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When it comes to canine superfoods, bone broth is often at the top of the list. Many pet parents praise the benefits of bone both, with fans claiming that the liquid can improve joint, skin, and coat health; encourage finicky eaters; support hydration; and soothe gastrointestinal (GI) upset. But the research around these reported superpowers is mixed.
To learn more about what bone broth can really do and when it can be a useful addition to your dog’s diet, we turned to veterinarian Amanda Takiguchi and integrative health coach Zannah Mass. Read on for the full scoop (ladle?) on bone broth for your pet.
What Is Bone Broth and How Does It Help Dogs?
Bone broth is a liquid derived from the parts of an animal that aren’t otherwise eaten, often including bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, marrow, and feet. When they’re simmered in water, essential nutrients are pulled out of these pieces to create a rich, meaty broth.
Bone broth can be made at home or purchased in a pre-packaged form—which might be more palatable to vegetarians and squeamish cooks. For dogs, it’s most frequently used as a meal topper, though it can be fed on its own.
Bone broth is especially popular for enticing reluctant eaters and helping a dog experiencing GI upset to recover nutrients. But there’s also been a lot of talk about incorporating bone broth into a dog’s diet more regularly, especially for the following health benefits:
Collagen for Gut and Joint Health
When bones are boiled, collagen is released, and this collagen forms gelatin when simmered. Collagen is an important protein and the main component of tissues such as cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, and skin. In one study with mice, collagen was shown to form a protective layer in the gut and reduce inflammation. This is one reason bone broth is a popular component of “leaky gut” diets in humans (though research is mixed as to the effectiveness of those diets), and it gives support to the claim that bone broth helps with an upset stomach too.
Bone broth may also support joint health. Collagens are a large family of biomolecules, which include the glycosaminoglycans—great for joints! Drinking collagen doesn’t directly lead to building bone or joint tissue, however; the collagen in bone broth will be broken down into amino acids and used to build tissue where the body needs it.
Detoxing is the liver’s primary function, but it is limited by the availability of the amino acid glycine. Bone broth has a ton of glycine, which means that it may help the liver keep working. However, as with many health claims around bone broth, it’s difficult to find peer-reviewed research on this claim.
Hydration is critical to wellness. Adding a liquid like bone broth to your dog’s meals is one way to increase their moisture intake, especially if they spend a lot of time outside in the heat. Bone broth can also help to rehydrate your pet during or after an illness, and it softens food after dental work.
What the Experts Say About Bone Broth for Dogs
To learn more about bone broth and its benefits for dogs, we consulted Dr. Amanda Takaguchi, a veterinarian and founder of the website Trending Breeds, as well as Zannah Mass, an Integrative Health Coach for dogs at Well Beings Unleashed.
We asked them both if bone broth, in their experience, lives up to the claims. Mass says yes—with some caveats.
“It’s hard to measure the positive impact of any one nutraceutical, but I do recommend bone broth to my clients whose dogs have musculoskeletal issues or need a nutrition upgrade to kibble, for instance. It’s a great way to level up with your dog’s dry food and add hydration. I also feed it to my dog as part of a multi-pronged approach to arthritis management and overall immune health. If a dog (or person) has an upset stomach, fasting while hydrating with bone broth and water can help heal the gut.”
Dr. Takaguchi, however, thinks the real value of bone broth is in its ability to please a canine palate and is more cautious about feeding it regularly. She primarily recommends bone broth in cases where her canine patients need encouragement to eat.
“There’s not as much nutrition in broth as you may think,” Dr. Takaguchi says. “Bone broth should never be used as a substitute for a complete and balanced diet. It’s an excellent addition to supplement your pet’s diet, but moderation is very important.”
Both Mass and Dr. Takaguchi urged pet owners to be careful about which bone broth they choose, particularly pointing to the high sodium levels typically found in bone broths for humans. Dr. Takaguchi further recommends introducing broth into your dog’s diet slowly while monitoring them to see how it goes. Some recipes, she says, may contain ingredients that cause adverse reactions in pups.
And, when hydrations is the goal, Dr. Takaguchi says that fresh water access is still key: “There is no substitute for water!”
How To Buy Dog-Friendly Bone Broth
For pet parents who use bone broth in their own diet, it may be tempting to simply share what’s in your pantry with your pup. But dogs typically shouldn’t eat bone broth made for humans. Many store-bought options contain ingredients that are not safe for canine consumption, like onion and garlic, plus more sodium than is meant for a canine diet. It’s important to read the ingredient list carefully before you offer your dog human bone broth.
A better option is dog-friendly bone broths, which are designed to be compatible with a pup’s diet. These come in a variety of forms.
Liquid dog-safe bone broths usually come in cartons, and they’re one of the easiest ways to add bone broth to your pup’s diet. Like human vegetable stock, they’ll keep for a long time on the shelf—but once opened, they’ll typically need to be refrigerated and consumed within five to seven days.
We like Brutus Bone Broth, which is a fan-favorite carton-style bone broth with an all-natural, low-calorie, and low-sodium recipe. It’s good for a rare 30 days after opening, and both beef and chicken flavors are popular with our pups.
Dog-safe bone broth also comes in smaller pouches, which is more convenient for pups who have trouble getting through a whole carton before it expires. Pouches are often jam-packed with flavor for picky eaters who need tempting, though they also tend to be packed with calories. That can be a win for pups with GI issues, but it makes them less attractive for dog parents who just want to soften food or improve hydration.
Solid Gold’s bone broth food toppers are an especially popular pouch-style option, and they’re a little more affordable than some of the others out there.
Last, you can buy dog bone broths in powder form, which is optimal for shelf-life and limited storage space. It takes a minute or two of work to add warm water and mix them up, but they’re a good choice for pet parents who want to have bone broth on hand but don’t plan on incorporating it in a pup’s daily diet.
Honest Kitchen’s powdered bone broth has an especially short ingredient list, which makes it a good choice for dogs with allergies, and it’s one of the most affordable bone broths per ounce.
For more dog bone broth options, see “The Best Dog Bone Broths in Carton, Pouch, Powder, and Food Form,” where we’ve compared the price per ounce and calories per cup of the market’s most popular options.
How To Make Bone Broth for Dogs at Home
If you’re a cook at heart and want to make dog-safe bone broth at home, there are lots of recipes available. Here are the steps Dr. Takaguchi outlines to make chicken bone broth for pets and patients (and humans too!).
- Start with a whole raw chicken—pieces are fine, but be sure to include the giblets.
- Rise the chicken and drain.
- In a large pot, cover the chicken with tap or filtered water.
- Add a carrot, a celery stalk, and herbs. You’ll want to skip the salt and pepper, but Dr. Takaguchi suggests using a bundle of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, or parsley.
- Bring the pot to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat pulls away from the leg bones—or when the internal temperature reaches 170°F.
- Remove from the heat and let the pot cool before removing the chicken, herbs, and vegetables.
- Transfer the liquid to storage containers, making sure to remove all bones. Chicken bones can splinter and injure your dog, but you can save the meat for treats.
Final Verdict: Is Bone Broth Good for Dogs?
While the science hasn’t yet caught up to the trend, our research and experts’ advice indicate that bone broth does offer some real benefits for dogs, especially those who need encouragement to eat.
Before you start your pup on a regular bone broth regimen, however, be sure to talk with your vet. They can make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues that might be causing your dog to reject their existing food, plus let you know of any concerns related to modifying your particular pet’s diet.
Pets that will most benefit from bone broth as part of their overall diet may include:
- Reluctant eaters or drinkers who need something extra tasty (and nutritious) in their bowl.
- Pets dealing with or recovering from illness, particularly an upset stomach.
- Older pets who need a little extra boost for their joint and overall health.
Pet parents can likely skip the broth when:
- Their dogs are healthy overall and eat and drink without issue.
- There’s no specific need for the potential benefits of bone broth.
- The cost and convenience of bone broth is a concern—unless recommended by a vet, there isn’t enough evidence to prioritize bone broth as part of a dog’s diet.
How We Chose
We selected the dog-safe bone broths included here based on a combination of our own experiences, the guidelines offered by our veterinary and dog wellness experts, and a wide range of reviews across multiple retail platforms. For bone broth, we particularly focused on how dogs responded, the ingredients included in the recipe, price per ounce, and calories per cup.