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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ask the Vet with Dr. Mark:
Safe Dog Chews

by Mark Nunez, DVM
© courtesy pattie74_99 via
Your Safest Chewing Toy: Kong

Dear Dr Nunez,
     My dog is a chewer. He has always enjoyed rawhides and pigs ears and anything tasty he can naw on for hours. I have been told that rawhides and pig ears have dangers. What about deer antlers and Bully sticks? No one I have asked seems to be sure if they are safe. Chet is important to me and he needs something to keep him busy while I work. What do you think?

A. Morton

In general, I recommend that my clients stay away from rawhides, pig ears, pig hooves, deer antlers, sterilized marrow bones, and bully sticks.  Most veterinarians follow along with this recommendation.  We are practicing defensive medicine (for the most part) by doing so.  If we say, “Sure, it’s fine to give your dog a rawhide chew,” and your dog ends up with an intestinal obstruction, we are afraid of a lawsuit.  Intestinal blockages are a problem for some dogs, but not all dogs. 

The most important question that must be answered when deciding what to give your dog to gnaw on is “is my dog a gulper?”  If your dog likes to swallow things as quickly as possible and in large pieces, you really need to be careful with what you give him.  Even “good” chew toys can be a problem for these types of dogs.  Dogs can very easily swallow things that are too large to pass through their intestinal tracts.  A dogs’ stomach is very acidic and can breakdown lots of things that our stomachs cannot, but they can’t break everything down. 

The best rawhide chews are C.E.T. Hextra Dog Chews.  They are much less likely to cause intestinal issues and they contain Chlorhexidine, which is an oral antisepitic that helps to control dental disease (the most common disease my patients have). 

What I usually recommend for my clients are Kong toys (there are MANY shapes and sizes) to keep their dog busy chewing.  These can be stuffed with food, frozen, and given to your dog at times when you want to keep him busy.  If you do this, be sure to decrease the amount of food that you put in his bowl.  You can also rub a LITTLE BIT of peanut butter inside to get him interested.  There are different colored Kongs.  The red ones are the softest and can be destroyed by dogs with strong jaws.  There is a potential for intestinal obstruction in this case.  Next are the black Kongs, and the hardest are the blue ones.  I have yet to see a dog be able to totally destroy the black ones, but I’m sure they are out there.  There are also MANY rubberized chew toys made by various companies that will not only keep your dog busy and satisfy his need to chew, but they are specifically designed to help clean his teeth.

C.E.T. VeggieDent are great chew treats that are made to clean teeth.  VeggieDents are like a cross between Greenies and Listerine.  They get consumed quickly, so they are not a good option to keep your dog busy.  However, they are one of the best options for cleaning your dogs’ teeth.

Nylabones work well.  You can drill holes in them and rub peanut butter on them to get your dog interested.  Nylabones can be hard on their teeth, so use these with caution. 

The item you really want to stay away from is the sterilized marrow bone.  These are the hollow white bones that are so hard you could probably demolish a house with one.  These are the most common cause of slab fractures in the teeth of dogs. 

The bottom line here is to be careful and always supervise your dog while allowing him to chew on things.  When whatever chew toy is getting down to the size that he may be able to swallow it whole, it is time to throw it out and get a new one.  Thanks for the question!

Dr. Mark
© courtesy M.N.
Dr. Nunez is a practicing veterinarian while also assisting patients through The Balanced Canine blog and his own online veterinary pharmacyHave a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to You can also follow Mark on Twitter.

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Unknown said...

These are all great tips. I have 6 dogs of my own and 1 foster doxie. I never know what to give them to chew on as they all have different "styles" of chewing. I've heard a lot about Kong Toys and I think that's where I'm headed with my crew. Thanks for the useful info.


Dawn said...

Awesome advice! Sephi and Maya are 'gulpers' so they can't have rawhides, pig ears, etc. I admit that I have given them the hard marrow bones but they are not the sterilized kind. They are smoked or dried in some way and still have a bit of stuff on them and the marrow in them. Are these okay? My dogs aren't able to chew these up or break them. They just gnaw on them from time to time.

Dog Walker Bristol said...

Good post, rawhides can be really dangerous and should not be given unsupervised. Can't beat the trusty kongs in my opinion!

Kitty H. said...

I have a Jack Russell and he has chewed the tops off of 2 kongs, one red and one blue. He has destroyed almost every toy we have given him, including the ones that say indestructible. I do give him the deer antlers because he chews them and it keeps him busy. He only chews the marrow out of them and does not chew the outside.

Anonymous said...

My 13 pound dog has been able to slowly but surely "eat" the Nylabone ... I do not think these are good at all.

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