Dogs Need to Chew

Chewing is a natural behavior all dogs need to express. But every dog is different and a treat or toy that’s good for one dog to chew may be dangerous for another.

Which Chew Is the Right Chew?

There are basic principles for giving chews to a dog, no matter his age, size or what type of chewer he is.

Watch a dog or puppy the first time he gets anything new to chew.  

If he can tear the chew up, crack off chunks or seems to be going through it too fast, take it away from him. This is an indication that this chew may not be right for him. If, however, he gnaws the ends of the chew, gradually wearing it down, the chew may be a good match.

Match the size of the treat to the size of a dog’s mouth, teeth and throat.

A dog needs to be able to get his teeth around the chew, carry it and hold it between his paws. Large dogs need chews that are big enough for them to enjoy for a while without the risk of swallowing them whole. In general, the bigger the chew the better.

Dogs come in all sizes, but when it comes to chewing behaviors, size can be deceiving.

While little dogs are often more ferocious chewers than large dogs, even a large dog that chews softly can get into trouble with a chew that’s too small. When a dog wears down his chew to a size that he could accidentally swallow, replace it.

Match the hardness of the chew with the strength of the dog’s jaws and the force with which he prefers to chew.

If a dog always chews aggressively, look for chews meant to be easily digested, or for hard chews that won’t splinter, fracture or tear.

A Field Guide to Various Types of Chews

Raw bones are one of the most effective types of chews for cleaning teeth. The natural enzymes and texture of the bone can help to break down plaque and tartar. Raw bones should be introduced carefully to avoid digestive upset, especially with dogs that are unfamiliar with raw foods.

Gently smoked bones are best for dogs that are less aggressive chewers. The smoking process can make bones more prone to splintering. Bones from joints, often called knuckles, are stronger than longer, slender bones. Cooked bones, especially those cooked at home, should never be given to dogs due to the risk of splintering.

Natural vegetables, like sweet potato, make hard, chewy treats when dried. They’re appropriate and digestible for most dogs.

Pressed protein chews are mostly made of cereal glutens and come in a variety of sizes and types, some targeted at specific issues, like touchy digestion or tartar build up.

Compressed rawhides are the only type of rawhide we carry at Mud Bay. We source our compressed rawhides from companies we trust to process hides without toxic chemicals and use whole sheets of hide rather than hide chips.

Treat parts are made from animal parts that are not usually eaten by humans, including tendons, ears, pizzles and snouts. Parts that are puffed are softer than parts that are smoked, dried or roasted. Puffed ears seem to work well for puppies and older dogs with sensitive mouths. 

What Are the Risks?

Depending on the dog, any chew can cause problems. It’s normal and necessary behavior for dogs to chew and gnaw, and not uncommon that they sometimes swallow pieces of what they’re chewing on.

The chew treats and toys we offer at Mud Bay are the best we can find, but they’re not necessarily for every dog. When evaluating a chew or toy, it’s fun to imagine a dog’s pleasure with it. Still, it’s good to consider the possible risks:

  • Digestive upset from swallowing pieces of indigestible materials.
  • Intestinal blockage, a life-threatening condition caused by swallowing something too large to pass through the digestive tract.
  • Choking, blocked airway and potential suffocation from a treat or toy stuck in the throat.
  • Fractured teeth, from aggressively chewing things that are too hard.

Please consult a veterinarian whenever there are questions about a dog’s health, especially if you suspect that the dog might be suffering from a problem caused by a chew toy or treat.

Chewing Gone Awry

Dogs occasionally chew on inappropriate objects due to boredom. Puppies may be teething, a dog may be trying to assert his control over his environment, or some objects may simply be too fascinating to resist. Because a dog uses his mouth to interact with the world, it’s perfectly normal for him to pick up items of interest.

Sometimes convincing a dog to stop chewing on an unacceptable object is as easy as offering him a more interesting or tasty object in exchange. Praising a dog when he chews on the right things can be helpful. The use of bittering agents may also be necessary to make a delightful table leg taste more like a mistake than a wonder. Something as simple as an additional walk or game of fetch can help tire out a mischievous chewer and redirect troublesome urges.

The Right Foods for Healthy Mouths

Bad breath and periodontal disease result from a buildup of calcium salts, food, hair and bacteria on a dog’s teeth and gums. To keep dogs’ breath sweet and their mouths healthy, start with good nutrition. The right food helps to maintain saliva pH at a level that is acidic enough to keep plaque, tartar and bacteria from building up. Chewing helps dogs keep their teeth and gums healthy. Offer raw beef bones if appropriate for your dog, hard vegetables like carrots and broccoli, and treats or toys designed for chewing. Brush a dog’s teeth regularly, and get a veterinary exam at least once a year.

Taking care of dogs’ teeth and gums can contribute to extending their lifespans. When plaque and tartar cause infection and bleeding gums, harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream and can gradually damage the heart, kidneys and liver. For more information about canine dental health, visit our Oral Health for Dogs and How to Brush a Dog's Teeth pages. 

We’re Here to Help

At Mud Bay, we’re delighted to share how each chew is intended or designed to be used by a dog, as well as stories of how dogs actually used them. We know what the chews are made of, how long they might last, and the risks they may or may not pose for a dog. Every staff person at Mud Bay is happy to help match any dog with an appropriate chew.

We’re not veterinarians. Mud Bay staff are well educated, and our writing is well-researched, but neither the advice of a Mud Bay staff member nor reading Mud Bay's written materials can substitute for visiting a veterinarian. We offer carefully chosen, natural solutions, but we believe that veterinary conditions should be diagnosed and treated by professionals.