In the shop there is much discussion regarding what is appropriate and safe to give your dog as a chew. We don’t believe that there is a black and white answer to this one but thought it would be handy to provide a guide to some of the most discussed items we provide in the shop and their pros and cons to allow our customers to make a balanced and informed choice about what they give to their dogs.
KONG TOYS (or other durable treat dispensing toys)
To Chews: We usually recommend these as being the safest, most versatile chew toys around. If you are worried about the risks associated with any of the other chew toys / edible chews below then stick with this option and you generally can’t go wrong. The Classic Kongs are great to stuff and can keep your dog occupied for hours. We often recommend these as safe for leaving your dog with unsupervised so they can be good to give to dogs if you are popping out without them for an hour or two and they can be a useful tool if you are working on a programme to alleviate mild separation anxiety.
Some dogs need a bit of encouragement to relish the Kong challenge and it is all about being inventive and experimenting with the stuffing (starting with something that is relatively easy for your dog to get out).
Our top tip is to give your dog some of their meals from the Kong. This means they will be more stimulated at meal times and you will not be over treating them with too many other goodies but there are LOTS of ideas for stuffing a Kong.
Not to Chews: We don’t really have any cons for the Kong Toys. It is important to make sure you select a size appropriate for your breed (if you go too small there is a choking hazard) and also for the really aggressive chewers you may want to opt for a Black (Extreme) Kong which is even tougher than the usual Classic Red Kong.
As mentioned above, dogs that are not used to Kongs may need gradual introduction to get them interested in the Kong – use easy-to-destuff, very tasty fillings first to teach them how it works before increasing difficulty.
We have a wide range of Kong Toys available in our Edinburgh store and also via our website.
NYLABONES OR SIMILAR
Nylabones are bone shaped nylon non-edible chew bones and these are also popular in the shop for a safe chew toy.
To Chews: There is no risk of large pieces coming off these bones so they are an unlikely choking hazard and they are very long lasting, clean and good if your dog has allergies or is watching their weight.
Not to Chews: Some Dental Vet Specialists do not recommend using these types of toys as there have been some reported cases of tooth fractures which have been attributed to the use of nylabones. Others argue that providing your dog is not extremely aggressive with their chewing on these bones and that you don’t allow them to chew on them for very prolonged periods that the risk is minimal and that it is better that they chew on this than on something less safe.
Some dogs are not as interested in nylabones as they have to work extremely hard to wear them down and so they lose interest quickly.
Rawhide chews are a long standing, traditional chew that is often given to dogs to keep them occupied. The main range of rawhide we stock in the shop is untreated, natural beef hide from Argentina.
To Chews: Rawhide is often a very popular chew. It is low in fat and relatively long lasting and most dogs enjoy it. It is also often reported as being good for dental health. Because these often come with a flavoured coating and come in a variety of shapes and sizes this can make them a more interesting chew toy for some dogs.
Not to Chews: Every dog is different with which type of chew works best for them. If your dog has a sensitivity (to beef for example) then these may not be the chews for them. We would ALWAYS recommend supervising your dog if you choose to give them hide chews. If they are a greedy eater/ gulper there is a risk that they will break off a large piece and if they try to swallow it whole there could be a choking or obstruction hazard. We do give our own dogs hide but we always make sure we supervise them closely whilst they eat it. Whilst some vets recommend hide over the likes of the harder bones/stagbars as they are softer some dental vets also still argue that even hide can present a smaller risk of chipping/cracking a tooth and this is something to also be aware of.
We would also recommend selecting high quality, untreated hide. Some hide chews (particularly those sourced from China) can be treated with chemicals and are of poorer quality than the truly natural, untreated versions.
BONES (including sterilised marrow bones and filled hoofs):
To Chews: Uncooked bones are often requested at the shop. Raw meaty bones are regarded as the safest option (and sometimes the local butcher may be accommodating enough to help you out for free). Many dog owners who regularly give uncooked bones give glowing reports of how well they clean their dogs teeth. Those that are advocates of feeding bones also argue that there is a risk of choking from any toy or treat and that it is all about choosing an appropriate size and supervising carefully and removing when it becomes small enough to swallow whole.
Not to Chews: Whatever you decide about bones we say NEVER give your dog cooked / roast bones. These become brittle and splinter very easily and there are many more reports of injury as a result of cooked bones than any other.
For raw/ suitably air dried bones then you need to weigh up the pros with the risk of choking, obstruction or blockage should your dog manage to chew a larger piece off the bone and try to swallow it whole. If you are feeding uncooked bones we would ALWAYS recommend supervising your dog carefully. The harder bones such as the sterilised marrowbones carry a greater risk of tooth fractures due to their dense nature.
To Chews : When Stagbars (Deer Antlers) were first introduced to the market they received a huge amount of positive praise: extremely long lasting and very safe as they don’t splinter or present a choking hazard like some edible chews and bones. They are also good for dogs with tummy sensitivities. There are many reports of them being good for keeping teeth plaque free too as they seem to grind the plaque off the teeth as they are gnawed on. Some of our customers opt for the more marrow dense deer antlers (with a bigger honeycomb like centre and less dense outer bone shell). Whilst these don’t tend to last as long as some of the darker denser bones they are a bit softer on the teeth and tend to be a bit more flavoursome. They proved very popular in our Edinburgh Store. Roots are a dog chew made from the tuber of the root of a tree and are similar to the Stagbar in terms of their toughness and lack of splintering.
Not to Chews: Recently Deer Antlers have featured a lot in the Veterinary Press, particular with Dental Specialists. There have been reports of an increase in the number of dental fractures being seen as a result of the use of Stagbars. Because they are extremely hard if a dog has weak teeth, is extremely aggressive with their chewing or chews on them for prolonged periods regularly this appears to be presenting an increase risk of broken teeth.
Initially we decided that we would no longer stock Deer Antlers as a result of these findings. However after running down our stocks we started getting customers requesting them again, commenting that their dogs had been using the for a long time without a problem and they would rather give the stagbars than have their dogs chew on a more dangerous household object when they were not there . Some customers asked to be allowed to make their own choice on whether to give them to their dog or not. So we have chosen to hold these in stock but make sure our customers are aware of these risks to allow them to make an informed choice.
We have attached a link to the Dental Vet article to allow you to read this in full and make your own decision as to what you feel is appropriate for your dog.
This article from a reputable holistic vet provides an argument for using these sorts of chews but with care and supervision. They argue that they see more problems as a result of chewing on inappropriate items (furniture, chewing stones or sticks) and if this can deter a dog from chewing on these things then it is arguably a better alternative:
PIZZLE/BULLY STICKS (OR SIMILAR CHEW PRODUCTS SUCH AS PIGS EARS)
Pizzles (sometimes called Bully Sticks) are Bulls' Penis parts (sorry no nice way of saying it). They are a 100% natural alternative to rawhide chews. They are lower in fat, high in protein and fully digestible.
To Chews: They are often described as a safer alternative to rawhide for puppies as they are generally easier to digest (although we do still recommend that you supervise when they are being eaten). Bulls' Pizzles can aid in keeping gums healthy, removing tartar and can help clean teeth if used regularly. As always though we do like to remind dog owners that nothing beats teeth brushing.
Not to Chews: Whilst Bulls' Pizzles are unlikely to cause a tooth fracture they can still present a choking hazard and we would always recommend supervising and not giving them to a “gulper”.
Some detractors from Pizzles (or other natural dried animal products) argue that with them being a natural product they can contain bacteria. It is true that there would be a risk of bacteria on a Pizzle but dogs' digestion is very different to our own and they tend to be able to cope with this better than we would (as also argued by raw feeders).
We hope we have not muddied the waters with the information in this article but fingers crossed it serves as a useful guide and allows you to make a clearer and informed choice about what you feel is appropriate to allow your dog to chew on.