Can Dogs Eat Pork Butt Bones?

Maybe don’t give your dog cooked pork butt bones…¹

Dogs would do anything for a bone.

Any kind of bone.

As a responsible owner you’re surely wondering which bones are safe for your pet. Can dogs eat pork butt bones?

Why not?

In fact, pork butt bones are among the safest treats a dog can get. There are, however, some things to consider – like the risks of bone splinters or the drama of your dog losing a tooth while furiously gnawing at the unexpected treat. 

In this article, we’ll have a look at what pork butt bones are and how they should be served, raw or cooked.

What are pork butt bones?

If you’re not a butcher by trade and if you haven’t spent time studying pig anatomy, you might be a bit confused by the term pork butt bone.

Does it refer to the bones in the animal’s rear side by any chance?

The answer is No.

In most cases, when you hear the term pork butt bone it actually refers to the shoulder bone, the one where prime meat cuts come from. Why the confusion, then? 

 What is a Boston butt?

The confusion seems to stem from the fact that much of the Western world, Americans in particular, use the term Boston butt to refer to the shoulder.

According to Wikipedia, “a Boston butt is the slightly wedged shaped portion of the pork shoulder above the standard picnic cut which includes the blade bone and the “lean butt” (which is boneless), both extensions of the tenderloin cut and can be used in place of the tenderloin”. 

The term Boston butt comes from Colonial New England, where butchers used special barrels called, well, butts, to store a particular cut of pork. They also employed a special butchering technique to deal with this area of the pig, which eventually became known as Boston butt. 

Should you be invited somewhere to share a nice Boston butt, you can expect a juicy boneless roast.

What about the bones? Where did those go? If your hosts have a dog, he might be on the kitchen floor savoring a yummy bone. A shoulder bone, because that’s what it is no matter what you call the steak that comes from it.

Can dogs have cooked pork butt bones?

Cooked bones are dangerous for dogs, no matter what animal they’re from or how large they are. As a rule, if you want to give your pet a bone, make sure it is a raw one. 

The heat applied during the cooking process makes the bones brittle, and more liable to splinter, especially if you have a large dog who lies down with a bone like he means business. Vigorous chewers can easily break an already brittle bone and splinters are a main choking hazard. 

Should your bone choke on a bone splinter you should examine the dog’s throat quickly to see if there’s any chance you can remove it. If not, best leave it alone. Don’t try too hard as you might push it even further and make things worse. Let the vet deal with it.

If the splinter makes it further down the GI tract, it might puncture the delicate stomach lining or the intestines. This can lead to infection and sepsis and it could kill your dog, so treat it like a medical emergency.

Larger bone fragments can also cause an internal blockage if they get stuck in the dog’s intestines, and this is also a major health risk. In some cases, the dog will be able to eliminate the offending fragment at some point, but in any case you should absolutely see a doctor. If the vet decides the fragment is too big to pass on its own, your dog will require surgery. 

Can a dog eat smoked pork butt bones?

The jury is still out on this one, as smoking is still a type of cooking. There are those who argue that smoked bones are not a risk, but what you should be considering in fact is the type of smoking used.

When talking about smoking meat, you should know that there are two ways of adding some flavor to your meat.

Hot smoking refers to basically cooking the meat and the bones it’s on over a fire, an actual fire with added wood.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is done at a controlled temperature, not directly over a fire. The point is to flavor the meat without cooking it or the bones.

This being said, cold smoked bones should be safe enough for dogs. 

Should you bother to smoke a bone just for your dog’s pleasure? Probably not. It’s people who enjoy flavoring their meat, dogs are perfectly happy with the natural taste.

What types of bones are safe for dogs?

You should only give your dog large weight-bearing bones. Pork shoulder bones are fine, but the same cannot be said about ribs for instance. Or the bones in the animal’s actual butt. 

Beef and bison legs are also a safe and quite healthy treat for your dog. Large bones have a juicy and highly nutritious marrow, although you shouldn’t let your pet stuff himself on that either. Bone marrow is full of healthy fats, but too much fat in his diet can lead to pancreatitis.  

On the other hand, you should never feed your dog chicken bones, not even raw ones. Chicken leg bones and ribs are too small and they break easily, but chicken wings or necks are considered OK as even a med-size dog can easily chew them. 

What are the benefits of feeding bones to your dog?

It’s not the feeding, but rather the entertainment value that bones provide. As you’ve probably noticed, if you throw a dog a bone he won’t be bothering you anytime soon. Bones offer dogs a chance to satisfy their natural instincts and they provide mental stimulation. A bone offers a challenge, grabbing and chewing involves strategizing, and your dog needs it. That doesn’t mean he should be at it for hours. Remove the bone the moment you notice it might splinter. 

At the same time, chewing bones is great for your dog’s dental health. It is a natural way for dogs to clean their teeth so you won’t have to bother. Obviously, if a dog chips or breaks a tooth in the process, that’s a major problem. As a rule, don’t give a dog bones that are too hard for them. A toy dog can really lose some teeth while trying to imitate a German Shepherd.

Closing thoughts

Pork butt bones are safe for dogs, but only if they’re served raw. Dogs shouldn’t be allowed to get cooked bones, although cold smoked ones should be fine. If you want to keep your dog safe (and entertained) give him a large weight-bearing bone and let him have a blast. 

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Ernesto Andrade on Flickr