I am obsessed with bone broth for a few basic reasons. We will get in to the nutritional aspect here in just a bit because there is a lot of good information I can throw at you there. Bone broth is a simple way to add a lot of amazing nutrients including vegetables and herbs in to your dog or cat's diet without having to go through all the drama of changing their food or disguising them in other strange substances. You also don't need to waste a lot of time in the kitchen to make it. You throw everything in to a giant pot, cover with water, simmer for several hours (or days) and voila! Bone broth. No fancy math or scales needed.
I generally use The Art of Dog recipe as a guideline to get started: Bone Broth Recipe. It provides a good guideline for creating a bone broth. What are the benefits you might ask? One of the most common uses for bone broth is in older or health-compromised dogs. Particularly those suffering from osteoarthritis, various joint diseases or dogs that may just have lost their appetite. One of the main components of bone broth is... you guessed it - BONES! Generally while you can include any bones, if you are looking to support joints it is important to include things like knuckle bones, feet or necks that contain contain cartilage.
Cartilage is that shiny white material you see on the ends of bones or between two bones the allow flexibility within joint and provide cushion. This means you can include everything such as feet, wings, necks, hocks, heads, you name it. The important components of cartilage that we are seeking are collagen and glycoproteins. You may recognize the more specific names of select nutrients including glucosamine or chondroitin that are found in joint supplements at your local pet food store. These along with trace minerals found in the bone including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are broken down in the long simmering process of making the bone broth.
Cartilage has a few other immune supporting qualities that are being looked into as well. Cartilage in the body lacks blood vessels, meaning it does not get nutrients directly from the blood supply. It actual makes its own anti-angiogenesis factors that keep blood vessels from forming. These same anti-angiogenic factors found in cartilage are currently being used in cancer research to decrease the blood supply (therefore the nutrient supply) to cancer cells in the body. On top of which, adding a cartilage-based supplement to the diet has been shown to increase immune cells including B cells, T cells, and macrophages. Wow!
The other amazing thing you get out of bone broth is gelatin. Gelatin not only has its own healing properties but actually increases the absorption of the other nutrients being released in to the broth. It has the unique property of being hydrophilic (attracting water) unlike many cooked or other processed foods. According to Sally Fallon, this allows it to draw digestive fluids and enzymes to the gelatin to increase breakdown of the ingredients for digestion. Gelatin has been used as a digestive of aid for centuries but its use has now been backed up by modern science. It is commonly recommend by nutritionists and dietitians to aid in digestion and to support individuals who suffer from intestinal disorders such hyperacidity (heartburn), colitis, irritable bowel disease, and Crohn's disease.
Alright. Enough of the technical stuff. Well, here's what went in to my bone broth this time around:
1 whole chicken (locally raised, free range, no antibiotics or hormones)
4 chicken feet
4 chicken heads (yes, I know it is rather creepy but they do offer nutritional value)
2 celery sticks
4-6 maitake mushrooms
4-6 shiitake mushrooms
1/8 cup chopped turmeric root
1/8 cup chopped burdock
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbs Bragg's apple cider vinegar
I first put the whole chicken feet and heads in the pot and added water until it just covered the chicken by about an inch. I then let it sit for a couple hours after which I skimmed the thin film off the top of the water. After that I added my chopped vegetables and herbs to the pot. I brought the pot to a boil and turned down the heat to a low simmer. I simmered the broth for about 24 hours. Strain out the meat, bones, herbs, and vegetables from the broth. It is important to let the broth cool completely before transferring to freezer safe containers. When the broth has cooled, you can skim the fat portion off the top. I generally will skim the beef broth because it tends to be much fattier but I leave the chicken broth. My dogs tolerate the fat well and it helps keep their coats nice and shiny. If your dog is new to bone broth or has a history of being a bit sensitive you will definitely want to skim the broth and use it for your own cooking purposes (it makes super tasty eggs I'm told!).
You can feed the remaining chicken and vegetables as is. The chicken bones are soft and fall apart in your hands so they can be fed as well. However if you are a little wary of this feel free to separate them out and toss them. This time around I actually added the bones, meat and vegetables to my blender and blended everything in to a slurry to add to my pups food or as an occasional meal by itself. You'll want to make sure that the broth doesn't stay in the fridge for more than 5 days, since it will start to lose nutrient value after that. I've kept it longer and it doesn't really go bad per se but doesn't really have that nice fresh stock smell to it.
That wraps it up for this adventure. This is definitely a must for dogs young and old. Cats love it too so feel free to share with your feline companions as well. Thanks for sticking this blog out until the end! Bon(e) appetit!
Fallon, Sally. (2001). Nourishing Traditions, 2nd ed. Washington DC: NewTrends Publishing, Inc.
Dyce,K.M.; W.O. Sack; C.J. Wensing. (2010). Textbook of Veterinary Anatomy, 4th ed. St. Louis, MS: Saunders Elsevier
Macsharry, G. (2012). "Traditional bone broth in modern health and disease." Retrieved from:
Micleu, Cindy. (2015). Bone Broth for Health Building: Nourishing the Liver and Kidneys. Retrieved from:
Nee, Margaret. (Unknown). Bone broth: A versatile and easy health food foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.theartofdog.com/articles/BoneBroth.pdf
My life has gone to the dogs. I've worked in shelters, dog daycares, veterinary offices and local pet food retailers. I've seen all aspects of the pet world and I've got a theme that keeps popping up. Let's get back to basics, keep it simple. In my mind, it all starts with good food and using what nature has to offer.