Chewing and gnawing is one of your dog’s favorite pastime, be it a puppy or an adult dog. There is so many treats and chews on the market that it can get really confusing. With this article I am trying to present the main categories of dog treats and dog chews and discuss how safe and wholesome they might be.
Rawhide chews and bones
These chews are made from the inner layer of cow or bull hides (which is skin) and sometimes horse hide. During manufacturing, the hide is cleaned, cut and pressed into chewable shapes and sizes. Sometimes flavors like beef, chicken, liver or peanut butter are added to make these treats more attractive.
Rawhide chews a very popular treats since they support the dog’s natural chewing instinct. They are mostly considered as natural and safe, but there is also that group of dog owners and veterinarians who point out the dangers of rawhide chews. Puppies love them because they relieve teething pain and they reduce your dog’s tartar and plaque build-up and keep his jaws strong. When you look in your local grocery store, there is a big selection of all kinds of rawhide chews and they are usually affordable.
Rawhide chews come with certain risks that cannot be ignored and there are even dog experts who would consider these chews as very unsafe and dangerous. First of all they can be a choking hazard for your dog. He can swallow a bigger piece of rawhide and it can get stuck in his esophagus. There could be digestive complications if your dog is sensitive to the rawhide and the substances it is treated with. Depending on where the rawhide is coming from, it could be processed with chemicals or contaminated with salmonella or E.coli bacteria.
Especially rawhide produced outside of the US in countries like Thailand and China may contain toxic substances like formaldehyde and arsenic. There even have been reports of rawhide mixed with skin from slaughtered dogs. Even if produced in the USA, there is still the risk that rawhide may contain toxic animal by-products and chemicals like mercury simply because there are no FDA regulations that limit the type of ingredients used.
Nevertheless, if you want to buy safe and premium natural rawhide for your dog, it is still the best option to look for real beef hide made in the USA.
Bully sticks, also known as beef sticks, are made of beef pizzle and come in different sizes, for smaller and for larger dogs. Even though the package might say “dried muscle”, they are in reality bull penises from mostly North American cattle. They are thought to be a fairly safe chewy treat for dogs, one reason being the fact that they are 100% natural. They are rich in protein (crude protein ca. 80%), contain crude fat, fiber and about 20% water and are easy to digest. They are also beneficial to your dog’s dental hygiene as they reduce plaque and build-up. Another reason why they are so popular among dog owners is that they are long lasting, a larger dog for example can chew on a bully stick for several days.
One draw back can be their odor. Some of them smell pretty bad, and if you have dogs that like to chew in the living room you know what I am talking about. It depends on how they are manufactured, and if they are cleaned and processed the right way they are not as smelly. For highest quality, choose natural bully sticks from grass fed cattle, this also reduces the odor.
Other natural dog chews
Another healthy alternative for rawhide are pig ears or cow ears. They are perfectly digestible, and if you are looking for pig ears, choose the ones that are oven baked. As a matter of fact, there are recipes for baking chewy pig ears at home.
Cow ears are most wholesome if they come from free-range cattle, not treated with antibiotics or preservatives. They are low in fat, high in protein and keep your dog’s teeth clean. This is definitely a natural and wholesome treat which is affordable, available by the piece or in bulk.
If you or your dog do not like pig or cow ears, there is still natural chews made from Pacific salmon. These are very nutritious chews, rich in omega 3 & 6 fats. They are especially great for dogs who are food sensitive, so make sure they are made with natural ingredients, no by-products, no sugar, no preservatives or added colors. To ensure the best quality, look for processed in a US facility.
MILK BONE, a popular dog biscuit
My husband likes to buy these dog cookies, he gives them to our dogs at bedtime, and they love these cookies! MILK BONE biscuits is a US based brand that has been around since 1908. They are very popular dog biscuits and besides being a tasty treat they are supposed to keep your dog’s teeth clean and refresh his breath. But are they really natural and wholesome dog treats?
The company claims the biscuits are made with wholesome ingredients, and it is true that they seem to contain various minerals and vitamins. Also, their texture helps remove dental plaque and tartar. They also contain nutrients like protein (15% crude protein) and beef fat. The percentage of protein is lower than I have seen in other wholesome dog biscuits, and the package doesn’t say what kind of meat is used, but it lists turkey and poultry by-products. They are definitely not grain-free, wheat flour, wheat germ, wheat bran and malted barley flour are listed, which means plenty of carbohydrates for added calories. Another drawback to me are artificial ingredients like preservatives, added flavors and colors.
Dog cookies can be all natural
There is a large variety of all natural dog cookies on the market, but there is one type that recently caught my eye. They are made from invasive Asian carp, and I like this idea of being environmentally conscious. They are grain-free and soy-free and have no artificial ingredients. They contain lots of nutrients, over 20% protein, omega 3 & 6 fats, fiber, calcium zinc and more. And even though the list of ingredients sounds pretty basic, they must be tasty because our dogs eat them gladly.
What about that good old bone
We know that dogs love to chew and gnaw on bones. So why not giving them a real bone every day and be done with it instead of buying all kinds of dog cookies and treats? Not all the bones are the same. Cooked bones, besides being less nutritious, are more brittle which makes them splinter easily. That’s why they are considered a choking hazard for pets, they can get stuck in the dog’s esophagus or digestive tract and cause inner injuries.
The best bones are raw bones, they are safer and contain various nutrients, especially in the bone marrow. Big bones from beef or bison are great for dental hygiene and help break down tartar. And the constant gnawing is definitely a great exercise for your dog’s jaws.
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