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So What Can My Dog Really Chew On?

Posted 09.28.17 by Drew McWatters, DVM

I answer this questions on a daily basis with my clients. Appropriately directed chewing not only satisfies a dog’s desire to chew, but also serves as enrichment and can aid in the maintenance of good oral health. Though choosing what to allow your dog to chew on can be a daunting task. Every pet store is filled with dozens of options and you will find as many opinions as you will options. Here are some guidelines I use for my own dog and how I advise my clients:

1) EVERYTHING your dog chews on is a potential cause of esophageal or intestinal obstruction so CHEWS wisely (get it?). Your dog likely falls into 1 of 3 categories- dogs who like to chew responsibly, dogs who like to chew irresponsibly (bite off pieces the size of their head and then try to swallow them), or dogs who don’t like to chew anything. If your dog is in this third category, you have already wasted enough time on this article and should stop reading now. If your dog falls into the second category you should probably avoid chew treats and toys all together as your dog is at a high risk for obstruction. There is nothing magical about certain chew toys or treats that make your dog want to try to swallow them whole and choke on them. Your dog is either an irresponsible chewer or not. Don’t be fooled by savvy marketing touting “safer” chew toys or “indestructible” chew toys. All are potential hazards. Now, if your dog falls into the first category, you have some options. I personally like large rawhide bones or flat rawhide chews for my own dog and for my clients. Since they are made to be chewed up and swallowed there is a very low risk of obstruction. Even a responsible chewer will swallow small pieces of these chews so I want to choose something that should pass through uneventfully. Synthetic chews (anything made of a variety of plastics or other indigestible ingredients) are a high risk for obstruction, even if a smaller piece is swallowed. Livestock hooves, antlers, and real bones can be inadvertently swallowed and may be too hard to pass through the intestinal tract. In 8 1/2 years of practice I have removed a lot of things from the intestinal tracts of dogs (including many chew toys) yet I have never had to remove a rawhide.

2) Stick with NON-FLAVORED chews. The flavoring on chews can be messy when it becomes moistened by your dog’s saliva. Flavorings also contain extra calories that can contribute to weight gain in dogs who are trying to lose weight. Flavorings may also contain allergens that your dog may be allergic to.

3) Only buy MADE IN AMERICA chews. This has less to do with patriotism and more to do with quality control. Over the last few years, chews made in other countries have been contaminated with toxins that can hurt your dog. Treats made in The United States have been unaffected thus far. Be mindful that some treats may say “packaged in the USA” but were actually made in another country.

4) Always ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN before starting any new treats. Your vet will be able to advise you on what may or may not be appropriate for your dog. Rawhides are usually made of beef so dogs with a beef allergy should not chew them. Diabetic dogs should not chew anything that may raise their blood sugar during the day. Breeds prone to certain GI diseases will have restrictions on the types of chews they can use. Never assume a chew is right or wrong for your dog without speaking with your vet first.

Dr. Drew McWatters

The Pet Hospitals– Germantown

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