The Pros and Cons of Different Chews for Dogs

Dogs love to chew. It’s part of their natural instincts! Yet, some chews have more benefits than others. Some are just not a good idea. Here’s what to know.

May 31, 2024By Amanda Henry
pros and cons of different chews for dogs

Whether it’s a pair of shoes or even the couch, there’s no bones about it: dogs love to chew! The good news is that you have many options when purchasing a treat that both entertains your dog and benefits their health. The bad news is that there are many chews that pose the risk of injury.

Below, we talk about the different types of chews for dogs, evaluating the pros and cons of each.

Chewing Offers Dogs Many Benefits

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Like their ancestors, dogs have an innate desire to chew. But even though intense chewing is no longer necessary for dogs to get nutrients, it is still beneficial for them both physically and mentally.

One of the significant benefits of chewing is that it helps with dental health, which plays a vital role in your dog’s overall well-being. As a dog chews on something, their teeth repeatedly brush against it. This removes any built-up plaque and tartar without the need for a toothbrush. That’s why many of the best chew toys for dogs claim to combat dental disease and other teeth-specific ailments.

Chewing is also a highly enriching activity for your dog because it keeps your dog from getting bored. It can also have a calming effect because chewing releases dopamine and serotonin—the “happy hormones”—in a dog’s brain. So, if you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety, giving them a chew when you leave can keep them calm in your absence.

Rawhide: A High-Risk Chew with Many Downsides

dog chewing on rawhide
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rawhides are one of the most widespread dog chew available. It’s cheap to make and cheap to buy. Yet, if you’re a risk-adverse dog owner, rawhide is one of the worst treats you can give your dog.

There are several cons, the first being that rawhides are a heavily processed by-product of leather, making them difficult to digest. Because of this, they have a high risk of causing intestinal blockages that require emergency veterinary care.

Another con is that some rawhides, especially cheaper varieties, are processed with harmful chemicals such as arsenic and formaldehyde. This means you risk exposing your dog to harmful toxins and carcinogens when you give them rawhide chews.

Always read a treat’s packaging when deciding whether to give it to your dog, as rawhide is a primary ingredient in many cheap treats. If you’re not concerned about bowel obstructions, rawhide is a budget-friendly way to entertain your dog. Yet, if you want to avoid emergency vet visits and heartache, steer clear of these processed products.

Bully Sticks Are Generally a Safe Option

bully sticks in package
Image credit: Amazon

Bully sticks are an all-natural chew made from dried bull penis. Despite how unappetizing that sounds, dogs love them, and there are many pros to this chew. The first pro is that they are easily digestible, so they’re not likely to cause blockages. They also last a long time for an entirely edible chew, usually at least 20 minutes for heavy chewers and up to a couple of hours for light chewers.

Bully sticks are also less of a choking hazard than some other chews because they are difficult for dogs to break off large pieces. If you’re concerned about the chew breaking apart, there are bully stick holders that prevent this from happen. These are rubber holders that keep the treat from splintering.

Like any other chew, bully sticks also have some cons, the first being that wide varieties have a strong smell. Bully sticks are also relatively high in calories, so they might not be the best for dogs trying to lose weight.

Raw Meat Bones: Something to Consider

raw bones for dogs
Image credit: The Bones & Co. Pet Foods

One variety of chews that many pet parents don’t consider is raw meaty bones. This chew can be given thawed or frozen, and they last quite a long time if given frozen. The biggest pro to raw meaty bones is that they are one of the most nutritious chews available. Generally very high in protein, these chews also contain collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which help with joint health and prevent common health problems in dogs.

However, raw meaty bones are not a good choice for every dog. If you plan to give your dog raw meaty bones as chews, you should do your research because some types are safer than others. Cooked bones should never be given because they can splinter into sharp shards that could injure your dog if consumed.

Hooves and Antlers: Use with Caution

hooves and antlers dog treat
Image credit: Chewy

Although different types of chews, hooves and antlers share similar pros and cons, however, the only real pro is that they are extremely long-lasting compared to other chews.

There are several cons to these chews, one being that hooves and antlers can be expensive. They are both extremely hard, so there is a high risk of causing tooth damage. Neither hooves nor antlers are easily digested, which can lead to an intestinal blockage if a large piece is broken off and swallowed.

Himalayan Yak Chews Are Low Risk Treats

Himalayan Yak Chews
Image credit: Amazon

Sometimes referred to as yak cheese, Himalayan yak chews are an entirely edible chew that is easy to digest. Another pro is that these chews are extremely long-lasting for an edible chew and will often last several days.

However, one con of Himalayan yak chews is that they are a very hard chew. This means they have a high risk of causing tooth damage, especially for strong chewers. If you’re concerned about your dog breaking a tooth using a yak chew, soak the treat in water and put it in the microwave for 45 to 60 seconds. This will turn the treat into a chewable puff, kind of like a Cheeto.

The Right Chew Depends on Your Dog

white dog chewing on logs
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chewing is a fantastic activity for dogs to engage in, but it is important that you select the right chew for each dog’s chewing style. In general, one of the most important factors to consider is the size of the chew.

Dogs should not be given chews that are small enough for them to swallow, and all chews should be taken away once they get small enough to swallow to minimize the risk of your dog choking. Finally, remember that dogs should always be supervised while chewing so that if something goes wrong, you can intervene.

Amanda Henry
By Amanda Henry

Amanda is an animal lover with over 10 years of experience in dog training and animal care. She has two dogs, an Australian cattle dog named Murphy and a Labrador retriever named Zappa. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, and riding horses.