantity. Here are some ideas on how you can use your bone broth.
#1 Serve as is
Depending on how many dogs you have and how much bone broth you make, you may want to keep your bone broth in the fridge, in which case simply scoop out the desired amount with a spoon and serve to your dog. I usually give my dogs a spoonful or two each with their dinner.
If you have frozen your bone broth in ice cube trays, you can feed 1-2 cubes. Allow them to defrost before feeding.
#2 Serve as a food topper
You can warm the bone broth gently on the stove or in the microwave to turn it back into a runny liquid and drizzle over your dog's dinner before giving it to them. Just ensure that it is cool enough for your dog to eat before feeding it.
#3 Frozen bone broth cubes
Frozen bone broth cubes are an excellent summer treat that is perfect for keeping your dog cool in the warmer weather. You can freeze bone broth in standard shaped silicone ice cube trays or get creative and choose another shape. Silicone ice cube trays come in many different fun shapes and sizes. .
#4 Use in dog treat recipes
You can use bone broth in dog treat recipes to add extra flavour and goodness. You can also try replacing the liquid in your favourite recipes with bone broth.
#5 Use for enrichment games and activities
Why did my bone broth not turn into jelly?
Don't worry; your bone broth is still excellent and has all the fantastic benefits and nutrition of a bone broth that did turn to jelly. There are a few reasons why bone broth won't gel. Here are some tips and advice to help troubleshoot your bone broth to ensure you get that lovely gelatinous jiggle every time you make bone broth.
#1 Using too much water
If the ratio of water to bones is too high, it can cause bone broth not to form a jelly; this is because the water dilutes the gelatin in it. Ensure you only use enough water to cover your bones and no more.
#2 Not using enough bones with connective tissue
Using collagen-rich connective tissue is the key to obtaining a bone broth that forms a jelly. Next time try adding more joint bones with connective tissue; poultry feet and pigs trotters are perfect for achieving this.
#3 Cooking at too high a temperature
If you cook bone broth too aggressively at too high a temperature, you can break down the gelatin in it. Gelatin is what helps the bone broth to gel. Cook your bones low and slow to achieve the perfect bone broth jelly.
#4 Cooking time
If you are in a rush to make your bone broth, then the minimum cooking time recommended is 12 hours. Cooking for less time, however, lowers your chances of achieving bone broth jelly. I recommend cooking your bone broth for 24 hours to ensure all that lovely gelatin is present to help you achieve that bone broth jiggle.
If your bone broth did not turn into jelly and you want it to, you can add powdered gelatin to it if you wish, but this is unnecessary. If you would like to add powdered gelatin to your bone broth, follow the manufacturers' directions to do so. Directions may vary depending on the product you buy.
Bone broth is inexpensive and straightforward to make and highly nutritious and beneficial for your dog. The only ingredients you need are bones, apple cider vinegar and water. It can be tailor-made to suit your dog, making it suitable for all.
Use a wide variety of bones to make your bone broth. Ensure you choose both meaty bones and joint bones rich in collagen-rich connective tissue. Poultry feet and pig trotters are excellent collagen-rich choices that will help achieve that characteristic wobbly jelly-like consistency.