What You Need to Know About Dog Bones

What You Need to Know About Dog Bones

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Dogs need to chew. It helps clean teeth, serves as exercise and an outlet for energy, reduces stress and is just plain satisfying for the dog. In trying to meet that need, you’ll find a wide array of toys and chews at your local store. Before you try to match Fido to their new treat, though, here are some things to consider.

Don’t choose something so hard that your dog could break their teeth on it. Sterilized bones and certain hard plastic toys fall into this ‘too-hard’ category, as do many natural chews including antlers, animal hooves, and beef bones. Cooking and sterilizing a bone makes it harder, so some vets believe that it’s perfectly fine to give your dog a raw, uncooked beef or pork bone with dried scraps on it as long as you take it away when the edible parts are gone. These hard chews also have the problem of being mostly indigestible, and in fact may splinter, causing danger to the digestive track.

Speaking of the digestive track, be wary of the potential for blockages. Some dogs can make quick work of a chew, tearing it apart in pieces and swallowing them whole where they could be a choking hazard or cause serious stomach or intestinal irritation. For example, many of the rawhide knot chews are not a single strip of tied rawhide, but rather a central roll with ‘knots’ added to the ends that can be easily swallowed as a single piece. Rawhide in general is very difficult to digest, so if you see that your dog has worked off one of these ends you should pick it up and throw it away. That goes the same for any piece of bone or chew toy that your dog has broken off. Another potential problem with rawhide is that many of those products are treated with potentially harmful chemicals, so check the labels or ask your vet if he likes a particular brand. A lot of dogs do just fine with them, thus their popularity.

Lastly, don’t overlook the possibility of contamination. Many brands of jerky have been recalled over the years but have been found to still be on store shelves. Be aware of product recalls. Here’s a link to the Food and Drug Administrations archives:

So what does that leave?

–Most chews that have some flexibility or ‘give’ when they’re chewed.

–Uncooked Beef or pork bones that you take away once the tasty pieces have been removed. Watch out for ribs, though, they sometimes splinter.

–Soft, non-edible chew toys, especially those that can be stuffed or lined with food, such as Kongs. I like to use peanut butter or a thin layer of cheese. Hard rubber chews such as Nyla-bones are also generally safe chews. Like most chews, dogs can occasionally break off small pieces and these pieces need to be picked up and thrown away before they might be swallowed.

–Edible parts of animals such as aortas, pigs ears, beef tracheas, tendons, gullets, tripe, and the currently popular ‘bully sticks’ (bull penises; tasty to the dog, but expensive and they smell bad).

–Flavored dental chews like ‘Greenies’ or ‘N-bones,’ although they are expensive and don’t last very long.

–Rawhide chews, although controversial, might be just fine for your dog, but be aware of the risks. They are cheap and dogs love them but too much rawhide is not good as it is said not to be fully digestible and can clog up their intestines.

–Himalayan dog chews are also popular right now. They are a hardened chew made from Yak and cow milk, and smell a little like cheese. They are advertised as being completely digestible. They are a little expensive, though, and be aware that they break off into hard, angular pieces so you still need to monitor your dog.

Always monitor your pet and its chew. Watch for choking hazards, stoppages and potential after-effects like upset stomach or diarrhea.