Things to Consider When Picking a Dog Chew

Many dogs have a natural instinct to chew.

Since the right chew can help them keep their teeth clean, it’s not a bad thing. But not all chews are healthy or safe, so research and knowledge of your dog’s chewing habits are definitely in order. Here are some things to ponder:

Chew Strength

Not all dogs chew the same. Though large breeds can be powerful chewers, so can small breeds. And two dogs of the same breed can have very different chewing habits. In other words, your dog is an individual and the best way to find out if he’s a power chewer, a soft chewer or somewhere in between, is by observing him. Once you figure out whether your dog destroys everything he puts his mouth on or if he’d rather just gently hold something in his mouth, you’ll know where to start looking. Avoid hard chews like antlers for power chewers because they may bite down hard enough to break teeth.

Ingredients Matter

Treat your dog’s chew with the same scrutiny as you would his diet—after all he’ll be putting it in his mouth and often ingesting it. For edible chews, look for quality, whole food ingredients free of chemicals and synthetic ingredients. There are many dental chews out there specifically designed to clean teeth. However, some of these chews may not have the best ingredients. Read those labels and keep vigilant. Non-edible chews should be nontoxic and durable—consider natural rubber chews. If your dog has allergies, avoid those allergens in his chews.

The Way of Raw Bone

Feeding your dog a raw recreational bone to chew on can be a great way to help keep his teeth clean, offer some added nutrients, and help him satisfy his chewing instinct with something he’d chew in the wild. There are some considerations to keep in mind when feeding raw bones. First, always monitor your pet. Second, again, finding the right size and density of bone for your dog is important. Third, try and contain him in a “safe zone” like the kitchen because things can get messy. Do plenty of research before considering feeding a raw bone. Some quality pet brands offer recreational raw bones for chewing. Feed hormone—and antibiotic-free, or organic, bones whenever possible.

Be Careful with Natural Chews

There are many natural chews out on the market, including pig and cow ears, elk and deer antlers, beef trachea, bully sticks, etc. Just because they are natural does not mean they will work for your dog’s chewing habits or that they are healthy. Find out if and how they are processed. Do they use bleach to clean the chew or simply water? Are the animals injected with hormones or antibiotics throughout their lives? Are they grass fed? Look for non-irradiated, minimally processed chews without chemicals, additives, hormones or antibiotics, bleaching, or other harsh processing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Toss Chews

Depending on the type of chew, make sure to throw it away when necessary. For inedible chews, this is when the chew is starting to get worn down and there is a danger of pieces being swallowed by your pet. Raw bones should be tossed after your dog’s chewing session is over. While many natural chews will most likely be eaten by your dog right away, don’t keep them around if they’re not. Antlers will last longer than the rest, but you’ll want to inspect them for jagged edges and other dangers before each session.

Observe Your Pet

No matter which chew or chews you go with, watch your pet while he’s chewing it as well as after. Watch for signs of digestive distress, including loose stool and gas. If he starts itching, consider the possibility that it’s the chew. When feeding a new chew, don’t make too many other changes in your dog’s diet or routine so that you can monitor your pet’s reaction to the chew.

Not all chews are created equal. Finding a safe and healthy chew for your individual dog’s needs may take a little legwork and research, but your dog will thank you for it in the long run.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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