Having something safe to chew can fulfill multiple requirements for your dog…
- Provides enjoyment;
- Exercises teeth gums and jaw;
- Helps remove plaque;
- Satisfies a dog’s natural need to chew;
- Provides an outlet to expend energy;
- Helps prevent boredom;
- And for puppies, helps sooth itchy gums during teething.
There are many different types of chews that you can select from. Your dog may pick their own naturally available items to chew. My dog’s love to pick their own sticks to gnaw on while we are on out trail walks together…tree twigs actually contain some very good natural oral care properties - volatile oils that stimulate blood circulation and tannins that tighten and clean gum tissue.
You can choose from a wide assortment of chews available at most pet supply stores and on-line. Just make sure that when you are selecting a product you understand the pros and cons of using each product and what to look for to identify good product from poor or down right dangerous product (ingredients that include toxins and carcinogens). The information below provides a guide to choosing quality product and the right product.
And one other thing to keep in mind, you won't know the quality of the item, much like the meat used in dog kibble - unless the labeling states that the chew (whether bone, rawhide, dental chew, etc.) is from an animal that was;
- Antibiotic free;
- Steroid free,
- Raised on organic and GM free food, and;
- Not from a 4D animal (dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter).
Chewing on raw bones will definitely help to keep your dog’s teeth clean. But you do need to be careful what type of raw bone you give to your dog.
- Fresh, raw chicken neck bones, chicken wing bones and turkey neck bones are safe for dogs - dogs can chew and swallow these soft bones (do not give your dog bones from the other parts of a chicken as the bones are harder, prone to splintering and can cause damage to your dog as noted below);
- Hip and femur bones of large animals such as cattle and bison are great for your dog to chew on, but beware the cautions noted below.
Many dogs eat raw bones all their life and never have an issue. Dogs on raw food diets may eat raw bones on a daily basis. Having said that, bones can also pose health risks…
- Raw bones can lead to GI upset for dogs with very sensitive stomachs due to the rich marrow found in large animal bones. If your dog has a sensitive stomach make sure you remove the marrow first;
- GI upset can also occur due to Salmonella and E. coli, although the stronger acids in a dog's stomach are much better at fighting off such bad bacteria than a human can - however some dogs contract salmonella poisoning and some do die as a result;
- Chewing on bones too intensely can cause tooth fractures;
- Bone splinters can rip a dog’s stomach and/or intestines causing serious and sometimes lethal damage if swallowed - if you see that your dog is chipping and fragmenting the bone take the bone away, always make sure you pick up and discard the fragment.
- Don't give your dog cooked bones as cooking increases the fragility of the bone increasing the risk of splinters and fractures;
- Always be around to supervise when your dog is chewing bones.
Smoked, Natural Bones or Natural Chews
I do not recommend smoked, natural bones or natural chews for dogs to chew on. It's important to note:
- Chewing on these types of bones can cause tooth fractures;
- Bone splinters can rip a dog’s stomach and/or intestines causing serious and sometimes lethal damage if swallowed;
- Many smoked, natural bones or chews have food coloring, additives, and contain toxic ingredients that are harmful for your dog.
Dental Chew Toys
Some dental chew toys are really well designed - long lasting, have a perfect consistency to exercise teeth, jaw and gums and remove plaque and do not contain toxins - Kong dental chew toys are one such example. Don’t purchase dental chew toys from China as the plastic may be full of toxins and may also fall apart and become a choking hazard.
Dental chews are available at most pet supply stores, grocery stores etc. and on-line. Once again it is very important to look at the ingredients as many commonly stocked dental chews are chock full of ingredients that are seriously bad for your dog’s health. Remember don’t fall for advertising and labels read the ingredient list and know what ingredients to avoid. A truly good dental chew product consists of ingredients that are nutritional, fully digestible, and derived from 100% natural nutritive sources. While the products in the above photo look nice, most if not all, of them are not good for your dog!
The product you choose should not include any of the ingredients noted on the ‘to avoid’ list, but should instead be comprised - at minimum, of the following:
- Natural, safe abrasives for cleaning action;
- Nutritional ingredients including minerals and vitamins that support oral health.
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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld