Bone broth is packed with healthy goodness, versatile for use with dogs, inexpensive and doggone delicious too! Here our introduction to bone broth, how to make homemade bone broth for dogs, and my favourite broth making tips and tricks from over the years.
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. They’re both crazy about bone broth, it’s great for their health, inexpensive, easy to make, and easy to use in so many ways.
I’ve experimented with many different techniques over the years, some good and some not so good. Although the dogs seemed pretty happy, no matter what the outcome! 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!
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 it 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 look a little like the cartoon dog accompanying this article at Dogs Naturally on the benefits of bone broth for dogs. 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.
My Method for Making Bone Broth for Dogs
Experiments in Bone Broth Making
My first batch of bone broth was made on the stove top. It 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, and good bone broth takes a long time. I was also size limited on my available pots. From there, we experiment 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. The slow cooker (crock pot) has become my preferred method for easy, size, safety, and clean-up.
Dog-Friendly Bone Broth Ingredients
I usually make our dogs’ bone broth with just 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. See alternative ingredients below.
Types and Sources of Bones for Broth
As with all foods, quality in makes for quality out. 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). 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 or buy extras to make a batch of broth. When making broth, I generally have a mixed bag (literally) of different types of bones. Different types of bones bring different nutrients (and flavours), so 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 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!
Making Bone Broth for Dogs
- Place bones in slow cooker. Try to position the bones so they’ll be immersed while the broth is simmering, if possible. If not, they can be rotated into the liquid. 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.
- 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, then prepare for full cooling and storage. See full details on how we prep and store our broth below.
Tip: I like making bone broth a couple of days day or two before our scheduled rubbish collection. This way, it finishes just before the trash goes out to minimise the time I am storing the packaging, bones, and fat. Less stinky, and less risk of the bags being raided by roaming cats or wildlife. See below for details on preparing and storing the finished broth
Options and Alternatives
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 tool combination you feel comfortable with to prepare your 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
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’ree a garlic supporter, it can be a good seasoning option for your broth.
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 the store it safely. The cubes make it super convenient to defrost broth in small quantities for ready use. It’s my go-to method for all sorts of different frozen food storage.
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 for my broth making. You can strain through increasingly fine filters for a clarified broth, if you wish.
For food safety, we want the 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. It can then then 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 about choosing and using ingredients for homemade dog treats, I also prefer not to use that type of added fat in our treats.
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.
Freezing Bone Broth in Cubes
Liquid broth can be poured or spooned into trays for freezing. Easy! Gelled 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. Normally, however, my broth is more jelly like. Too firm to spoon, too soft to hold shape when cut. A little bit of heat is all that’s needed to soften 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 it into trays. Once the broth has frozen thoroughly, I transfer the cubes to a container for storage.
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 treat making liquids. In addition to baked treats, I also use them in homemade gelatin gummy treats (along with powdered gelatin) or mixed into frozen treats, like our bone brothsicles.
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.
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 my go-to method has evolved to freezing in cubes.
Hungry for more tasty treats? There are all sorts of homemade dog treat ideas in our blog archives. You can also use use the category and tag labels above/ below this post to find other recipes that might be of interest or use our internal search tools 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.