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How to Choose Chews for Puppies

As many of you know, I recently got a new puppy, a fluffy ball of love, paws, a stubby tail, and razor sharp puppy teeth.

It’s those teeth and the insatiable need to use them I want to talk to you about today. 

puppy with sharp teeth
YoYo, concealing his little razor teeth

Believe me, you want to find appropriate things for your pup to chew on! They’re quite good at finding not so appropriate things, like your hands, your baseboards, your favorite pillow, and your best pair of shoes. 

There are lots of amazing fear-free certified trainers who can help you shape their behavior, but in the meantime, let’s talk about the best chews for your puppy.

Why do puppies chew everything in sight?

There are many similarities between human babies and dog babies. 

They’re both rapidly exploring and learning about the world around them, and both use their mouths to make sense of things. It’s a natural part of their physical, mental, and emotional growth.

Puppies chew on things as a form of play and self-entertainment. It keeps them engaged and provides mental stimulation. It's also a way for them to burn off excess energy, contributing to their overall well-being.

These intrepid explorers are curious about the world around them, and their mouths are one of their primary tools for exploration. Through chewing, they learn about different textures, tastes, and objects, which aids in their cognitive development.

And since a puppy’s palate is less than well-refined, a corner of the rug or a dirty sock out of the hamper are tasty treats, indeed!

Let’s talk about more appropriate chew for your puppy, ones that won’t make steam come out of your ears.

Safe Chew Toys for Puppies

Not all chew toys are created equal. Just because they line the big pet store shelves and grocery store aisles doesn't automatically mean they are safe choices for your little one. 

You have to do your due diligence as a pet parent, just like you would for your human baby.

Things to Watch For When Choosing a Chew Toy for your Puppy

➤Chemicals and Toxic Substances

Puppies are particularly sensitive to toxins, and exposure can lead to immediate health issues or long-term complications. Many of the chew toys that are available are manufactured with chemicals and toxins.

The biggies? Lead, especially prevalent in toys made especially for dogs, and phthalates which are used to soften materials in dog toys.

Think you’re safe choosing a tennis ball made specifically for pups? Nope. Those balls were tested and found to have nearly three times the lead allowed in human toys. Your puppy is chewing, teething, tearing, slobbering, and maybe even ingesting that stuff. 

Now hold on, say some big manufacturers. There aren’t really that many studies to say whether that amount of lead or other toxins really does any damage to your puppy’s health. 

To them, I say two things:

  1. There SHOULD BE many more studies and

  2. Not for my pup,  not on my watch.

No, there are NO standards – either voluntary or mandatory – for safety testing of products for pet products. Manufacturers like Multipet and PetSafe assert that their products undergo safety testing akin to that of children's toys, suggesting a certain level of scrutiny. However, without uniform standards or clear labeling, what good is that?

➤Choking Hazards

Just like little humans, little dogs can choke on little pieces.

Those plush toys are cute as can be, but after the Master of Disaster gets done, pieces are torn off and squeakers are ripped out. Naturally, the job isn’t complete until those parts go down the gullet, and that can mean choking or abdominal obstruction and a wickedly expensive vet surgical bill.

Best to keep those things away from your puppy.

You might think, well, I’ll just buy an indestructible hard plastic toy then! Problem solved!

Well, no. Hard bones and hard plastic can splinter and cause choking, too. The key is to find a balance between durability and safety, ensuring the chew treat can withstand your puppy's chewing without breaking or splintering. 

Dog chewing on furniture
Eliminate destructive behavior with appropriate chews

Choose toys with a little give and flexibility to them. Not only are they safer, but they won’t frustrate your puppy so much that they turn to an easier victim…like the couch cushion.

➤Choose Natural Rubber Toys

Natural rubber, derived from the sap of rubber trees, is completely natural and safe, ensuring your dog is not exposed to these potentially harmful chemicals​ like BPAs, PFOAs, and phthalates which are unregulated in pet products.

Natural rubber toys are safer and they’re durable, able to withstand even Pro Puppy Chewers.

Safe Chews and Treats for Your Puppy

Bones, rawhides, bully sticks, cow tails…the variety of edible chews and treats is endless!

But again, not all chews are good for your puppy.

At The Healthy Animal Healing Center, we recommend chews that are animal or vegetable based with one major exception, rawhide.

The Dangers of Rawhide

Rawhide chews, often marketed as "all-natural" treats, have been a popular choice for dog owners looking to keep their pets occupied. However, the production process and potential risks associated with rawhide should scare you off from choosing them.

Rawhide chews are derived from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. During the production process, these hides undergo chemical treatments to clean, preserve, and sometimes flavor them, which can introduce various toxic substances into the chews. 

For instance, the hair removal process often involves harsh chemicals like sodium sulfide liming, and to make the chews more appealing, they may be coated with substances that can include carcinogens​. 

If that weren’t enough, one of the major concerns with rawhide is its digestibility. Although dogs can chew rawhide into smaller pieces, these are not easily broken down in the digestive system. 

Swallowed pieces can swell inside a dog's stomach, posing a risk of intestinal blockage or choking. This can lead to nasty issues like stomach torsion and, in some cases, require surgical intervention.​ 

Animal and Vegetable Chews for Puppies

Skip the rawhide and choose these safer options.

➤Animal Chews

Fish Skin Chews: Made from dehydrated salmon or cod skin, fish skin chews are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, promoting healthy skin and a shiny coat. They also contribute to dental health due to their abrasive texture.

Bully Sticks: A popular rawhide alternative, bully sticks are digestible, made from beef pizzle, and come in various sizes and shapes. They are generally healthier as they contain no chemicals or preservatives.

Esophagus and Cow Tail Chews: Esophagus chews are known for their health benefits, such as supporting joint health due to their content of glucosamine and chondroitin, and promoting oral hygiene. They're generally considered safe, easily digestible, and a good low-fat option, especially beneficial for older dogs or breeds prone to joint issues. 

Raw Bones: No cooked bones allowed! Cooked bones from pet stores can chip and splinter. Opt for raw duck, lamb, or beef knuckles from butcher shops or organic markets​.

Himalayan Yak Chews: These chews are typically made from a combination of yak and cow milk, salt, and lime juice, offering a simple treat especially suitable for dogs with food sensitivities. The process of making these chews involves an ancient recipe where the milk is boiled, mixed with lime and salt, then compressed and dried to create hard cheese chews. After a short time in the microwave, small pieces will puff up and become easily broken down and swallowed. 

Be sure to avoid these if you have a puppy with dairy intolerance.

Choose Himalayan Yak Chews that are made in Nepal to support local farmers and traditional practices. Quality yak cheese chews should have minimal ingredients and be free from additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. 

➤Vegetable Chews

Having a meatless dinner a few nights of the week is good for the environment, and so are using vegetable based chews!

These chews are made from 100% natural ingredients and come in a variety of flavors and shapes, such as apple dental sticks, blueberry clover chews, spinach & cranberry chew sticks, and even peanut butter bones, offering a range of options to keep your Velociraptor Puppy happy and satisfied.

They are grain-free and low in fat, making them a great choice for dogs that need to maintain a healthy weight. 

Top Tips for Choosing Chews for Your Puppy

Now that you have the skinny on all the options available to you and your little four legged chomping machine, there are a few things to remember:

➤Always monitor your dog while they enjoy these chews, especially if trying a new type for the first time, to ensure they don't have any adverse reactions.

➤ Consider your dog's age. Puppies, especially teething puppies, need softer, more forgiving chews. As puppies grow and their permanent teeth come in, you can gradually introduce firmer chews suitable for their developing jaws and increased chewing strength.

Older dogs may still enjoy chewing but need softer chews that won't harm potentially weaker teeth and gums. There are chews made specifically for senior dogs, taking into account their need for softer materials that are still engaging.

➤Consider chewing style. Have you got a pro or amateur chewer? Watch out for these chewing styles:

  • The Inhaler: Like a teenage boy after football practice, dogs with this chewing style tend to gulp down chews quickly, often without properly breaking them down. For these dogs, highly digestible chews are recommended to prevent the risk of gastrointestinal blockage. It's crucial to monitor these dogs closely and choose chews that won't easily break into large, swallowable chunks.

  • The Demolisher: El Destructos love to tear apart their chews and may not necessarily swallow the pieces. They enjoy the challenge of destruction and need durable chews that can withstand their intensity without breaking apart dangerously.

  • The Nibbler: Dainty, polite nibblers are gentle chewers who savor their chews without the urge to destroy them. They often take care of their toys and chews, making them suitable for a wider variety of chew types, including softer options.

  • The Power Chewer: Jaws, aka power chewers, require sturdy chews that can endure their strong jaws. These dogs may not aim to destroy the chew but need something that can hold up to their vigorous chewing habits. Look for products labeled for tough chewers to ensure the chew's durability.

➤Consider your dog’s size. As you can imagine, small dogs may be frustrated or intimidated by chews that are too big, big dogs can choke on chews that are too small. Be like Goldilocks and choose one that is juuuust right.

➤Perform regular inspections. Keep a watchful eye and don’t let those puppy dog eyes talk you into letting him continue gnawing on a toy or chew that’s wearing or breaking. It’s better to toss it and find another one than risk choking.

Appropriate chew for puppies

A good chew session is your puppy’s meditation/Netflix binge/spa day…there’s nothing quite like it for relaxation and a fun time!

But as you can see, it’s important to “choose your chews” wisely. If you’re in the Pembroke, MA area, stop in to The Healthy Animal Healing Center. We keep a vigilant eye on every product we sell, making sure each manufacturer adheres to our strict standards of quality, wholesomeness, and sustainability.

Otherwise, do your research:

  • Look for the country of origin, 

  • look at the ingredient list

  • Check reviews about durability

  • Research the brand’s reputation, manufacturing practices, and any certifications that might indicate a commitment to quality and safety. Brands that are transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing processes are often more reliable.

There’s nothing like having a puppy in the house to teach you the value of putting away your shoes, placing the tissue box out of reach, closing cabinet doors, and selecting the right chew for the right chewer.

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