Bone Broth 101
An Introductory Guide to Bone Broth for Dogs
You give your dog a bone, but do you give your dog bone broth?
It may sound like a strange brew made from leftover scraps, but bone broth has an impressive nutrient profile that can make a big difference in your furry friend’s health.
What is Bone Broth?
Before we jump into bone broth for dogs, let’s do a quick overview on the superfood. Bone broth is typically made from beef or chicken bones (although any bones can be used, including fish bones), and boiled in water. An acid like apple cider vinegar is also added during the boiling process to help draw minerals such as calcium and phosphorus out from the bones. The bones are then simmered for 24-48 hours with veggies, herbs and spices. It’s during the simmering process that all of the beneficial nutrients are released from the bones.
The reason why bone broth has become an amazing superfood is partially due to its high content of bioavailable minerals, as well as nutrients such as collagen, gelatin and glucosamine.
Collagen, gelatin and glucosamine are proteins that have been shown to improve joint health, boost the immune system and repair the intestinal lining (1)(2). This is why drinking bone broth is often recommended as a natural way to help alleviate symptoms of autoimmune disorders and digestive disorders, such as leaky gut syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut and How Can it Affect Your Dog’s Health?
A leaky gut is characterized by small gaps in the tight junctions of the intestinal lining, which allow particles such as bacteria and undigested food pass through the intestinal lining and into your bloodstream (4). Leaky gut syndrome was once considered a “mystery” by health professionals, but it’s now being recognized as an underlying cause of several illnesses including autoimmune disease, chronic digestive disorders, and allergies (3).
When it comes to your dog’s health, leaky gut can turn into a huge problem. Chronic inflammation of the gut has been shown to play a role in the onset of several illnesses and diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
Frequent antibiotic use and processed foods are two reasons why digestive issues have become more common in today’s society. While antibiotics are commonly given to dogs to heal infections, commercial brands of dog food are made from ingredients that worsen digestive health. Many commercial brands of dog food are made from inflammatory foods such as corn, and grains that contain gluten,— a protein that’s been linked to intestinal inflammation and the development of leaky gut syndrome (7).
Even if your dog doesn’t have digestive issues, it never hurts to increase the nutrients in his diet that will improve intestinal health. The gut is where nutrient absorption takes place which is why having a healthy gut improves your dog’s health on all levels.
Since bone broth is easily absorbed, it’s an excellent source of essential nutrients for older dogs and those with compromised digestive systems. The gut healing properties of bone broth may also reduce digestive problems in dogs such as constipation or diarrhea.
Is Bone Broth Good for Dogs?
There’s no question that the nutrients in bone broth make it great healing food for us humans. What we are overlooking is how bone broth can be a powerful healing supplement for dogs too. Let’s take a look at the ways bone broth can improve your dog’s health.
Improved Digestion with Gelatin
There’s a quote that says, “The road to health is paved with good intestines”. This is especially true for your pup.
We’ve talked about how bone broth heals leaky gut but let’s take a look at the other ways the liquid gold helps with digestion. As mentioned earlier, bone broth contains gelatin: a protein that breaks down from the collagen in bones during the boiling process— it’s the primary nutrient that gives bone broth its gut healing properties. Gelatin helps maintain the strength of the mucosal lining in the GI tract which provides a healthy environment for beneficial bacteria to grow. This is crucial to your dog’s overall health and wellness, as an adequate supply of probiotics in the gut is one of the best defenses against illness and disease (8).Gelatin has also been shown to repair intestinal cells, which can help heal digestive conditions, such as leaky gut (9).
As suggested above, a healthy gut results in a healthier immune system. With close to 80% of immune system cells being found in the gut, improving intestinal health with nutrients such as collagen and gelatin may help prevent the inflammatory responses triggered by leaky gut syndrome (15).Bone broth also contains proline, an amino acid found in collagen that’s been shown to boost the immune system and promote faster wound healing (16).
Not surprisingly, drinking bone broth for dogs does good for the bones. Bone broth contains a nutrient called glucosamine which have been shown to support the healthy function of joints. Glucosamine is often taken as a nutritional supplement to support healthy joints and ligaments, and to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Bone broth also contains hyaluronic acid, which is a fluid that’s found in the eyes and joints. Getting hyaluronic acid from dietary sources can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and may help prevent conditions such as osteoarthritis. Since arthritis is a condition that commonly affects older dogs, prevention through proper nutrition is key when it comes to your pooch’s bone health.
Inflammation affects our dogs’ health the same way it affects us.The development of several conditions that affect dogs, such as allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, type II diabetes, pancreatitis, liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have all been linked to chronic inflammation (17).Since bone broth contains several anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as glycine, proline, and arginine, it can provide the nutrition needed to prevent the development of inflammatory illnesses and diseases.
Aside from antibiotics and pro-inflammatory foods, such as corn and gluten, other causes of chronic inflammation in dogs are exposure to environmental pollutants, parasites, bacteria, and harmful pathogens.
Chronic inflammation often has no early warning signs, which can make it difficult to detect. This is why adding anti-inflammatory nutrients to your dog’s diet is necessary for disease prevention, and overall health and wellbeing.
How to Make Bone Broth for Dogs
Making homemade bone broth for your dog is easy but just takes a while. Once the bone broth has simmered, strain out all of the bones and allow the broth to cool in the refrigerator. After the bones are cooled, your broth may have a layer of fat on top— this is a good thing! It means the bones you’ve used are from healthy animals. Once you’ve removed this layer of fat, your broth should have a jelly-like texture. This is the gelatin, where many of the healing nutrients of bone broth are concentrated. You can serve the bone broth to your dog straight out of the refrigerator.
One thing to keep in mind when making bone broth for your dog is to leave out ingredients such as onions and garlic, which are toxic to dogs. If your dog has favourite vegetables, such as carrots or broccoli, adding those to your bone broth recipe will ensure your pup gobbles it down.
It’s best to start off with feeding your dog small portions of bone broth, and increase the portion sizes gradually based on your dog’s dietary needs.
Now, dogs aren’t the only animals who can benefit from bone broth— cats love bone broth, too!
As a food that promotes healthy joints, a strong immune system and improved intestinal health, your entire family, including your fur babies, can benefit from drinking bone broth regularly.
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance.