The Importance of Chewing for Dogs
We all know that puppies go through a teething phase. During this phase, they will chew on anything that they can get their mouth on! But did you know that chewing is important for dogs of all ages? There are lots of benefits to chewing that your dog might be missing out on.
Did you know that over 80% of dogs over the age of three have dental disease? That is a pretty sad statistic. But why is this? I mean all the kibble companies tell us that their dry food will help to clean our dog’s teeth. Think about it though, when you watch your dog wolf down his kibble does he even chew it? Probably not. Most dogs don’t.
In addition, to the fact that dogs don’t chew kibble, we have to consider what kibbles are made of. Kibbles are made of all sorts of carbs and grains. So, if your dog does choose to chew the kibble the sugar from the carbs sticks to his teeth and attracts bacteria! This makes kibble a teeth killer on two counts, at least.
Providing your dog with things to chew on is one of the best options to improve his dental health. Providing things for your dog to chew on at an early age will also help to prevent future dental issues. The act of chewing helps to remove plaque and tartar build-up.
Depending on what you choose to give your dog to chew on, he may have to chomp, gnaw, and pull on bits of the chew. Chomping and gnawing are great for scraping off build-ups in the mouth. Pulling on stringy bits of the chew acts similarly to dental floss. So, chewing is a great way to keep your dog’s teeth clean.
Dogs have powerful jaws, but they rarely get a chance to use them. This might seem okay. But if you think about it, if your dog is not using his strong jaws, they won’t stay strong forever.
The body is one and every part is connected to the rest of the body. We see this in ourselves. If you have foot pain and keep walking on it the pain will spread to your knee, into your hip, into your back, and eventually affect your whole body. The same is true for if a dog’s jaw becomes weak.
A weak jaw could lead to a weak neck, weak back, and dental issues. So, we want our furry friends to have the strong jaws that they were meant to have. The physical benefits of chewing don’t just impact the jaws and head, but the whole body.
The physical benefits will differ a bit from one chew to the next. A bully stick will mostly involve the jaw and perhaps the paws. A raw femur bone, on the other hand, may make the whole body work. The jaws certainly will be active. As the dog pulls on part of the bone he might push down on it with his paws, strengthening his shoulders. Pulling on the bone will also strengthen his back and hindquarters, along with his core muscles.
So, depending on the size of the chew you are giving to your dog it might be a whole-body workout! Sometimes after having a nice chew a dog will be as exhausted as he would be if you took him on a 4-mile hike. It can be super handy to give your dog things to chew on if you can’t get out to walk your dog one day or if your dog is injured and needs to be less active.
Our modern-day dogs often become bored, so providing them with mental stimulation is a great idea! Also, giving your dog a good chew releases endorphins in the dog’s brain. These endorphins cause happiness and help with stress release. So, providing your dog with things to chew can also help a dog that has anxiety to be less anxious.
Providing your dog with different shapes and sizes of bones and chews is also a wonderful way to increase the mental stimulation. The different shapes, sizes, and varieties will all hold different chewing challenges for your dog. These challenges will provide much needed mental stimulation.
Best Chewing Options
There are lots of chewing options available from chew toys to dental chews to single-ingredient animal chews to raw meaty bones. Chew toys are not the best options. Most dogs are not overly interested in chew toys and if they are, the chew toy is unlikely to stand up to their chewing efforts. If your dog is able to destroy the chew toy and eats parts of it it could cause choking, tummy upset, or intestinal blockage. These are not risks that you want to take.
Dental chews, like those in the shape of toothbrushes and other shapes, are not great options either. While they make claims on the packaging that they help clean your dog’s teeth, they really are of little use. For most dogs, the “chew” is gone in three chomps of less. That won’t do much dental cleaning… These are also often laden with sugars and carbs that will stick to your dog’s teeth which can cause increased dental disease!
Single-ingredient animal chews can be a great option. These include things like bully sticks, lamb ears, pig ears, tendons, trachea, esophagus, and snouts. I don’t recommend rawhide, however. All of these will last varying lengths of time and provide your dog with mental and physical stimulation. The meaty flavor will release more endorphins in your dog’s brain than rubber chews toys or synthetically flavored “dental chews.”
Raw meaty bones… This is the cream of the crop when it comes to chewing options. There are two different kinds of raw meaty bones. Those that the dog can consume completely and recreational bones. We want to focus on recreational bones for this discussion. Recreational bones are typically going to be weight-bearing bones like leg bones. For smaller dogs, beef rib bones and beef neck bones can also be recreational.
Raw meaty bones are going to release the most endorphins in your dog’s brain and provide the most physical and dental benefit. The meat, sinew, and connective tissues will require the dog to pull and gnaw. This is turn will provide lots to flossing and dental cleaning action. It also helps to build strong jaws and a strong body. Yes, raw meaty bones provide the most benefit by far!
It is always a good idea to observe your dog as he chews. This can help you identify his chewing type. Some dogs are heavy chewers, these are the ones that you really need to keep an eye on. Heavy chewers are the most likely to fracture a tooth on a hard chew, like a recreational bone. This may be especially true for a heavy chewer who is getting a raw bone for the first time or for a heavy chewer who chews out of anxiety. However, most heavy chewers will do just fine even with recreational bones. It is still always a good idea to observe your dog while he is chewing.
Remember that raw meaty bones are, raw. So, be sure to wash your hands after handling them, or any chew you give your dog. Don’t have your dog chew them in areas that you wouldn’t want to set a raw chicken. Recreational bones are best chewed outside or in a room that is easy to clean or on several towels that you can then throw in the laundry.
Also, note that we are talking about RAW bones. You should never give your dog a cooked bone. Not even the ones at the pet store that are smoked and made for dogs. Cooked bones are much more likely to splinter as your dog chews on them. These splinters can make your dog’s gums bleed or worse perforate your dog’s digestive tract. So, only give your dog raw meaty bones.
Other chews, dental or animal chews, can also cause choking or bowel obstruction if they are not thoroughly chewed. So, be sure to keep an eye on you dog as he enjoys a nice chew. For some dogs, you may need to take the last little bit of the chew to prevent him from swallowing it without chewing it thoroughly.
Providing your dog with appropriate things to chew on is great for his health and his happiness. Chewing promotes the dental health, physical health, and mental health of all dogs no matter their age. So, give your dog a raw bone and watch the fun! As an added bonus, a dog who is chewing on an appropriate chew is not misbehaving.