Our dogs give us an unlimited supply of happiness, and it's always nice to give them something in return! There are few images more iconic than a dog and his bone. Bones satisfy a dog's natural desire to chew. However, just like with other aspects of your dog's life, it's important to stop and consider what may or may not be safe. (Especially with the holidays approaching, you may be wondering what's best to put in Fido's stocking!)
While smoked bones have long been considered a safe treat for dogs, recent evidence suggests otherwise. There have been over 60 FDA reports thus far this year related to “smoked bones,” popularly at pet stores or online retailers. And let's not forget the dangers of rawhides: not only did the FDA release a recall earlier this year due to possible chemical contamination, rawhides are well-known for causing potential choking or intestinal blockage due to the way they swell once consumed. If your dog loves these kinds of chews, don't fret! There are plenty of alternatives.
Raw uncooked bones are the next best thing to smoked bones. Where a cooked bone will splinter, a raw bone will not! There are some options here: soup bones are the easiest to find and you won't have to travel far for them - they're right in the meat section of your local grocery store. If you're fortunate enough to have a local butcher, they'll have an assortment as well. Chicken/turkey feet and deer leg bones are both dog favorites.
Another option are antlers. Deer, elk, and moose naturally shed their antlers every year. Some pet stores and many online retailers carry them (or, if you're feeling motivated, you can train your dog to find them himself). Caution: Aggressive chewers can chip or fracture a tooth gnawing on raw leg bones or antlers. While antlers can be consumed “fresh” and soup bones are harvested from farm-raised animals, any bone from a wild animal should be frozen for four weeks to kill off anything harmful.
If your dog is among those that are a little too enthusiastic for heavy raw bones, don't fret. There are still more possibilities! Goat/cow horns, hooves, and Himalayan chews (made of yak's milk) are favorites for many dogs. Hooves and horns can be left empty or, for the spoiled or easily bored dog, can be stuffed with peanut butter or yogurt and frozen (just like a Kong). Himalayan chews can even be briefly microwaved once a dog gnaws them down to a small size, causing the piece that remains to expand to a safe and easily consumable size.
For those dogs that prefer to chew on a rawhide as opposed to gnawing on a bone? No-Hide chews, bully sticks, and pig ears are chews that even the choosiest canines will love. No-Hides are easily digestible chews that come in a variety of sizes. Smoked pig ears are the closest in texture to a traditional rawhide chew. Because they are skin, they are much safer than the smoked bone treats we mentioned earlier. Bully sticks are dehydrated beef tendons that many dogs absolutely adore!
With almost 90 million dogs in homes across America, it's no surprise that the variety of bones and chews is so vast and varied. We hope that we've helped make the choosing process a bit easier for you! Though it may take a little extra time to choose, your dog will appreciate your decisions that keep him happy and healthy both now and in the years to come.