I posted a picture on Joyful Dogs of Michigan’s Facebook page and it got a lot of attention. The picture was of a 1-year old dog that had died by choking on a piece of rawhide. And that had a lot of people asking “Is it safe for my dog?” And the question wasn’t just about rawhide. That picture had people questioning just about every chew available. Is it safe for my dog is now the number one question I’m being asked.
Please be aware these are just my observations over the years. I am not a vet and I am not affiliated or compensated by any dog treat/toy manufacturer.
You may also want to read Foods that are bad for dogs.
Is it safe for my dog? Rawhide/Beef hide
Rawhide treats come from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. During manufacturing, the hides are cleaned and cut or ground. Then they’re pressed into chewable dog treats of different shapes and sizes. To make them more appealing for dogs, some rawhide treats contain beef, chicken, or liver flavorings.
United Pet Group put out a recall on their rawhide products that were processed abroad using cleaning chemicals banned in the USA! And Castor Pollux, a huge supplier of dog chewing products in America, states that their rawhide chews are made from 100% US beef. Yet they tell customers that they should also “wash hands with warm water and soap after handling.” This certainly doesn’t sound entirely safe to me.
In addition to recalls and banned chemicals used in manufacturing, there are other considerations with rawhide:
As with pet toys, rawhide chews can contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. And, as with other pet (or human) foods, Salmonella or E. coli contamination is possible. Even humans can be at risk when coming into contact with these bacteria on rawhide treats.
Digestive irritation.Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture. This can cause problems, including diarrhea.
Choking or blockages.
Rawhide bones and other edible chews can pose a choking and blockage risk. In fact, this is a much bigger risk than contamination or digestive irritation. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Depending on its size and where it is located, a vet may be able to remove these pieces fairly easily through the throat. But sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.
When it comes to rawhide and beef hide my answer to “Is it safe for my dog?” is no.
Is it safe for my dog?Marrow bones
Bone marrow is yellow/red substance contained in the center of long bones. Dogs naturally love to eat bones and it’s good for healthy teeth and helps strengthen gums and teeth. Chewing bones helps to scrape the plaque and tartar off the teeth and it can help prevent and also treat gum-related diseases.
The downside to marrow bones cannot be disregarded however. There are some serious risks to allowing your dog to chew marrow bones.
Pancreatitis, a potentially fatal condition, can be caused by fatty foods like marrow bones. Old and overweight dogs are particularly susceptible but any dog can develop the condition.
Diarrhea is another possible result of chewing marrow bones. You can lessen the possibility of diarrhea by removing some of the marrow from new marrow bones.
Accidents with marrow bones are not at all uncommon
The most likely is that the bone will slip over the jaw of the dog and become caught behind the teeth of the lower jaw. If that happens it’s impossible to simply slip the bone back off. This is a frightening thing for the dog and can result in further injury as the dog struggles to remove the bone. You can also be bitten trying to help your dog as he’s panicked and chomping to try to get rid of this thing stuck in his mouth.
Removal almost always requires a trip to the vet for sedation so the bone can be safely sawed in two and removed. This, of course, risks complications from anesthesia and the expense incurred is definitely no fun!
When asked “Is it safe for my dog” about marrow bones I a very specific response. You can give you dog a marrow bone if it is large enough to slip easily over the jaws and teeth.
A very small dog can have a much larger marrow bone. Big dogs need huge marrow bones. I never allow my dogs to have marrow bones that can’t simply fall out over their teeth and jaws. And I supervise them while they have marrow bones.
Commercially prepared bones
Other commercially prepared bone treats are, in my opinion, just as likely to cause serious problems. In 2015, the FDA received 35 reports of dogs suffering from a variety of conditions related to commercially available bone treat products
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- Cuts in the mouth or on tonsils
- Rectal bleeding
- Death (in the case of eight of the dogs)
The companies that produce these bone treats often dry these products through smoking or baking and add preservatives, seasoning, or smoke flavoring.
So, my answer to commercially produced bone treats is “No.”
Purchase uncooked bones from a butcher. You won’t have to worry about preservatives and other chemicals and they don’t splinter the way prepared bones do. Is it safe for my dog?If it’s from a local butcher, yes.
The popularity of antlers (usually deer or elk) has made them harder to obtain. They can be very expensive and some companies are now importing them. This means that chemicals banned here may be used in preparing antlers overseas which are then shipped to the United States.
Many people have complained that their dogs have fractured teeth chewing on these hard antlers. There is enough anecdotal evidence, in my opinion, to agree.
I know a lot of people believe that chewing Nyla bones can cause tooth fracture. But these bones come in a variety of densities so you should be able to find one that isn’t too hard. Nyla bone makes puppy chews that would be suitable for non-power chewers. Be sure to keep an eye on the bones and throw out any that are worn down at the ends or have sharp splinters sticking up. So, is it safe for my dog? If you are careful to monitor the wear on a Nyla bone I would say yes.
So, what kinds of chew toys do I recommend?I prefer, as stated above, bones from a butcher. I also like Kong toys as they can be stuffed with treats, are made for puppies through power chewers and are readily available. Check out toys that are rubber but not too hard. They hold up well but don’t hurt the teeth. Don’t get soft rubber toys as they can easily be torn apart and pieces swallowed.
I also like puzzle treat dispensers. You have to read the description of each puzzle carefully and definitely read reviews. There are a lot of puzzle toys out there and not all are as good as others. But the right puzzle can keep your dog occupied and happy for a long time.
And don’t forget that the very best toy for your dog is time spent playing with you!