Dr. Karen Becker of Healthy Pets by Mercola shares tips on how to select the right (and safe) bone or chew for your dog
How to Select Non-Toxic Bones and Chews
Whether a bone or chew is potentially toxic has to do with the country of origin, the source of the product, and how it was processed. You’ll want to look for “Made in the USA” labels on packaging, or feel comfortable about where the product was sourced, for example, from free-range herds out of New Zealand or Canada.
How to Select Bones or Chews That Are a Good Fit for Your Dog
Does the size of the recreational bone or chew present a potential choking hazard or intestinal obstruction? If a piece of bone breaks off and your dog swallows it, could it get stuck somewhere in the GI tract?
With regard to the consistency of the product – its density or hardness – you need to consider the health of your dog’s teeth and gums.
You’ll also want to think about the ingredients in the bone or chew. What nutrients does it provide? Does it contain additives? Does it potentially contain opportunistic pathogens that could pose a threat to your pet’s health? For example, some bones are naturally high in fat, so you wouldn’t want to offer those bones to a pet with a history of pancreatitis.
Gnawing and repetitive grinding are the chewing actions that wear down plaque and tartar on teeth, which means big recreational bones or chews that are meant to be worked on by your dog over a period of time. Smaller treats that are chewed and swallowed in a matter of seconds or minutes provide no dental benefit for your pet. So there’s a big difference between treats that your dog chews and swallows almost immediately, and big bones or chews that require effort and can help control plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth.
Bones for Dogs Who Are ‘Scarfers’
Some small dogs, and many large dogs, are scarfers. If your pet tends to scarf down every morsel he’s offered, you’ll need to be cautious about any size bone or chew you feed him, because there’s a chance it could end up in his stomach whole. Or he may attempt to swallow it whole and fail, which can be just as disastrous. A scarfer’s primary objective isn’t to chew or gnaw, but to get the item into his stomach as soon as possible. So my safety tip for all sized scarfers is, go big. Whether your scarfer is a Labrador or a Yorkie, if you offer a recreational bone larger than the size of his head, it makes it nearly impossible for him to scarf. So that’s an important tip to remember.
Bones for Aggressive Chewers
Next on the list of potential problems involves the aggressive chewer. These dogs have one mission — to finish the bone! Aggressive chewers want to consume the thing in its entirety, as soon as possible. The problem many aggressive chewers develop is fractured teeth. They think nothing of creating multiple slab fractures in their mission to break the bone down as quickly as possible. These dogs get hold of a bone and chew like mad, fracturing or wearing down their teeth very quickly.
Aggressive chewers shouldn’t be given really hard bones like antlers. Offering rock hard bones to hard chewers can create really significant dental trauma. The veterinary dentist I work with likes to say he has funded an entire wing of his dental suite thanks to antler bones and the wrong size marrowbones offered to aggressive chewers. So word to the wise!
The Difference Between Raw Bones and ‘Room Temperature’ Bones
Real beef and bison bones come steamed, smoked, or raw. Steamed and smoked bones have been treated so they won’t spoil at room temperature. Through that process, the chemical structure of the bone changes and it becomes more brittle. Brittle bones fracture easily, so these bones aren’t appropriate for aggressive chewers.
Bones of all sizes can be preserved, so the way to tell the difference between treated bones and raw bones is you won’t find the former in the freezer or refrigerator section. They’ll be the ones sitting on open store shelves at room temperature.