This Dr. Axe content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure factually accurate information.
With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.
The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.
Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.
The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
Bone Broth for Dogs & Other Pets: Top 5 Benefits & How to Make Your Own
October 2, 2018
If you’re concerned about your pet’s nutrition, consider that one of the most popular “superfoods” for humans right now — bone broth — can also make a great addition to your dog’s or pet’s diet. That’s right, bone broth for dogs and other pets can provide many of the same benefits to your four-legged friends as it can for humans.
Why is bone broth healthy for dogs and other pets? Just like with humans, pets need to obtain certain nutrients from their diets in order to live long, vibrant lives. There are dozens of different nutrients found within bone broth — for example, amino acids like glycine, collagen, gelatin, and trace minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Many of these nutrients can’t be obtained easily from other foods, especially highly processed dog and pet formulas that are made with hardly any real “food” at all.
Bone broth can be used to fill in gaps in your pet’s diet and help them deal with common health challenges, like joint aches, dehydration, diarrhea, an upset stomach and allergies.
What Is Bone Broth? Can My Pet Take Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a nutrient-dense stock that is made from simmered stock over a period of one to two days using animal parts — like bones and marrow, skin and feet, tendons and ligaments — plus an acid (like vinegar), herbs and vegetables. The animal parts used to make traditional broth usually come from beef/cattle, chickens, pig and fish. This slow simmering causes the bones and other parts to release a number of healing compounds, like collagen, amino acids (especially proline, glycine, arginine and glutamine), glucosamine, trace minerals and more.
All bone broths — beef, chicken, fish, lamb and more — have been staples in traditional diets of just about every culture living around the world for thousands of years. Why? Because bone broths are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavor, inexpensive to make, and a great use of animal parts (like bones, skin, etc.) that are mostly considered inedible and otherwise usually discarded. Especially because of its rich supply of collagen and gelatin (a substance formed when collagen is broken down), bone broth is considered one of the oldest functional foods to be used in traditional systems of medicine.
What are the benefits of bone brothfor dogs and other pets? Whether we’re talking about bone broth for humans or pets, benefits associated with bone broth include helping to treat leaky gut syndrome and digestive issues, help with overcoming food intolerances and allergies, reducing joint pain, boosting the immune system, promoting probiotic balance and growth, and providing bone-building minerals in an easily absorbable form.
Top 5 Benefits of Bone Broth for Dogs and Other Pets
1. Great Source of Essential Minerals
Bone broths contain essential minerals in forms that your pet’s body can easily absorb. Inside bone broth you’ll find calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others. If your dog typically eats dried and packaged food, he/she might be missing many of these minerals that help with important functions like heart health, nerve signaling, hydration, muscle contractions, sleep and more.
Adding bone broth to your pets’ water may also encourage them to drink more water, keeping them better hydrated. And if your dog is sick and lacking an appetite, the aroma of bone broth might make it easier for it to eat and stay fueled. (1)
2. Can Help Heal Joints
Can bone broth help heal joints in dogs? You bet. Bone broth is a great source of glucosamine, a joint-protecting compound, and other substances like chondroitin and hyaluronic acid that help support joints’ elasticity, strength and flexibility. It’s also the best food source of collagen/gelatin, a complex protein that helps form connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, skin, bone and more). Collagen can help repair connective tissue that surrounds and cushions the ends of your pet’s bones, facilitating smoother movement and leading to less irritation and pain.
Is bone broth good for dogs with arthritis? Yes. In fact in humans, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine (both naturally found in bone broth) are two popular joint-supporting compounds that are sold as pricey supplements intended to help reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain. (2) Glucosamine is considered a “collagen cofactor” since the two work together to stimulate cells called fibroblasts and heal damaged joints, tendons, ligaments and other tissues.
3. Supports Digestion and Gut Health
Why is bone broth good for dogs with digestive issues? Thanks to its supply of amino acids like glycine and proline, real bone broth can help promote healthy gut integrity while reducing inflammation and intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut syndrome). It does this by repairing damage to the tissues that line the colon and entire gastrointestinal tract.
In studies conducted on rats, the amino acid glycine has been shown to have the ability to protect the gastric mucosa against chemically and stress-induced ulcers. Restoring strength of the gut lining is helpful for fighting food sensitivities (such as wheat or dairy, which some dogs are susceptible to), regulating gastric acid secretions and helping with the growth of “good bacteria” called probiotics. (3)
Several important glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are found in bone broth, including glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate. Like glycine, GAGs are supportive of digestive health because they help restore the intestinal lining and fight leaky gut. (4)
4. Beneficial for the Immune System
Studies have found that amino acids that are released when bone broth/stock is made help reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and improve the immune system’s ability to fight conditions like allergies, asthma and arthritis. (5) Bone broth can also support detoxification and help your pet better deal with exposure to environmental or household pollutants that can be irritating — for example, chemicals found on your furniture or carpets, dust, mold, additives in their food, etc.
While there’s limited evidence about how well it might work to reverse certain disease symptoms, some people also choose to use bone broth for dogs with cancer, pancreatitis, kidney disease and other health issues. The rich supply of nutrients from bone broth may help reduce symptoms like fatigue, weakness, swelling and dehydration.
5. Free of Common Allergens (Like Dairy and Grains)
If you typically give your dog grain-free dog food, then you’ll be happy to know that bone broth is unlikely to trigger allergies, easy to digest and a good addition to your pet’s normal meals. Traditional bone broth is not made with any grains, gluten or other common food allergens like dairy. If your dog is allergic to fish/shellfish, opt for chicken or beef bone broth that is typically well-tolerated.
Bone Broth for Dogs: Best Bone Broth Supplements for Pets + Dosage
Bone broth in liquid form, powder form or dried supplement form can be given to pets as part of a meal or used to supplement your pet’s regular diet.
How much bone broth should you feed your dog? First start with a small amount to see how your dog/pet reacts, then increase how much you give it slowly. Begin with about four to eight ounces of bone broth several times per week (you can chill the broth and put it in the water bowl or add it to your pet’s food). As long as your pet shows no signs of having a bad reaction, such as diarrhea, then you can increase to about four to eight ounces per day, depending on the size of your dog. Some bone broth manufacturers recommend a serving size of about one ounce per 10 pounds of your pet’s body weight.
Can I give my cat bone broth? Yes. Bone broth for cats is also beneficial for many of the same reasons, however the same potential precautions also apply to cats (see below).
Precautions and Side Effects of Bone Broth for Dogs and Pets
What side effects should you be aware of when it comes to giving bone broth to pets? Overall, bone broth for dogs and pets seems to be very safe, however there’s a chance your dog might react poorly to certain ingredients found in some bone broth recipes.
There’s some concern that if dogs/pets consume too much bone broth they may over-consume certain amino acids and not get enough of others. Overall, keep in mind that moderation and variation are important for dogs health (and your health too!), so it’s best to vary the types of ingredients you feed your pets. There’s potentially also the risk that bone broth can be contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals like lead. This can cause issues like GI troubles or bone-related problems if left untreated long term. It’s also not a good idea to give bone broth to dogs with serious health issues, such as liver disease or cancer, without speaking with your vet first.
To limit the risk for side effects, look for broths made with quality ingredients and human-grade protein sources from trustworthy butchers or farmers. You can lower the chances of bacteria forming in your broth by using a pressure cooker and cooking the broth for 24 hours. Using browned/cooked meat is also safer than using raw meat. If your pet has allergies, opt for a bone broth product made with simple ingredients like bone broth (water, certified organic bones) and perhaps collagen peptides, but not herbs, seaweeds, etc. (6)
Where to Find and How to Use Bone Broth for Dogs and Pets
It’s important to point out that the majority of store-bought “stocks” and “broths” are not real, traditional bone broths. Food manufacturers now use lab-produced meat flavors in bouillon cubes, soup and sauce mixes, marketing them as “bone broth,” but they hardly have the same benefits as real, homemade broth or stock. Many store-bought broths are made with lots of sodium, additives and ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is recognized as a meat flavor but can have negative health effects.
The very best bone broths are those made yourself at home, however bone broth can be time-consuming to make (it takes one to two days minimum). This is why a good alternative is bone broth powder that’s made for dogs or humans. There isn’t really much of a difference between bone broth that’s suitable for humans and pets, which means if you’re comfortable with it, you can give your pets some of the same bone broth you have.
Look for bone broth made for pets that is made with simple, straightforward ingredients. When shopping for store-bought bone broth for dogs, you ideally want to buy products that you know are made with pasture-fed animal parts and are free of antibiotics and hormones. If possible, purchase dog bone broth made with vegetables as well as bones. A combination of animal parts and vegetables seems to have synergistic effects, working together to be more beneficial than either is alone. For example, broths that are made with celery, fennel and carrots can further aid digestion and soothe an upset stomach.
What are some ideas for using liquid bone broth in your dog food?
Dogs Naturally Magazine recommends adding some to dried or moist food to add more moisture and nutrients, or adding some broth to the water bowl. (7) If your dog seems to be dehydrated or is sick (perhaps with diarrhea), this is a great time to give it chilled broth to keep your pet hydrated. To make it easy to regularly give your dog bone broth, try freezing prepared broth in small containers or ice cube trays so it’s ready to go anytime.
One note: It’s important to discard the layer of fat after making your bone broth and avoid giving it to your pets. While bone broth for dogs and other pets has many benefits, this fat can actually be bad for them and has even been linked to pancreatitis in dogs, which can be life-threatening.
Bone Broth for Dogs & Other Pets: Bone Broth Recipes for Pets
If you’re willing to put in a little effort, there are many different kinds of bone broths (chicken, beef, fish, from bone broth powder and more) that you can make for yourself and also for your pets. You’ll need to get grass-fed bones from your local farmers market or an online butcher or health food store. You can make bone broth in either a large pot or a crockpot/slow cooker to make it easier.
To make a traditional/classic bone broth recipe, the essential ingredients are bones, fat, some type of acid/vinegar and water (and usually meat and vegetables too). If you’re making beef broth or lamb broth, you should brown any of the leftover meat or organ meats before putting it into a stock pot. Beef bones don’t need to be cooked beforehand. Fish and poultry (chicken or turkey) are fine to put in a pot without browning first.
You’ll want to use a bit of acid in your recipe, since this helps draw the minerals out of the bones more thoroughly. Raw apple cider vinegar is most commonly used, but lemon juice is a good alternative.
Here are simple recipes for making homemade Chicken Bone Broth and Beef Bone Broth. If you prefer to use powdered bone broth for convenience, consider adding some to your dog’s wet food or making something like homemade bone broth protein meatballs that you can share with your pet.
To sum up the process, here’s how to make bone broth for dogs or other pets (you can also consume this same broth yourself):
- Place your bones into a large stock pot and cover with water. Add two tablespoons of acid/apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking.
- Fill the rest of your pot with water (ideally filtered water). Leave plenty of room for water to boil.
- Heat slowly. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for at least six hours. Remove scum as it arises.
- Cook slow and at low heat. Chicken bones can cook for 24 hours. Beef bones can cook for 48 hours. A low and slow cook time is necessary in order to fully extract the nutrients in and around the bone.
- You can also add in vegetables, such as carrots, fennel and celery, for added nutrient value.
- After cooking, the broth will cool and a layer of fat will harden on top. This layer protects the broth beneath. Discard this layer only when you are about to eat the broth, particularly since it can be damaging to your pet.
- Once it’s ready, you can store your broth in your refrigerator for about four days, or freeze it for later use.
Animal Wellness Magazine also recommends adding additional ingredients to further boost the nutrient content of this bone broth for dogs or pets: (8)
- Kombu kelp, a seaweed that contains iodine; carotenes; vitamins B, C, D and E; calcium; magnesium; potassium; silica; iron; and zinc.
- Parsley, an herb that is anti-inflammatory and can improve digestion.
- Shiitake mushrooms, which contain antioxidants and beta-glucan that supports the immune system.
- Turmeric, ginger and garlic, which have powerful antioxidant effects, soothe the stomach, fight inflammation and provide disease-fighting compounds.
Final Thoughts on Bone Broth for Dogs and Pets
- Can I give my dog broth? Yes! You can use bone broth for dogs and pets as a food topper or moisturizer, pour some liquid broth over your dog’s meals, add some to the water bowl, or freeze bone broth in ice cube trays to serve as a frozen treat.
- Why is bone broth so good for you and your pets? Bone broth benefits for pets include supplying essential nutrients, helping reduce joint pain, aiding in digestion, supporting the immune system and not aggravating allergies by being gluten/dairy-free.
- Bone broth is nutrient-dense, hydrating, inexpensive and chock-full of minerals and amino acids that are hard to get from other foods.
- If you don’t want to spend the time making a homemade bone broth recipe for dogs, look for a high-quality, store-made or powdered bone broth for dogs in stores. The most beneficial bone broths are made with grass-fed, organic animal parts (bones, skin, etc.) that are “human-grade.” Broths that contain an acid like vinegar, vegetables and herbs are also ideal.