Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chewing is a healthy, beneficial activity and dogs with beef and other allergies need not miss out

Dogs love to chew. They need to. It's satisfying, and can mitigate anxiety.

Indulging this healthy behavior is usually not a problem nor something that we give a lot of thought to since there are so many products on the market that are safe for supervised chew time or when our favorite pups are alone. 

Of course, we need to take some things into consideration, including how powerful of a chewer a dog is or what their preferences are. 

Traditional choices

Beef rawhides are the ultimate in chewing pleasure for dogs, there's no doubt. They're tough, long-lasting and provide they kind of satisfying mouthfeel that dogs crave. They do get a bad rap for their indigestibility and the potential hazard for choking, but honestly I've found that with my own dogs and charges whose owners supply them, they are quite safe so long as chew time is supervised carefully. I simply take the rawhide away when they show evidence of being dangerous. 

Bully sticks, tracheas, bones, hooves and other beef-based chewing toys are popular choices too.

Sound alternatives

But for an ever-widening demographic of the canine population — several of my own charges included — the choices can be somewhat limited because of allergies to ingredients that many chew toys are sourced from. 

If a dog has allergies to beef, then sadly all of the aforementioned products are off limits, and ditto for chicken-based products and the like if the allergies are more complex.

But that doesn't mean that dogs with sensitivity to things like beef and chicken need to miss out on a good chew party. There are plenty of suitable products on the market that can be equally satisfying, and best of all, they are easy to find. 

Available in different sizes, deer antlers are a durable offering for pets that like them. They can be problematic for powerful chewers as they can damage a tooth. 

Rope toys are fun for chewing and playing games like tug-of-war. Though they're tough and relatively long-lasting, care needs to be taken to ensure that the fibers are not ingested, which could lead to an intestinal blockage. 

Vegetable-based chews like Whimzees and Zuke's Z-Bones offer sensitive dogs another option that you can feel good about. Choking on chewed-off pieces (and possible indigestibility, though even my old girl, Gretchen does fine with these) is a consideration. 

Sweet potato chews can provide that leathery, satisfying that dogs love, and while they have that going for them, they just don't last very long. Highly digestible and healthy, you can make your own or buy them from your local pet store. 

Pig ears are a fun chewy treat that offer a little satisfaction, albeit short-lived for some dogs. Pig skin rolls are an equally favorable choice, and usually last a little longer. 

Bison rawhide, with all of the qualities that dogs love in a chew, but with a much lower risk of allergy reaction and may be just the right thing when addressing a pet's chewing needs. As with beef rawhide, products derived from bison do require the same level of mindfulness with regard to safety and indigestibility.

Nylabone products are ever popular, but as with any other type of chew toy, they need to be enjoyed under supervision. Available in edible and non-edible varieties for dogs and puppies, care needs to be taken to see if they're right for your furry friend.

Attractive options — but on second thought 

Yak chews are a relatively new product on the market, and they have the reputation for lasting a long time. They also have a taste that is appealing to dogs, which is a plus. With their high protein and fat content, they are not suitable for some dogs. One caveat that might not be obvious is they are not made solely from yak's milk. Cow's milk is also used to create these products, which despite their price are gaining popularity. If your pet has an allergy to beef, these products would not be suitable.

Finally, synthetic rawhide chews are widely available and since they're largely plant-based (they do contain chicken jerky as well as grain starch and vegetables) by all accounts appear to be a fine option. In theory, yes. Their high level of digestibility is a plus, but in my research, one glaring drawback cannot be ignored: they are made in China. 

Considering the questions that loom with regard to the safety of pet consumables imported from China, the general consensus is that they not be given to pets.

All of that said, chewing on appropriate bones and toys is a healthy activity that dogs not only love, but need to indulge in. It relieves stress, helps clean their teeth and indulges an innate need -- and choosing the right product can make it safe.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer -- most recently as a contributor on MLive -- and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter

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