Dogs need to chew. Their wild ancestors used their teeth and jaws to tear apart their prey, and crunched bones into small, digestible pieces.
The modern dog does not have to work as hard to eat their meals, but they still have strong jaws and sharp teeth, and the urge to chew. Dogs are often drawn to chew on furniture, clothing, and other household objects if not provided with chew bones. Chewing provides entertainment and cleans your dog’s teeth.
Why You Need to “Chewse” Carefully
No chew bone is 100% safe. If the bone is too hard, it can crack your dog’s teeth. If the bone is too soft, your dog might bite off large pieces, which can get stuck in their esophagus or cause a blockage in their digestive system.
Every dog is different. You’ll need to choose bones based on your dog’s size, strength, and style of chewing.
Non-Edible Chew Bones
Non-edible chew bones may be made of rope, plastic, rubber or fabric. Since they cannot be eaten, they can last for years. The problem with non-edible chew bones is that your dog might still chew off pieces and swallow them.
Nylabones are a very popular brand of non-edible chew bones, you’ve probably seen them at your local pet store. Check the label for a disclaimer which says, “…During normal chewing, tiny bristle-like projections are raised that help clean teeth. If these tiny pieces (no larger than a small grain of rice) are ingested, they should pass through…”
You might not be comfortable about the thought of allowing your dog to eat even small amounts of plastic. Nylabones also tend to be hard enough to cause dental fractures.
Rope bones have threaded ends that “floss” your dog’s teeth. The threads can come loose and may be swallowed. Look for rope bones that do not have loose ends if you’re concerned that your dog may swallow threads.
Edible Chew Bones
Chew bones that are completely edible normally pass through your dog’s digestive system without causing any harm, but just like non-edible bones, they’re never 100% safe.
Smoked bones are popular products found in most pet stores and grocery stores. When bones are cooked, they become hard and splintery, and may cause bleeding along your dog’s intestinal tract. Some smoked bones are cooked at a low temperature, and certain bones are less likely to splinter than others. Ribs tend to be rather splintery, while beef kneecaps generally are not.
Boneless smoked chews are a good choice for some dogs. Beef pizzle, pig ears, and pig noses do not splinter, but a strong chewer can eat them very quickly. Antlers are very hard and can last nearly forever, but can crack a dog’s back teeth.
Rawhide chews can work for some dogs, but you should be very picky about where you get the from. Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals have been detected in low-quality hides.
Raw meaty bones are soft and can typically be passed through your dog’s digestive system, providing calcium along the way. Chicken feet and beef trachea provide glucosamine and chrondroitin that prevent and ease arthritis. It’s possible for a dog to choke on a raw bone if they are able to swallow large pieces of it, so be sure to choose bones that are appropriate for your dog’s size.
Raw bones do harbor bacteria, so you’ll have to offer them outdoors or on a towel that you can wash afterwards. A dog’s digestive system is highly acidic, which kills bacteria and breaks down bone.
Other Bone Safety Concerns
You should always supervise your dog when they chew on a bone, no matter which type you choose.
Some dogs become possessive over prized bones, and may lash out aggressively at you or other dogs in your home. Keep dogs separate when they’re chewing edible bones. If you have to take away your dog’s bone, always offer a treat as a trade, and consult a trainer if they do become aggressive.
If your dog does not like chew bones, or cannot be trusted to chew without gulping or cracking their teeth, you don’t have to offer any at all. You can keep your dog’s teeth clean by brushing and using water additives, and they can be entertained with a frozen Kong filled with food.