The short answer...nothing is totally safe, but some are less dangerous than others. Here are some options and the pros and cons of them all:
Bully sticks: Considered probably the most safe of the edible chews, yet we do know of one dog who died due to an intestinal blockage from a bully stick.
Antlers: Considered one of the safest options as far as not something dogs will not tend to swallow, however the risk with antler is they are hard and may cause tooth fractures.
Hooves: These are too hard for dogs and are very likely to cause tooth fractures.
Rawhides: Least recommended of all chews. These bleached hides are full of toxic chemicals in addition to the high risk of intestinal blockages. Rawhides can rehydrate and expand inside of your dog’s stomach. How rawhide is made.
Baked or cooked bones: Not recommended at all due to risk of splintering. Bones that have been cooked tend to splinter off into sharp shards because of how dried out they’ve become. These sharp shards can cause intestinal perforation.
Toys : Nylabones, Kongs
These are all excellent chews, but must be supervised as these can also cause intestinal blockages. Both nylabones and kongs have landed many a dog in the ER for emergency surgery to remove them from the digestive tract. Stuffing kongs with food and freezing them can provide puppies and dogs with some good fun, but the chews should not be left unattended. Always remember to choose an appropriately sized toy - make sure it is larger than your dog’s face and mouth so it cannot be accidentally swallowed.
Kong stuffing suggestions: Pure peanut butter is too caloric to use repeatedly, so we recommend using a rehydrated powdered dog food such as Sojo’s or the Honest Kitchen. You may also mix peanut butter in with cooked oatmeal and pureed canned pumpkin to cut the calories. Pumpkin is great to firm up stools, so that’s another benefit. Canned food can even be used in Kongs as a nice treat. Kongs are a great way to get in your dog’s supplements. Mix in supplement with whatever stuffing! We recommend the working dogs direct complete supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties and joint protection.
Raw bones can be an excellent choice for giving your dog something to occupy their mind with (they’re also great natural toothbrushes), but there are a few concerns to keep in mind when selecting your bones. Not recommended - thick ‘weight bearing’ bones from large animals (such as: knuckle bones, beef leg bones, marrow bones, sliced femur bones, etc.) Thick bones like this are often found in pet stores and many grocery aisles have soup bones or marrow bones set out. These types of bones are popular but if you have a power chewer or a dog that tries to actually chew on the bone and not simply eat the marrow out, you risk a major tooth fracture. These bones are made to withstand the weight of huge cows, they’re simply too dense and hard for your dog’s teeth!
If you are going to feed bones, also make sure to use only raw, unenhanced (no added sodium!) edible bones that have not been machine cut. An example of machine cut bones are the split pork necks you see at the grocery store...Even though the pork bones themselves are not incredibly dense, the machine used to chop them into pieces leaves extremely sharp edges that if swallowed can cause damage. Some safe bone choices include chicken quarters (leg and thigh attached), whole or split chickens, pork ribs in slab form, turkey necks, duck necks, and other poultry bones.
Watch your dog closely when they first start eating bones. Dogs are not built like humans, they do not chew up everything carefully before swallowing, so a rip, tear, and swallow style is absolutely okay - don’t be alarmed if you see them swallow a huge chunk. That being said, try to pick bones that are appropriately sized for your dog. If you have a large breed dog, a GSD for example, bones such as chicken wings will likely just be swallowed whole. Though digestively this is okay, an overenthusiastic dog may choke...a larger cut such as a chicken quarter would be a better choice.
When looking at bones try to make sure you also do not feed ‘naked’ bones (bones that have no meat on them). Dogs can handle consuming bones entirely, but make sure they’ve still got meat attached to them or you will encounter some serious constipation. The meat also adds a bit of cushion and padding on the way down.
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