There is a lot of debate in the use of ground bones or whole bones in BARF diets for dogs as well as cats. BARF diets are those that feed exclusively raw meats, bones, some vegetables and fruits and a very small amount of grains, although some diets omit the grains. Originally the thought behind the diet was to bring about a more natural type of food for domestic dogs, more in keeping with their wild ancestors.
When first developed BARF diets, which are often called biologically appropriate or bones and raw food diets, were designed to use large chunks of meat. This may include a whole chicken carcass or a hip or knuckle type of bone for a large breed dog. Smaller dogs were also fed BARF diets, just with appropriately sized meaty joint bones and lean meat chunks.
Over time and with more and more people getting involved in the movement, dog food companies started specializing in BARF foods that had a more human appeal. Not everyone wanted their dog eating a whole chicken carcass in the back yard or chewing happily on a huge joint bone when company was around. In addition people wanted quick, easy and nutritionally balanced feeding options while still remaining on the BARF food protocols.
The result of these factors contributed to the development of a variety of types of BARF pre-made foods. These can include individual types of hamburger patty meals that can be frozen and thawed at each meal. Other options included tubes or chubs of the preformed, ground and nutritionally balanced combinations of meats, fats, small amounts of fruits and vegetables, and even smaller amounts of whole grains and supplements.
While this pre-formed and pre-measured food may be easy for the human, those that feed the original style of bones and raw foods diets express concern over the lack of bones in the diet. In reality these chubs, patties or sausage types of preparations do have bone in them, it is just ground into the meat and other foods in the mixture. People that support this feeding method indicate that the ground bones are less problematic and not likely to cause choking, splintering or abrasions to the digestive system. It is important to note that very rarely impaction due to a collection of ground material in the digestive tract can occur, but this can happen with almost any type of food if proper amounts of water and fiber are not provided. Often dogs with very poor digestive health have problems with ground bones.
On the other hand whole bones are not always a good idea for dogs that tend to gulp down large pieces of food. These dogs may choke on a bone fragment or piece, but this is also rare and easily corrected by feeding only very large bones. Bones provide the opportunity for the dog to chew, filling in the boring hours that you are gone with a very suitable and appropriate pastime. Chewing bones is also a way to keep the teeth clean, something that cannot occur with ground bone raw food diets.