Bone Broths—Why They’re So Good for your Dog or Cat

Simple to make and packed with nutrition, bone broths give a healthful boost to your dog or cat’s diet (and your own).

Whether we call it soup, broth, or stock, the most basic bone broth is made from animal bones, water, and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Once you have a basic bone broth, you can add in a huge variety of nutritious and delicious ingredients.


Recipes for bone broths go back over 2,500 years and are a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine and cultural cuisines all over the world. They are a powerhouse of nutrients, including protein, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as amino acids and glycine, collagen, keratin and gelatin, chondroitin sulfates, glucosamine, and even hyaluronic acid.


Bone broths make it very easy to give your dog or cat quick nourishment, support the healing process, and provide them with an extra boost during strenuous activities.

  • For a very simple “longevity soup”, visit your organic butcher for chicken and pork bones. Get two to three pounds. Place the bones on a cutting board, and very carefully crush them with a mallet or hammer. Put them in a pot and covered with filtered water and lots of fresh ginger. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave the soup to bubble away for one hour. Sieve, cool, and serve — make sure all bone fragments are removed from the broth! This makes a base for hearty soups and stews, sauces and reductions, and extra special treats.
  • TCM teaches us to add carrots to aid digestion; celery to support the large intestine; fennel for an upset stomach; wild rice to support the kidneys and bladder; and quinoa as a kidney tonic. Adding these ingredients to a basic bone broth makes a good general whole-body tonic.

When making bone broths, try to use bones from pastured meats. Chicken is good for general illness and injury, and duck for swelling and edema. Other options include goose, turkey, and beef, and you can even add organ meats such as liver. Try to choose organic ingredients whenever possible.

Bone broth can be stored in glass jars in the fridge for up to a week. You can also freeze it in containers — stock up on ice cube-sized portions that can be transferred to freezer bags and stored for six months.


  • Kombu kelp, the largest of the sea vegetables, is a meaty, high-protein seaweed that supports liver, stomach, and kidney function. It contains iodine, carotenes, vitamins B, C, D, and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, silica, iron, and zinc, and is higher in natural mineral salts than most other seaweeds. Kombu also contains glutamine and fucoidan, a complex polysaccharide. In Japan, studies have shown that when fucoidan is administered to cancer cells in a petri dish, they’re destroyed within 72 hours through a self-induced process called “apoptosis.” Simply soak dried Kombu pieces in filtered water until they are soft. Drain and cut them into small pieces, filling ½ to 1 cup, and add to your bone broths.
  • Parsley improves digestion and supports the kidneys and urinary tract. It contains vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, calcium, chlorophyll, iron, and magnesium. Parsley is also known to strengthen teeth.
  • Turmeric has been used for health and healing since 250BC, when it was cited in a Sanskrit medical treatise; it was used in Ayurvedic and Unami medical systems as an ingredient to combat food poisoning. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It contains the active compound, curcumin, a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E. It provides essential disease-fighting compounds that protect our dogs and cats by neutralizing free radicals.
  • Mushrooms make a great addition to bone broths:
    • Chaga is found in colder climates, including the northern boreal forests of the Canadian Shield. It is slow-growing and must be at least three to five years of age before it contains sufficient medicinal value. So we need to protect it and harvest it responsibly. Chaga contains 215 phytochemicals, 29 polysaccharide derivatives, betulin and betulinic acid, also called triterpenes, phytosterols, beta-D-glucans, polyphenols, superoxide dismutase, and micronutrients. It can both boost the immune system, and slow it down, which is great news for those whose animals have allergies or arthritis.
    • Maitake mushrooms have been used medicinally for over 3,000 years. This “King of Mushrooms” has an incredible range of healing powers, from fighting cancer to helping regulate blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol. The chemical structure of Maitake’s polysaccharide compound is slightly different from the beta-glucans found in other medicinal mushrooms. Maitake’s D-fraction, the most active form of beta-glucan, has demonstrated strong tumour suppressant abilities in clinical studies, and boosts immunity to fight infections more effectively.
    • Reishi mushrooms are considered a “tonic” to help increase energy, improve digestion, regulate the immune system, and support the cardiovascular system. They are rich in polysaccharides and polypeptides, amino acids, coumarin, triterpene, organic acids, and microelements. When Reishi is given as a supplement during chemotherapy or radiation, it may help reduce side effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, bone marrow suppression, and infection.
    • Shiitake mushrooms have a long history, going back over 1,000 years to Ancient China, where they were considered a symbol of longevity. Shiitake mushrooms contain an active compound called lentinan, a type of polysaccharide, a branched beta-glucan, that supports the immune system and helps fight infection. Beta-glucan has also been shown to have anti-cancer activity.



  • 1 to 2 pounds chicken or turkey bones (organic free- range poultry, with no antibiotics or hormones, should be used for this recipe)


  • 2 large beef marrow or knuckle bones (organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised beef, with no antibiotics or hormones, should be used)*
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (white vinegar should not be used) or juice from 1/2 lemon**
  • Filtered water
  • ½ cup fresh parsley (flat or curly)

Place the bones, vinegar or lemon juice in a large soup pot, Crock-Pot or other slow cooker, or even a big clay baker. Cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil, skimming the “particulates” and foam that rise to the top, then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Leave the bones to simmer away all day or night. Add the parsley just a few minutes before you drain the broth from the bones. Discard the bones, but keep all the meat and cartilage, as a great meal topper for your dog or cat.

*For extra taste, brown the beef bones before adding them to your stock pot by putting them in a roasting pan and baking them in a preheated 425°F oven for 40 minutes.

**Apple cider vinegar releases calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and other trace minerals and amino acids from the bones.

Suzi Beber has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.

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