Puppies and safe chews
When you bring your puppy home, it will still have baby teeth, they feel almost like needles. Around 3 months of age, the permanent teeth start to emerge and the puppy's mouth starts to itch. They soothe the itch by chewing on whatever is available. So make sure you have chew-friendly, tempting and safe options to offer your puppy.
Whatever you choose to give your dog, chewing is good for the dog, both for the teeth and gums but also because it provides mental stimulation and helps the dog to unwind.
First and foremost, choose a chew of the appropriate size for your dog. Many dogs are voracious and will try to swallow most things. It's better to take a chew that's too big and remove it after your dog has chewed for a while. Then replace the chew with something even tastier or watch your dog leave the chew.
In order to choose a safe chew, you also need to know what it contains, here is a list describing common types of chews and their contents:
Pressed/twisted/retriever chews This type of chew is all made from rawhide usually of beef, sometimes pig. The rawhide has been treated and shaped in different ways. This is the most common type of bone. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, both natural, flavoured and with different types of meat or stuffing inside/around them.
The way the skin has been treated and the country in which they are made or from which they take their raw material differs from one manufacturer to another. The white bones may be bleached or cooked to make them white. Cooked is a better choice.
Good to know is that there is a link between dried chicken (often wrapped around a pressed bone) and the kidney disease Fanconi syndrome so avoid giving it too often.
Natural snacks Are made from dried or smoked meat or by-products such as ears and lungs. Dried chews are kinder to the stomach than smoked ones and consist of things the dog is built to eat. Within this category there are several different varieties:
- Porous chews include lung, which is also available as a training treat depending on whether it has been dried into thin slices or large chunks. Lasts a maximum of a few minutes depending on the size of the puppy and the chew.
- Solid chews are ears, tails, bull muscle, throat, stomach, tendons, snouts, neck/wings/feet, fish skin, skin/meat strips. This category takes longer for the dog to chew. Even an adult, large dog may struggle for a while with a large piece of bull's mussel.
- Hard chews are horns, hooves and the like. These are not meant for the dog to eat, but more to have to chew on for a very long time as they are very hard.
RAUH RAUH brand chews are made from rawhide of elk or cattle. They are made in Finland and without bleaching or similar, so they fall a bit between the above categories.
Vegetable chews This type of chew is usually made from rice or potatoes and is about as hard as solid natural chews. They come in both long bars and shaped like hedgehogs/ crocodiles etc. Dental chews Dental chews are available from many different brands and are usually made from cereals. This type of chew is often marketed as the "dog's toothbrush" but in fact has no better effect than any other chew. They are softer than the above vegetable chews and do not last more than a few minutes at most.
Marrow bones and other real bones Marrow bones and other real bones are very different in how hard they are. What all these bones have in common is that they must NEVER be cooked. When bones are cooked (in an oven, boiling, etc.) they split more easily and sharp pieces can cause major problems in the dog's stomach and intestines. Marrow bones are the only bones that are too hard for the dog to eat. Many people like to give these but then you have to consider that the marrow is strong for the dog's stomach and can cause diarrhoea and the bone is so hard that the dog can get tooth fractures if it chews with full force. There are also many dogs that have managed to get their jaws stuck in this type of bone.
Those who feed BARF or fresh food often give raw bones from many different animal species and then the dog's stomach acid takes care of the bone. If your dog only eats dry food, it may have a little more difficulty digesting the bone completely. A dog that eats a lot of bones will have firmer stools and too much can cause constipation.
Ground chewing bones These are usually made from ground rawhide and are quite porous. They tend to last slightly longer than dental chews.
Gnawlers These are bones made from ground and hard-pressed dog dander. They hold very well and the dog gnaws away a little at a time. Available in several brands and flavours.
Nylon bones These bones, like horns and the like, are too hard for the dog to eat but these are for holding and chewing on for a long time. The thing to keep in mind with these is that if there is a lot of "chipping" on the ends after the dog has been chewing for a while, you should cut off these chips before the dog chews any further.
Tartar crackersor so-called armoured crackers These are hard-pressed biscuits that the dog must chew thoroughly. However, be careful when buying these as some are called tartar biscuits even though they are far too soft and porous to be of any use at all.
Kong and similar rubber toys This type of chew you fill yourself with dog food, either giving its directly or freezing it. They keep well and the dog usually has to work for a while to get the food out. Remember there should be a hole in the narrow end too so that a vacuum doesn't form when the dog licks the food out, or it could get stuck.