“What should I give my dog to chew?” a question often asked by owners. And since veterinarians are frequently faced with treating fractured teeth in dogs, it is an important question to answer properly.
Let’s start with a little history . . . Wolves adopted pack-living to hunt larger prey. Selective evolutionary pressures from this group hunting have created strong bones and muscles of the jaws in both wolves and dogs. However, wolves RARELY chew bones. Instead the muscles and jaw are used to the render the meat off the bones in a ripping and tearing motion. If a wolf is forced to chew bones it is usually due to starvation when it is actually trying to reach the marrow. In the wild, this is a risky situation, because if a wolf fractures a tooth the ability to hunt and defend is impeded.
What does all this mean for your dog? Like wolves, your dog was born with the tools to tear and chew, and she wants to use her tools! That’s why she often finds an outlet for this behavior on our furniture, shoes, remote controls, etc. So how do you decide what to give to yourdog?
Follow the “Knee Cap Rule” (by Dr. Hale, Veterinary Dentist). “If you would not want me to hit you in the knee cap with it, don’t let your dog chew on it!” And for very small dogs the rule is, “if you would not want me to hit them on the knee cap with it, do not let them chew on it.”
Within that rule, the following options are safe:
- CET Veggidents
- Rawhide Flips (we like CET brand)
- Dental Diets
- Greenies (caution, fattening!)
- Kong’s, filled and frozen.
Items NOT recommended include:
- Natural Meat Bones
- Nylon or hard plastic “bones” and toys
- Antlers (which are actually bone)
- Very large, hard. or braided rawhide bones
- Dried Cow Hooves
- Ice Cubes
An important point to remember is that the average lifespan of a wolf is only six years; at that age their enamel (the protective coating on teeth) is fragile and old. Therefore, as descendants of wolves, by the time you are getting your rambunctious retriever under control, her teeth are already old and more prone to fracture.
Using the “Knee Cap Rule” will help protect your dog’s teeth, even past the age of six. Remember though, no chew toy is 100% safe. Your dog can choke on ANYTHING. All chew toys and treats should be given under observation and taken away if needed.