Dogs enjoy chewing, be it the furniture, shoes or anything in between. Dog chews are a great substitute, but not all of them are safe. Rawhides or Nylabones, for example, can sometimes be very dangerous.
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Buy dog chews from companies that manufacture strong rubber toys which will be more are durable and safe for dogs. KONG or West Paw are good examples. Alternatively, you can also try dental chews. With most of these products, you will still need to keep an eye on your pet, whether it's a safe or unsafe chew toys.
What Makes a Safe Chew Toy for Dogs?
Veterinarians observed that dog chews and toys are among the most common things dogs choke on, as they often have pet owners coming it, having to surgically remove a chew.
Soft, but durable. Even though it is a soft dog toy, your pet should not be able to shred it to pieces with the stuffing falling out and parts of the toy coming off of it, which can then be swallowed by the dog.
Not too hard. This is especially important for small dogs or puppies. The thumbnail test is a reliable method: if the chew toy fails to “give” a bit when pressed, then it may be too hard for your small dog, and they risk breaking their teeth on it.
Avoid coating. No dog toy should be coated with flavors or other artificial things, some of which are there to “appeal to the dog.” All these things cause digestive upsets.
Shape and size. Not too small that the dog can choke on it. It should not be shaped so the dog’s tongue or muzzle gets trapped in it. The toy must be bigger than your dog’s mouth so as not to become a choking hazard. This is especially true for dogs playing or running around with toys in their mouths (like tennis balls). Bare this in mind when you look for the best puppy toys also.
Washable. Toys should be able to be washed to keep them clean and disinfected and fortunately, most of them will be.
Entertainment value. The toy should distract your dog and provide hours of chewing pleasure. Some dog chew toys have extra benefits such as offering mental stimulation (puzzle toys) or keeping a dog's teeth clean.
Avoid Some Specific Dog Chews and Toys
Always supervise your dog when they're testing a new chew toy. As soon as you are worried about it, take it away and try another. Studies have shown that some unsafe dog toys expose canines to harmful substances like E.coli or Salmonella, especially with rawhide chews. Some rawhide products also have arsenic or melamine in them.
Avoid rope toys for dogs. They are not favored by the medical professionals because most dogs shred them and they end up in the intestinal tract and a dog's stomach, often with a risk of surgery and even death.
Pay attention if you notice blood on your pet's toy or in the space where they’ve been chewing it. Look out for signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, appetite loss, or disinterest in playing after you introduce a new chew toy.
What to Consider When Shopping for Dog Chews
Consider the source. It's always better to select American manufacturers because of the best cost-to-value ratio with minimum risk. You can also choose among chews made in EU or Canada, but they're likely to be more expensive. The best dog chews are made from organic, natural and BPA free materials, and ideally are also eco-friendly.
Consider the ingredients. This is especially important for edible chews. Check if large discernible bits are seen in your pet's stools. It could have been poorly digested, but note that this can occur with tough, fibrous, dehydrated veggies as well. Check biscuit-style chews because they could be the source of unintended gluten or GMO-laden food. These can irritate a dog's bowel and wreak havoc on their immune system.
Looks can be deceiving. Avoid chemically processed stuff that may look more appealing to you (not your dog). For example, rawhides aren’t so raw and might have been bleached or processed to make them look clean and attractive for humans. Those natural brown/tan bully sticks that don’t smell so delightful to you? They are better and healthier for the dog.
Quality rubber chews. The best stuff is not PVC-laden vinyl dog chews, while those fiberglass-covered tennis balls can wear a dog’s teeth flat, contributing to lip fold dermatitis. Rope pull toys have toxic dyes and can get entangled in a dog's intestines if swallowed during playtime.
Always supervise. No matter the safety of chew toys, you must always monitor your dog when they're chewing on something, especially if it's a new chew/toy.
What Chews Do Veterinarians Recommend?
Some dog chews are known to be safer than others, and vet recommended chews below are likely your best options.
1. Natural Antler Chews
Processed bones for dogs are generally discouraged by vets, but antler chews like the Premium Elk Antlers ($18.97) from Devil Dog Pet Co are made from naturally shed deer antlers. That makes them cruelty-free and environmentally friendly. Antler chews are safe for dogs, but only with proper supervision. They have also been shown in studies to be extremely effective at cleaning dogs' teeth.
2. Dental Dog Treats
Most dental dog chews are durable because they need to last long enough to clean teeth. Quality ones like Greenies ($24.58) will double up like dog toys, holding a dog’s attention for long periods of time while cleaning their teeth. As noted in our review, they were once frowned upon by the veterinarian community but after most underwent reformulation, they are now safer and easier for dogs to digest.
3. Puzzle Toys for Dogs
Puzzle toys will keep dogs occupied for a long time and provide them with mental stimulation. Dog toys designed by Nina Ottosson, some of which we've reviewed before, are currently the best choice available on the market. Some are particularly well-designed like this Outward Hound ($14.36) which provides several challenges for the dog and rewards them with a treat when that's solved.
Every day veterinarians see problems and injuries related to some innocuous dog chew. Be more careful about what you pick to prevent your dog from suffering cracked teeth or having to undergo a surgery for a digestive obstruction due to some wrong dog chew choice.