First let’s start with a skill-testing question – do you know what a bully stick actually is?
Well we aren’t going to give the answer away just yet…
Dogs need energy outlets, and for some this includes chewing. There are so many chewing options in pet-stores including bones, rope toys, kongs, balls, bully sticks, pig ears… all advertised with various benefits for your dog. But how is a pet-owner to pick through this advertising and know what is best and safest?
Balls – As long as your dog isn’t able to destroy the ball and swallow it in pieces (or in one piece!), soft squishy balls are okay for short periods of time. Tennis balls, however, will cause wearing to the teeth and resulting in significant damage. This is due to their fuzzy abrasive surface. Rubber balls like the ‘chuck-its’ are good alternatives!
Rope Toys – Rope toys can be great fun in moderation! Again, if your dog enjoys taking things apart, these are definitely an’ under supervision’ kind of chew. Tug-of-war can also be hard on the teeth, stressing the ligaments of the main grasping teeth (the canines) to the point where they can sustain damage and tooth loss.
Bones/Antlers – Dr. Fraser Hale, Certified Veterinary Dental Specialist, has said on many occasions that if the chew is hard enough you wouldn’t knock it against your knee, it is too hard for your dog’s teeth. This includes ice! So even if bones and antlers seem ‘natural’, they can in fact break teeth. These crown fractures can be small and sometimes unnoticeable to you the owner, as usually our pets will hide discomfort or pain. Problems arise, however, when bacteria enter the pulp cavity and travel to the tooth root, creating inflammation, infection and more pain.
FlexiChew Nylabones – These may be a good option for moderate chewers. For dogs who could gnaw through concrete, however, nylabones may break into smaller chunks, more swallow-able (and therefore dangerous) pieces. As always, chewing under supervision is key. The hard Nylabones are not appropriate for dogs to chew, since just like real bone, the can fracture teeth.
Kongs – Kongs are by far the safest chew-toy! Look to the colour (red or black) for ‘strength’ indication. Black is for ‘extreme’ chewers! Stuffing these toys with kibble, or kibble soaked in low-sodium broths and then frozen, can extend the dog’s interest in the toy.
Rawhide –Rawhides can cause digestive upset depending on the dog. Caloric intake also has to be considered. If your pup absolutely cannot live with a rawhide once and a while, try to use the rolled up rawhides without big knots on the ends. Dogs will fracture teeth more easily gnawing on the big knots than on a uniformly rolled rawhide, and the knot poses an obstruction risk if swallowed.
Bully Sticks – Okay, so did you answer our question? The answer is raw, dried bull penis. Mmmmm…
Did you know that this means a bullystick is considered a ‘by-product’? By-products can be protein-rich, tasty sources of ingredients for our pets, and aren’t just something like hooves or horns. That said – should a bullystick be a daily part of your pet’s diet?
There are three issues to be aware of with the bullystick. First, some dogs can swallow them whole – supervision is important, and if your dog is prone to just swallowing the whole thing it is not a great option. Second, did you know how many calories an average bullystick holds? 45-133 calories (9-22 calories/inch). SIZE MATTERS. Think about the average lab who might require 1000 calories per day. If your pup is already overweight, you probably need to re-think the bullystick! Finally, there is very little regulation regarding these types of products, and there is possibility of bacterial contamination – which could affect both you and your pet. The same goes with other farm products like pig ears, hooves, etc.
So the winner? KONGS are by far the safest chew. As for other options, there may be no ‘perfect’ chew – the key is to know the risks and benefits associated with each type!