Those Teeth Were Made For Chewing: Best Chews For Dogs
By Amber Keiper
Your dog’s mouth is her most utilized tool. She uses it for eating, playing tug of war, grabbing her favorite plush toy, and to show her emotions. So you can see that keeping your dog’s mouth healthy and clean is very important.
Chewing is a way for your dog to keep her teeth clean and her bite strong. It also encourages mental stimulation as your dog “works” around a delicious raw bone or fun chew toy. Providing your pooch with a healthy and safe chew will allow her to do all of this while hopefully keeping your favorite shoes from being ruined.
Best Chews For Dogs
Raw bones are what our dogs naturally seek out for their nutritional and recreational needs. Bones provide a wonderful source of protein, essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes for your pet. When your dog chews on a raw bone, she also enjoys the benefit of having her gums massaged and her teeth scraped clean, preventing tartar buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay. As Dr. Ian Billinghurst so aptly puts it, “Bones are Nature’s toothbrush for dogs.”
It’s important that we address the common misconception that most pet owners have about bones. Many people believe that bones are dangerous and should not be fed to our dogs. This misguided notion stems from the age-old practice of feeding dogs table-scraps:
In the old days, before the development of commercial pet food, families were accustomed to giving their dogs the leftovers from their meals. (Dogs fed this way, by the way, were much healthier than most of the pets we see today because their meals consisted of whole food ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and animal carcasses.) The problem however was when people gave cooked leftovers to their pets i.e. cooked bones, which were brittle and therefore splintered easily, causing injury to the animal. Thus the stigma of bones being dangerous to feed began.
Fortunately, savvy pet parents that understand the value of bones in their pet’s diet know that bones are safe to feed as long as:
- They are fed raw (NOT cooked)
- They are large enough that your pet cannot swallow them whole
- They come from young animals so they’re not too hard on your pet’s teeth
Another great chew for dogs are antlers. They’re not as messy as raw bones and tend to last longer too, especially with aggressive chewers. Antlers contain marrow chock full of essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and zinc.
However, not all antler chews are created equal. Some are sourced from antlers that are shed in the wild and can be contaminated with a variety of different impurities. The animal could have had a disease or the antlers could have been left out in the elements long enough to cause them to lose their nutritional value and moisture content, causing them to harden. This is especially common with deer antler, which can have a “jawbreaker” effect on your pet’s teeth.
When looking for a good antler chew, opt for elk antler instead of deer antler. Make sure they are raised in a safe, controlled environment free of chemicals. Ranch-raised elk should be tested regularly for diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease and tuberculosis in order to ensure a healthy and safe form of exercise for your dog.
For older dogs, puppies and those with bad teeth, it is recommended to feed them antlers that have been split in half so that it’s easier on their teeth. This will minimize the risk of teeth becoming damaged or broken.
Amber Keiper is the Marketing Coordinator and Raw Pet Food Specialist for BARF World Inc. She is “mom” to two animal rescues - a spoiled Havanese mix named Chewy and a sassy tabby mix named Chiquita. For more holistic pet health, nutrition and wellness tips, go to barfworld.com or sign up for the FREE weekly newsletter, The Intelligent Pet.
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