A Guide to Lamb Trotters for Dogs (by Jo the Vet)

lamb trotters for dogs

Have you seen lamb trotters in your local pet store and wondered whether they would be worth buying for your dog? Maybe you’re looking at natural dog treats and want to try something new.

But undoubtedly you’ll first want to find out if lamb trotters are safe for your dog? And what exactly are the benefits of these treats? In this article, we will discuss all there is to know about lamb trotter treats.

Key Facts

  • Lamb trotters are by-products of the lamb meat industry. They are usually treated to remove the hair and clean them before dehydrating by air baking.
  • Lamb trotters provide health benefits such as chewing time to reduce anxiety, improving dental health and improving joint health.
  • There are several risks associated with lamb trotters, including obstructions, splintering leading to gut perforations, and tooth fractures.
  • Some great alternatives to lamb trotters include beef tendons, antlers and raw, meaty (non-weight bearing) bones.

What are Lamb Trotters? 

Lamb trotters are treats made from the lower legs of lambs, cut off from the carpus (wrist of the front leg) or tarsus (hock of the back leg). It includes a long bone (metacarpal or metatarsal), fetlock joint, smaller lower leg bones, and insides of the hoof. They don’t usually contain the keratin outer layer of the hoof or the hair, and are therefore mainly made up of ligaments, tendons, dehaired skin and bones.

Hoof trotters are usually dehydrated through air baking at a high temperature. It locks in plenty of taste, and kills off bacteria, but does make them relatively hard to chew which contributes to some risks discussed further on. 

Depending on whether any preservatives have been used, and the cleaning process prior to dehydrating, lamb trotters can vary in colour from brown (the most natural) to white (the most processed).

Are Lamb Trotters Good for Dogs?

There are certainly many nutritional benefits associated with lamb trotters, including being high in protein and beneficial for joints and teeth.

The main draw to lamb trotters is their ability to clean teeth exceptionally well. They provide a brilliant abrasive surface against the enamel of teeth, removing plaque, bacteria and food build up. While there isn’t a lot of research looking at the effects of dehydrated bone on dental health, research has suggested that raw bones are just as effective (if not more effective) than tooth brushing to keep bacteria counts on teeth low. Therefore it can be assumed that dehydrated bones are probably similar.

They provide plenty of chewing time, which not only is great for teeth, but also really good for keeping your dog occupied. Even for dogs that are keen chewers, they can last for almost an hour. Chewing is great for distraction and mental health. It triggers the release of endorphins, which help reduce anxiety and make your dog feel relaxed and happy.

Lamb trotters are also great for joint health. The connective tissues in lamb trotters, such as dried ligaments and tendons, contain plenty of collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin, which are compounds found in joints. They stimulate the production of glucosaminoglycans (GAGs) which make up cartilage and also improve joint fluid through stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid.

However, there is a variable amount of glucosamine and chondroitin in each individual product, and it is unlikely to be sufficient to make enough of a difference alone. Therefore, joint supplements are a superior option to ensure your dog is provided with a clinically relevant dose of the compounds. It’s also important to remember that neither supplements nor lamb trotters are substitutes for taking your dog to the vet to receive treatment when he is uncomfortable.

So what is the nutritional make up of lamb trotters? It will depend on the individual products, however the following nutritional analysis can be expected:

Nutritional Content of Lamb Trotters 

Protein

70%

Fat

15%

Moisture

7%

The remaining portions of a lamb trotter is made up of fibre, ash (minerals) and carbohydrates.

The calorie content is variable from one product to another, but it is likely to be around 2000-2500 kcal/kg. This is a low to moderate amount of calories for a dehydrated food, but significantly more per kilogram than fresh trotters.

So what does this nutritional make up mean? It means that dehydrated lamb trotter treats are high in protein, moderate in fat and low in moisture. This is great, as dogs thrive off a high protein diet. Protein is essential for building strong muscles, DNA synthesis and making hormones and enzymes. Fat is also a great energy source for dogs, and should only be restricted if your dog is obese or has a condition which is worsened by high amounts of fat, such as pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

So, how many lamb trotters can a dog have? Treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, and since lamb trotters are not small treats, they will contribute significantly to this percentage. This means for a small dog, one a week would be plenty, whereas a large dog could have several lamb trotters a week.

Are Lamb Trotters Safe for Dogs?

While lamb trotters sound great for dogs, they do come with some serious risks. Firstly, bones which bear weight when the animal is alive have to be much stronger than non-weight bearing bones. This means that leg bones can be extremely hard and potentially cause tooth fractures. This is particularly the case for strong of over-exuberant chewers.

In addition to that, once subjected to heat, bones become brittle with the potential to break or splinter. If large pieces break off, they could cause a choking incident or an obstruction in the intestine. Smaller, sharp pieces however are even more dangerous and could cause perforations and intestinal damage. Both blockages and perforations can be life threatening.

While it’s difficult to prevent this entirely, the risks can be significantly decreased if you supervise your dog at all times when he has a lamb trotter. This way, you can take pieces away as soon as they break off, or take the lamb trotter away if your dog becomes over enthusiastic.

Of course, all these risks can be avoided by choosing an alternative treat altogether.

Are Lamb Trotters Unpleasant to Have in the House?

Lamb trotters have a unique smell to them. Some people hate the smell of lamb, others don’t mind it. But when dehydrated, the smell can be accentuated. In addition to this, lamb trotters are slightly greasy. While these qualities might be off-putting to you, they are what makes dogs go crazy for them.

You can easily deal with these unpleasantries by keeping the lamb trotters in a sealed container, and when giving one to your dog, encourage them to chew it outside.

Lamb Trotters for Puppies

There’s a lot of different advice on the internet regarding puppies and lamb trotters. Some places suggest giving puppies lamb trotters from 12 weeks to help with teething. Others recommend from six months, when they have their stronger adult teeth, since lamb trotters are hard and can cause tooth fractures.

The reality is, puppies should not be given bones, or treats containing bones until they are fully grown. This is because bones are high in calcium and phosphorus, and imbalances in these minerals can lead to developmental abnormalities. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid lamb trotters if you have a puppy.

FAQs

Can Lamb Trotters Cause Diarrhoea in Dogs?

Lamb trotters can cause diarrhoea in dogs, however it’s not common. As with any new food product, too many too quickly can trigger diarrhoea. 

In addition to that, if your dog has an allergy to lamb protein, it is a good idea to avoid lamb trotters as they may trigger a reaction, such as diarrhoea or itchy skin. 

Can Lamb Trotters Cause Blockages?

Lamb trotters can easily cause blockages as they are cooked bones. Therefore they can splinter and break off easily, particularly if your dog is a strong chewer. This is why it is essential to monitor your dog at all times if you give him a lamb trotter.

How are Lamb Trotters Harvested?

Lamb trotters are by-products for the lamb meat industry. Most abattoirs trim the lower leg off the carcass and dispose of them.

While animal by-products have some bad press, it is actually great to make use of by-products, as then the whole of the animal is being used and not going to waste.

Alternatives to Lamb Trotters

If you like the sound of lamb trotters but are not sold on them, why not try one of these alternatives?

  • Beef tendons: Tendons are excellent for both dental health and joint health, as they are tough and contain all the connective tissues that trotters contain. They are also entirely digestible, and don’t splinter like bones.
  • Raw, meaty bones (RMBs): Raw bones from non-weight bearing parts of the animal are much safer than dried bones as they are less likely to cause tooth fractures or splintering. They are great for teeth cleaning, however can still cause blockages if you don’t monitor your dog and take away chunks that they bite off.
  • Antlers: If you’re looking for something safe that provides chewing time to calm your dog, antlers might be a good option. They are tough like bones, but don’t splinter or break. Instead your dog would just slowly grind them down. However, they don’t provide any nutritional value since they are not ingested.

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