What's a Dog to Chew?
For years dogs chewed bones. They scavenged from garbage, farm sites and ate whatever scraps they were given. However, more recently as dogs have transitioned from rural workers and farm tools to beloved members of the family, what they eat has changed.
While this is not the place for a discussion on what are healthy choices for pet food, whether it is raw, homecooked, dehydrated, canned or kibble, most diets don't afford pets the chewing opportunities they need to keep from eating the leather ottoman.
To assauge this need, most doggie dieticians add items to provide those chewing options.
- Rawhides. This traditional treat can easily be purchased at most grocery and pet food stores. Dogs have eaten them for generations, either purchased or scavenged. Some raw hides are made of compressed bits of raw hide while others are large pieces of hide dried and rolled or cut into shapes. Rawhides can be flavored and are well liked by most dogs.
- Raw meaty bones. All dogs enjoy raw bones, whether chewing on the sinew and marrow enclosed in a bone or tear at the meat left behind in the butchering process. Often times large dogs will grind their teeth again a bone, scraping off particles of calcium and swallowing them.
- Deer and elk antlers. This naturally renewable, humane treat is harvested from the woods, after the host animal sheds. It is then cleaned disinfected and cut into various size pieces. The pieces are not universally received by dogs and can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to find.
- Dried trachea or lung slices. These items may be made or purchased in specialty pet shops. However their high protein content may be difficult for pets with sensitive stomachs. These treats also can be expensive and hard to make at home. Even those dedicated pet home cookers may have trouble tracking down all the parts that are required to make a dog happy.
- Animal hooves. Cheap and relatively easy to find, these treats seem to be favored by some dogs, while not by others.
- Biscuit-type treats. These cookie type treats are made of grain bases with a variety of artificial and/or natural flavoring and coloring.
But each of these treats come with their own pros and cons. So what is the responsible dog guardian to do? First examine the issues connected with each treat and assess the likelihood these issues will arise in the case of your dog.
A dog living solo with his human family is less likely to experience resource guarding and aggression if given a high value treat than a dog that lives in a multi-canine household.
Another issue to be considered is the active nature of each dog's chewing response. In our four-canine household, a second-smallest, a lab-mix is what we term our "power chewer." Bones that are long ago discarded by two rottweilers are ground to dust by this 50-pound wonder.
Does your dog choose to take his bones and bury them? Dirt makes a difference in chews that will rot or become wet and smelly. And the most offensive the item becomes to a human, the most attractive to it's doggy owner.
Also consider your dog's digestive issues. A senior dog may find high protein items lead to diarrhea or vomiting. Items like hooves also come with the dual concern of generating high gas, smell awful to humans when wet and may become so small that they pose a choking risk.
But along with these risks, keep in mind that some vets believe rawhides can come from questionable sources, such as diseased cattle, treated with chemicals to sanitize or flavor them; or may be remnants from foreign suppliers. Additionally, there can be a concern that dogs who are given rawhides frequently may not be able to pass them through their gastric track, creating an obstruction which must be removed surgically.
For years dog owners have been split over raw bones. Those who support the natural chews claim they provide teeth cleaning, calcium support and satisfying exercise. Those who question these items say they are concerned over sharp bone fragments which might perforate any soft tissue, become so small they might cause a choke risk or transmit salmonella or e. coli bacteria to either dogs or their human families.
Hooves can also transmit illness, not to mention stomach upset, create flatulence and may be small enough to swallow whole. Those sharp pieces may sit undigested in the stomach or become trapped in the intestine, creating the need for veterinary intervention.
And there are even problems with the newest items in the line up. A an x-ray currently making the rounds on the internet shows a side profile of the head and throat of a dog with an elk antler logged in his throat. After serious choking, the dog's vet was able to find the obstruction and remove it.
So what's a responsible dog owner to do?
Make good choices. Purchase only American-made chews with natural ingredients. Avoid fillers, bleaches or disinfectants. When purchasing multi-ingredient treats, stick with the smallest number needed. Homemade is best.
Monitor the amount of chew treat your dog consumes. Too much is never good, regardless of the reason. And watch your dog's bathroom habits to make sure no obstruction occurs.
Also watch the size of the treat as your dog chews. Remove and discard any item that might be small enough to be swallowed. When in doubt, discard.
And with some close monitoring, safe choices and a little love, may your dog enjoy a long life of happy chewing.
Before offering chews, do your homework
- Rawhide Bones and Treats for Dogs: Risks and Benefits
You might have heard that rawhide is good for your dog’s teeth and helps with his natural instinct to chew. But are there any drawbacks to giving your dog rawhide treats? WebMD tells you what you need to know about rawhide.
- The Dangers of Rawhide Dog Chew Toys | The Bark
“I never buy at Wal-Mart, I only buy organic and nothing from China, ever!” This is how Danielle Devereux, whose German Shepherd Sammy is a ravenous consumer of snacks, describes her treat-buying strategy. Sammy prefers his rawhide toys soaked in war
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