All dogs, from the smallest Pomeranian to the largest mastiff, have an instinctual desire to chew.
And it is your responsibility as an owner to help ensure your dog gets the chance to scratch this itch. In fact, chewing is more than just something dogs do for enjoyment or to pass the time -- it can actually provide tangible benefits for your dog’s health and well-being.
But you can’t just give your dog anything to chew on. You have to provide him with something that is safe and healthy, as well as something that will last long enough for him to chew for a while. And, if you want to ensure your dog enjoys the experience to the fullest, you’ll also want to make sure it is delicious.
Essentially, you want to give your dog something he can chew on for a while, yet digest as easily as if it were food. You want an edible chew bone.
If you are in a hurry, just check out the table below. Or, you can scroll down to learn more about the reasons dogs like to chew, the problems with real bones and the best options for keeping your dog healthy and happy.
Your dog’s desire to chew can be traced back to his wolf-like ancestors. These wild canines could only eat what they could catch, so food was always at a premium. This means that they would not only dine upon the flesh of the animals they killed, but most other edible parts of the carcass as well, including several major organs, skin and bones.
Bones represented a very important dietary component for these prehistoric canines. They not only provide a considerable amount of calcium, which is important for proper bone development and a host of other biological processes, many are full of nutrient- and calorie-rich marrow.
Accordingly, once the more delicious parts of a kill were eaten, these ancestors of modern dogs would sit down and begin working on the bones. They’d rasp off pieces of meat, cartilage and connective tissue with their tongues, and then bring their teeth to bear on the hard bone. Eventually, they’d wear the bone down enough to access the marrow, and ingest a healthy dose of calcium in the process.
While bones served as an important dietary item for primitive dogs, they also represent a serious health risk. Bones can and do splinter, which can send sharp bone shards through a dog’s digestive tract. These fragments can lead to blockages or perforations – both of which are often fatal.
Chewing on bones can also cause broken teeth and other dental problems, which are both painful and potentially deadly for animals who depend on their teeth to survive.
But because calcium and calories were so difficult for these ancestral dogs to obtain, it still made more evolutionary sense for them to continue to consume bones, despite the inherent risks. Most individuals consumed bones for the duration of their (often brief) lives and did so without incident; however, others undoubtedly died from the practice.
However, your dog does not need to go to such extreme lengths to obtain enough calcium or calories. Most modern dog foods provide all of the calcium your dog will need, and obesity is a more common problem for modern pets than malnutrition. Accordingly, it is simply not wise to provide your dog with real bones – the risks are simply too great.
And to clear up a common myth: Cooking may make bones more likely to shatter, but even raw bones can break into numerous sharp pieces when chewed.
The issue of dog chews is a bit of a catch-22. On the one hand, chews need to be hard enough to satisfy your dog’s desire to chew, and yet soft enough to prevent broken teeth. You’ll also want to ensure that the chew is made of ingredients that are easy for your dog to digest and pass, to avoid potentially fatal intestinal blockages.
This limits the number of things that you can give your dog to chew.
For example, while we’ve already explained the problems with real bones, antlers and hooves are also too hard for your dog’s teeth, so they should be avoided too. Rawhide treats last a long time, and they’re probably not likely to damage your dog’s teeth, but the rawhide material can take a very long time to digest and the potential for gastrointestinal blockage is very real.
Pig ears may last long enough to give your dog some good chew time, but power chewers will tear through them in a matter of seconds. Bully sticks are usually digestible and they aren’t very likely to damage your dog’s teeth, but they are expensive. Additionally, many pig ears, bully sticks and similar items become contaminated by bacteria during processing.
There are a variety of crunchy treats on the market, but few will last long very long – they just represent additional calories, without providing the health benefits you are seeking.
But don’t be discouraged: There is a solution.
To help solve this problem, several manufacturers have begun making edible bones and chews that can help satisfy your dog’s need to gnaw, provide a wealth of health benefits and pass through your dog’s system without causing problems.
While none of these will last for weeks the way a real bone may, most will last long enough to delight even the most aggressive and determined chewers.
If you are ready to give your dog some edible bones, consider the following five. Each of these has been very well-reviewed by other dog owners and possesses the majority of traits you’d want in an edible bone.
GREENIES Original Dental Dog Treats are some of the most popular and best-reviewed edible chews on the market. GREENIES are primarily designed to keep your dog’s teeth clean, but they often last long enough to give dogs some quality chewing time before they are eventually swallowed.
User Reviews: Most owners who have tried GREENIES are pleased with the product and end up making them a regular part of their dog’s daily schedule. While most owners found that the treats to be effective at keeping their dog’s teeth clean and breath fresh, some were disappointed that the treats didn’t last longer. The only real complaints about these products include customers who experienced shipping, handling or packaging problems. Additionally, a very few dogs simply found the treats unpalatable.
Bottom Line: GREENIES are a great option for most dogs and their owners, as they’re made from safe and delicious ingredients and provide significant dental benefits. They may not last as long as power-chewing dog owners would like, but they still offer a safe and constructive outlet for your dog’s instincts.
Nylabone Healthy Edibles are some of the only edible bone chews on the market that offer sizes explicitly designed for large dogs (those over 50 pounds). Designed to be edible, yet fun to chew, Nylabones are a great option for most dogs.
User Reviews: Most owners who were pleased with the Nylabone raved about the treat’s appetizing scent and most dogs appear to find them absolutely delicious. Several owners were slightly disappointed in the time that the bone lasted, but this is a common challenge when seeking a truly edible bone chew. Others, perhaps expecting the treat to last for several days, were quite disappointed when it failed to last a half-hour.
Bottom Line: While Nylabones don’t last as long as rawhide chews or real bones, they are among the best of the safe alternatives. Most dogs appear to love the taste and they are reasonably priced, so they make a good option for most large breeds.
Perhaps better known for their premium foods, Blue Buffalo prides itself on producing only the best products, using only the highest-quality ingredients. Manufactured with a natural bone shape, designed to appeal to your dog’s inner wolf, these bones satisfy your dog’s need to chew and your need to keep him safe.
User Reviews: As with most other Blue Buffalo products, most owners who try these bone chews become instant devotees. The vast majority of dogs appear to love the taste, texture and resistance of Blue Buffalo Dental Bones, and owners appreciate knowing they are giving their dog the very best. As with most other edible bone chews, the most aggressive and determined dogs finished these very quickly (within 10 minutes or less), but more moderate chewers often enjoyed them across several sittings.
Bottom Line: Blue Buffalo products are almost always worth trying. Even if they don’t end up being your final choice, you can be confident that you are experimenting with a product produced by one of the finest food and treat manufacturers in business. Based on the majority of the user reviews, Blue Buffalo Dental Bones are an excellent choice.
DreamBone Chicken Dog Chews are one of the longest-lasting edible chews on the market, and they are marketed as an alternative to rawhide. However, unlike rawhide, these are comprised of ingredients that are almost completely digestible.
User Reviews: The vast majority of owners who tried DreamBone Dog Chews raved about them. Dogs appear to love the taste and texture, and the relative lack of digestive problems kept owners happy. The bulk of the negative reviews referred to previous versions of the product, which were made in China.
Bottom Line: DreamBone Dog Chews come as close to the goal of an edible, yet durable, dog bone as any product on the market does. The only thing that may give some owners pause is the fact that DreamBone Dog Chews are made in Vietnam, rather than the USA. Nevertheless, they are clearly one of the best options on the market, despite their country or origin.
The Snack 21 Salmon Skin Bone is an interesting alternative to the traditional rawhide or raw bone. Made from 100% Pacific salmon skins, these chews are perfectly digestible and safe for most dogs.
User Reviews: Because they haven’t been on the market for very long, Snack 21 Salmon Skin Bones haven’t been reviewed by a large number of owners. Nevertheless, those who have tried these chews have been 100% positive. Dogs appear to love them, and they don’t cause allergic reactions, thanks to the lack of chicken, wheat or corn products.
Bottom Line: A completely digestible, healthy and delicious alternative to rawhide or real bones, Snack 21 Salmon Skin Bones are a great option for most dogs, although power-chewers will probably still make fairly quick work of them.
Some of the most notable benefits of edible chew bones include:
Not all edible chew bones are created equally. Some are marvelous products that provide a ton of benefits and only have a limited downside, but others can make your dog sick. And while every dog is an individual, with varying needs and idiosyncrasies, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when selecting the best product for your dog.
Many owners are worried about purchasing foods or treats that have become contaminated with toxins. While you can’t do anything to completely eliminate this possibility, you can significantly reduce the chances of this occurring by sticking to treats made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe, whenever possible.
Many low-cost edible bones and treats are made from high-calorie, sugar-rich ingredients and little else. Some even contain chemicals used to keep the bones together which can be hard on your dog’s stomach. Instead, opt for those chews and treats that are made with the same kinds of high-quality ingredients you’d want in your pet’s food.
The best edible bones are designed to help scrape your dog’s teeth clean while he chews. Dental health is an often-overlooked consideration, but it is very important to take care of your dog’s teeth, so he can continue to chew his food as he ages.
Many edible bones are made with common allergens, such as corn, wheat or chicken meals. While many dogs can and do tolerate these ingredients, others can suffer from very itchy skin if provided with these types of items. You’ll need to work with your vet to establish exactly what causes your dog problems, and then avoid edible bones containing the offending ingredients.
If you select bones that are too small, your dog will simply chew it up and swallow it without getting the mental or dental benefits of a long chewing session. On the flip side, bones that are too large may not allow your dog to get a comfortable grip on the chew. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations and use your own judgement to find the perfect size for your pup.
Edible bones are generally good for dogs, but too much of a good thing can lead to problems. For example, many edible dog chews are high in calories, which can cause your dog to put on extra weight over time. Accordingly, you’ll need to consider the caloric content of any edible bone, to ensure he stays fit and trim.
Additionally, excessive treat consumption can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, as your dog begins getting more empty calories from the treats, and less from his food.
You should, of course, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and consult with your vet anytime you decide to give your dog a new food or treat. However, assuming that your dog receives sufficient exercise and are generally healthy, he will probably benefit from a one-treat-per-day schedule.
Have you stumbled upon a great edible bone chew that you’d like to tell us about? Or do you have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments below!