How to make homemade bone broth for dogs

Bone broth is healthy, delicious, and practically free! Here’s our introduction to making bone broth for dogs. Bone broth is packed with healthy goodness, versatile for use with dogs, inexpensive, and doggone delicious, too. That’s right, furfriends. Who could possibly resist? Get your drool ready and herd your humans towards the kitchen, because we’re diving into all things broth. Sniff through the post below to learn how to make homemade bone broth for dogs, and I’ll share some of my favourite broth making tips and tricks from over the years. 

Doggone Crazy About Bone Broth

If I could only make one thing for our boys, it would probably be bone broth. I make a lot of different treats, homemade food, toys, clothes, supplies, and more. Of all this, if I really had to choose one thing and one thing only, it would probably be the homemade bone broth. The boys are both crazy about bone broth, it’s great for their health, inexpensive, easy to make, and easy to use in so many ways. I like using it straight out of the freezer as a pupsicle, defrosting as a food topper, or combining it with water to make gummies when I’m low on stock or looking for a little extra bone broth bost in the boy’s diets.

I’ve experimented with many different techniques for making dog-friendly bone broth over the years. Some good and some not so good. Although the dogs seemed pretty happy, no matter what the outcome! I love experimenting with new things, but through time and experience, my bone broth making technique has settled into an easy favourite. When the time came to reformat this post during our move to the new website, I decided to give it a full update. I hope this information is as useful to you as it has been to me and our dogs. Happy delicious brothing, furfriends! Or humans…if you’d like to share!

Spoonful of homemade bone broth made for dogs

Benefits of Bone Broth for Dogs (and People)

Bone broth is stock created by simmering the healthy goodness out of bones. Bones and the attached connective tissue are great sources of collagen and gelatin, which is what first led me to making bone broth as a supplement for Oli. That’s just one part of the benefit equation, though. There are plenty of other essential and beneficial nutrients that can be leached out with slow simmering.  

Being made with simmered bones makes bone broth very inexpensive, but also kind of gross. Although our dogs think it’s AMAZING and nearly desiccate from drooling over the smell whenever I make it. They a bit like the cartoon dog accompanying this Dogs Naturally article on the benefits of bone broth for dogs. Haha! You can easily adapt a human recipe for the dogs by adjusting the seasonings, or go straight up with a bones-only basic broth. That’s my go to favourite for ease and versatility.  Plain and simple healthy homemade bone broth. 

My Method for Making Bone Broth for Dogs

Before I share the detailed methods I use for making bone broth for dogs, let’s rewind a bit. The method I use now isn’t how we started. Things evolved with time, experimentation, and experience.  Here’s the background scoop on our bone broth journey. Prefer to cut straight to the kitchen? Fast forward to the next section if you want to hop directly into the crock pot and get started.

Experiments in Bone Broth Making

The slow cooker (affiliate link) has become my preferred method for easy, size, safety, and clean-up. My first batches of bone broth were made on the stove top. They came out great, but the long slow simmer was problematic. Leaving a pot simmering on the stove isn’t very safe if you’re not home or awake on all of the long simmer, and good bone broth takes a long time. I was also size limited on my available pots. Dogdad bought me an inexpensive new stock pot thing it would be perfect for bigger bones, but it wasn’t suitable for our induction stovetop. Good intentions though! Haha! From the starting point, we experimented with all sorts of different methods, including the burner on the barbecue to take the smell outdoors. It worked ok, but the high minimum temperature wasn’t ideal and it also required constant supervision. My go-to method is using a slow cooker (crock pot).

Dog-Friendly Bone Broth Ingredients

I make our dogs’ bone broth with bones, water, and apple cider vinegar.  The latter helps to extract extra goodness from the bones. I don’t usually add extras to the broth at this stage, preferring the flexibility of a plain broth for varied uses. But, there are lots of options to customise your own special bone broth mixture. See the alternative ingredients below for ideas. 

Types and Sources of Bones for Broth

As with all foods, quality in makes for quality out. Bones are no exception. We’re fortunate here in New Zealand that much of our meat is locally produced and under very good conditions compared to intensive or factory farming practices elsewhere. It’s much easier to source free range or pasture/grass fed meat and bones here. 

We use both leftover and bought bones for making bone broth. There aren’t a lot of leftover bones from cooking at our place. I’m a vegetarian, but the rest of the family isn’t. When there are good quality bones left from hubby, guests, or cooking for the dogs, they get saved in the freezer until we have enough for brothing or buy extras to supplement for making a batch of broth. When making bone broth, I generally have a mixed bag (literally) of different types of bones. Different types of bones bring different nutrients (and flavours), so using a mixture is quite nice.  Some bones are fairly clean and others are semi-meaty bones from the butcher. 

If you’re buying bones from a farmer or a butcher, they might even give them a few extra cuts for you. Smaller bone pieces are easier to fit into a pot as well as more exposed for better faster extraction of nutrients. You can also channel your inner Dexter and cut big bones at home, but I prefer to keep things easy and a lot less messy!  Big thanks to our local butchers.

Making Bone Broth for Dogs

Dog-Friendly Bone Broth Ingredients

  • Bones (the more joints and cartilege, the better!)
  • Water
  • Apple cider vinegar (optional)

See alternative methods for prep and options for exra ingredients below. 

Slow Cooking Bones into Bone Broth

  • Place your bones in a slow cooker (affiliate link). Try to position the bones so they’ll all be immersed while the broth is simmering, if possible. If not, they can be rotated into the liquid. It can be tricky with bones, especially if some are large or you’re starting with a frozen mix. You might also find that they slide more willingly into place as things simmer during cooking. 
  • Add water to suitable level. 
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to help leach out extra goodness as things simmer.
  • Heat on high until warmed to a gentle boiling temperature, then switch to low to simmer.
  • Simmer low and slow, checking occasionally to shift bones around if/as needed. At minimum, our broth simmers for a day at minimum, but usually two if I can make the schedule and timing work.
    • Optional: Top up water periodically. I don’t top up my water during cooking, allowing the level to drop if/as evaporation occurs for a denser broth.
    • Optional: Skim periodically. Quality bones don’t tend to foam or gunk, especially when slow cooked, so skimming may not be needed. I skim when complete, if needed. Then, after cooling, I remove the congealed fatty top from the finished broth and throw it out. 
  • Once complete, strain the broth, before full cooling and storage. See full details on how we prep and store bone broth below.

Bonus Bone Broth Making Tip

I like making bone broth a couple of days before our scheduled rubbish collection. This way, it finishes just before the trash goes out to minimise the storage time for the packaging, bones, and fat. Less stinky, and less risk of the bags being raided by roaming cats or wildlife. 

Making bone broth in a slow cooker (crockpot) for dogs

Alternative Bone Broth Cooking Methods

Pre-roasting the bones (as well as blanching before roasting) is a common recommendation for human bone broth. I’ve tried it before, but it’s an annoying messy prep step. It’s primarily done to give the broth a richer flavour and be a little less meaty. Roasted bone broth also has an appealing darker colour. Go ahead and roast, if you wish (especially if you’re going to share), but dogs are more than happy to have a slightly meaty smelling and/or tasting broth. One less step and less cleaning is a-ok with me and with them. 

Heat and time are the key elements in making a good bone broth. You can use any cooking method combination you feel comfortable with to prepare your bone broth. As noted above, there are lots of different ways you can make bone broth, but I find the slow cooker to be the best option for our circumstances. A pressurised version, like an InstaPot, could be used to accelerate the process, but I don’t have one. If I did, size may still be a limiting factor vs. the slow cooker for big batch preparation.

Alternative Bone Broth Ingredients

Adding veggies, herbs, and other seasonings. As with making a soup stock, you can include other ingredients with the bones. Again, go ahead if you wish (especially if you’re going to share). Make sure that an additions are safe and suitable for dogs. You can puree them into the finished broth before cooling, save separately for moderated use with meals or in treats, or discard. Although why waste healthy, dog edible, bone broth infused veggies? I don’t usually include anything but bones for two reasons. One is that I want all the space in my crock pot for bones. The other is that I like the flexibility to use the plain broth in more versatile and creative ways later. Personal preference.

The controversial subject of garlic. We don’t intentionally give our dogs onion or garlic. We prefer to err on the side of caution, but opinion is divided about garlic and dogs. If you’re a garlic supporter, it can be a good seasoning option for your broth.

Troubleshooting Your Bone Broth

Cloudy Bone Broth

Broth that is prepared at higher temperatures (like my experiment with the outdoor barbecue burner…) tends to be cloudier than low slow bone broth. No worries! It will still be delish to the dogs, no doubt.  Beware that it may be less likely to gel depending on your temperature.

Bone Broth Doesn’t Gel

Yep. It happens. It could be the time, the type or quantity of bones, the temperature, or a combination of factors. Liquid broth still has lots of goodness, and can still be frozen and used as above. If you have your heart set on the jiggle, you can use gelatin to firm things up. Or go all the way and make bone broth and gelatin gummies. I used to aim for firm set broth to cut for storage, but have evolved to freezing in cubes if things aren’t quite jelly enough. See my methods for storing homemade bone broth below, as well as some of the ways we like to use it.

My Method for Storing Homemade Bone Broth

My preferred way to store bone broth is to freeze as small cubes. Freezing lets me make broth in big batches and store it safely.  The cubes make it convenient to defrost broth in small quantities for ready use. It’s my go-to method for all sorts of different frozen foods.

Preparing Bone Broth for Storage

When the broth has finished cooking, I strain it incrementally into a large container to remove the bones and any other residual bits and pieces. The dogs are usually circling like sharks in anticipation! Cooked bone is unsafe for dogs, so this goes into the rubbish. See my tip above on timing for trash day. I’m not too rigorous about the straining and use a simple colander. You can strain through increasingly fine filters for a clarified broth, if you wish.

For food safety, we want the bone broth to cool evenly and quickly. A broad flat container is my preferred method for cooling. Once strained into the container, I chill the broth. The fat will float to the top and set when chilled and be easily removed. Some folks like to save the fat for cooking or making treats, but I don’t. A long slow simmer is great for extracting the goodness from the bones, but it may help the rendered fat to oxidise. As noted in our post on ingredients for dog treats, I also prefer not to use that type of added fat in our treats. 

Short-Term Fresh Bone Broth Storage

Like it’s meaty sources, once prepared, bone broth can be kept in a sealed container refrigerated for a couple of days, but should be frozen for longer term storage. I freeze all of our bone broth, other than a little jar for any toppers within the next day or two. 

Freezing Bone Broth in Ready-Use Cubes

Liquid bone broth can be poured or spooned into ice cube trays for freezing. Easy! Gelled bone broth might require a little extra prep, but can also be easily frozen. If my bone broth has come out excellent, it might be too firm to spoon into trays for freezing. If I’ve taken the extra effort to try and make it set firm enough to cut (making gelatin gummies from scratch), I can just slice and freeze.

Often, however, my bone broth comes out like jelly. Too firm to spoon, too soft to hold shape when cut. If I can’t pour or spoon, a little bit of heat easily softens the broth back up enough to spoon into the trays. If needed, I pop the container in the microwave on low power briefly and then spoon the bone broth into trays. Once the broth has frozen thoroughly, I transfer the cubes to a container for storage. A workhorse tool in my kitchen are inexpensive but oh so handy silicone ice cube trays (affiliate link). They’re my go-to for freezing prepped fruits and veggies, dog-friendly stock, bone broth, and heaps of other foods.

Freezing homemade bone broth in cubes for ready use

Ways to Use Bone Broth for Dogs

Straight Up Bone Broth

Bone broth can be use straight up for a little lick, watered down for a drink (it’s rich, so moderation is important), or drizzled onto food as a delicious topper. My boys occasionally even get a cube straight from the freezer as a pupsicle on hot days.

Bone Broth as the Base of From Scratch Homemade Gelatin Gummies

All that jelly goodness can be further reduced to make gelatin gummies completely from scratch, if you’re feeling keen! 

Bone Broth as an Ingredient for Homemade Dog Treats

Bone broth can be used as a rich, flavoursome, and nutritious add-in for homemade dog treat recipes. Our homemade bone broth (straight or diluted) and homemade dog-friendly stock saved from preparing meat for homemade dog food are my primary dog treat making liquids. In addition to baked treats, I also use them for making homemade gelatin gummy treats (along with powdered gelatin) or mixed into frozen treats, like our bone brothsicles.

Bone broth and yogurt frozen dog treat recipe

Hungry for more tasty treats?  There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can use the categories and tags to explore or use our internal search to find something specific. Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas from treats that we’ve made ourselves for our pets, but different animals have different preferences (likes/dislikes), just like people. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what’s suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.

How to make and store bone broth for dogs

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