Chewing. Every dog’s favourite pastime. For some dogs, anything that fits in their mouth is considered food, but that doesn’t make it safe or healthy. Finding the best dog chew can offer a number of benefits to their health and well-being.
Many dogs are avid chewers, and finding a chew that will keep your dog busy for a long time and that he will love is almost impossible. These chews all serve important purposes: helping with dental health, keeping your dog busy chewing, supplying natural minerals for bone and joint health and more.
Keep in mind that all chews could potentially be a choking or obstruction hazard, and pets should always be monitored while enjoying them.
Using natural dog chews to improve your pet’s health is easier than you might think. Learn which natural chews are appropriate for different dietary needs and life stages, and how dog chews can prevent destructive behaviours. Stick around to learn which chews can support your pet.
What is a Natural Dog Chew?
Dog’s need to chew, and offering them a natural and safe alternative to some of the more dangerous objects they choose to nibble on is highly recommended. Natural chews are typically animal in origin and almost always edible.
Many animal parts can be dehydrated, dried, or cooked, but a natural chew needs to be large or durable enough to keep your dog chewing for a while.
Your dog has unique needs and preferences, and you’ll need to figure out which chews will be right for your pet.
5 Health Benefits of Natural Dog Chews
Finding the best chew for your dog depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If your goal is just to treat Fido, then most chews will work fine.
However, your dog's chews may also be benefiting your dog’s health in ways you didn’t even realize. Let’s go through the main benefits of natural chews for dogs:
1. Dental Care
Your dog’s natural desire to chew comes from their ancestors. Chewing is how wild dogs and wolves care for their teeth. Gnawing on bones, tendons, and raw meat helped to maintain their dental health.
For domesticated pets, diet, environment, and lifestyle all contribute to greater dental care needs. While chewing has many dental benefits, caring for your dog's teeth is a bit more complicated, and they require a more human tooth care approach: Toothbrushing.
For more information about your pet's dental health needs, hop over to our Step by Step Guide to Brushing Your Dog's Teeth.
Although your pup’s teeth can't be cared for by chewing alone, offering safe, natural chews is an excellent complement to their existing dental routine.
Many dogs today are less than thrilled about their weekly toothbrushing sessions, which is why natural chews are a desirable option. Natural chews are flavourful and will always be welcomed by your dog.
Different types of natural chews will provide different levels of dental care, so it’s a good idea to offer a rotating variety of natural chews to your dog each week. This can also keep the chewing experience fun and exciting.
Softer chews will work best for reaching in between teeth and hard to reach places, while a harder chew will last longer and allow your dog to remove stuck-on bacteria build up.
Not all chews are right for every dog, and some chews carry more risk than others.
It's important to reiterate that offering your dog natural chews is not a replacement for regular toothbrushing and routine vet visits. Dog chews can be given weekly to support dental health, while toothbrushing should be done more often, preferably every day.
Idle paws, or in this case jaws, can lead to some destructive behaviours. Destroying furniture, digging, aggression, and poor eating habits can all be the result of an under-stimulated dog.
Natural chews are an excellent way to keep your dog occupied, satisfied, and safe.
Look for a long lasting chew to entertain your dog while you are busy. The chew may not take up all of their spare time, but it should give them an activity to focus on for a short period of time.
It is important to remember that natural chews are not a replacement for regular exercise or one-on-one attention. They should only be used supplementally to help deter destructive behaviours.
Offer chews in between playtime. Rotate natural chews, puzzle toys, and chew toys to keep your dog engaged when you aren’t spending one-on-one time with them.
We recommend that your dog is always supervised when chewing to prevent the risk of choking. Even experienced chewers can make a mistake swallowing a chew whole.
Check out Bored Dogs: Symptoms & Solutions for Dog Boredom for more tips to prevent destructive behaviours and anxiety relating to boredom.
Anxiety can also manifest in destructive behaviours. Separation anxiety is a very common type. This usually happens when a dog is anxious about being left alone.
Giving your dog a natural chew can provide a much-needed distraction from the routines that can trigger anxiety.
For some dogs, anxiety starts when they see signs of your departure. Putting on your shoes, looking for your keys, packing a bag; these are actions that your dog associates with being left alone.
Distracting them with a natural chew can allow your pet to learn to be more comfortable when they are alone. This won’t cure separation anxiety, but it is a great first step to reducing destructive behaviours and getting your dog comfortable with their alone time.
Anxiety around strangers, storms, and other triggers can also benefit from the distracting powers of natural dog chews.
When used with proper training and appropriate calming solutions, you can prevent the destructive and sometimes dangerous behaviours associated with anxiety.
Many chews offer vital nutrients like protein, fat, and minerals. Supplementing a diet with natural chews can be very healthy.
No chew will replace a complete and balanced diet, but many types of chews can provide additional nutrition to support your dog’s needs.
Natural chews are often high in protein and low in fat. They can add calories to your puppy's diet, or help your senior pet build and maintain muscle.
Other nutrients like calcium and phosphorus can be sourced from bones and marrow. As a long lasting chew for dogs, bones are a pretty popular option even if you weren’t aware of the nutritional value.
Treats should not take up more than 10% of their diet, but even in small quantities can still complement a balanced diet and effectively support your dog’s health.
5. Hip and Joint Care
For older pets and even larger breeds, hip and joint issues are practically inevitable but they can be managed to prevent pain and mobility issues.
To reduce the severity and stave off age or size-related mobility problems, you can protect your dog’s joints and support connective tissues by feeding some natural chews.
Over time your dog’s natural collagen will begin to deteriorate or weaken. Collagen is the main structural component of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, so feeding natural chews that are rich in collagen can help their body replenish vital connective tissues.
Collagen can’t repair damage to their joints, but it can be used preventatively. Feeding a collagen-rich chew at least once a week can help to support their hips and joints as they age and grow.
3 Things to Consider when Choosing a Dog Chew
There are many safe natural chew options available, but you need to find the one that is right for your pet. Here are 3 common issues that will impact the type of chew that you offer your pet:
Managing your pet’s weight can mean limiting calories to match their activity level and metabolism. When trying to care for an overweight dog, the first thing that usually gets cut from their routine is treats. Some natural chews are high in fat and calories that can further contribute to weight problems.
Cutting out treats and chews can help your pet reach their weight goals, but they will also be missing out on the many health benefits that come with feeding natural chews. Fortunately, some options allow your dog to have their chew and eat it too!
Most chews are made from animals, so carbs and sugars aren’t a huge concern. Instead, calories from fat and protein are the culprit with these treats. Look for leaner chews and count them as part of your dog’s daily calorie count.
If you offer your dog a natural chew, then you can balance out their calories by feeding a smaller meal. Or even better, take them out for an extra-long walk or a rigorous game of fetch to work off any extra calories they consumed.
You may not be able to feed natural chews as frequently as you used to, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut them out entirely. Look for lower-fat options when picking a dog chew.
Low-Fat Chews For Your Fat Dog:
Low-fat chews can reduce the amount of unused energy being created during digestion. Low fat does not mean low calorie, so make sure you are taking these extra calories into account when you are calculating your dog’s daily needs.
If you are implementing a weight loss plan for a dog that is severely overweight, then natural chews may have to be swapped for some calorie-free chew toys instead. At least until your dog reaches a weight that allows for increased activity.
If your puppy is teething, then you know how important it is to provide them with something to chew on. Natural chews provide a safe and nutritious alternative to letting your puppy chew on your furniture, your shoes, and you!
During the teething stage, which is typically between the ages of 4 weeks to 6 months, your puppy will want to chew. Chewing will help to relieve pain, loosen baby teeth, and work their adult teeth to the surface of the gums.
While chewing is an important part of teething, you must also consider that these teeth are more delicate. Avoid chews that are too hard or dense. Both baby teeth, and freshly surfaced adult teeth are at a higher risk for cracking or breaking.
The Best Natural Chews for Teething Puppies:
Puppies need higher calories than an adult dog, so offering a natural chew can contribute to some of their increased energy needs. Be cautious not to overfeed your puppy, though. Balance their treats with their food.
Their daily calories will need to change as they grow. Feeding natural chews can help to meet fluctuating needs each week, but they should still be getting most of their calories from a complete and balanced diet.
For dogs that suffer from allergies, finding the right treats can be hard. Some of the most widely available options for natural chews are also some of the most common protein allergies.
Itchy dogs need to chew too, so you’ll need to find a chew that won’t trigger your dog’s allergies. Look for alternative and exotic proteins to satisfy their chewing needs.
Exotic and Novel Protein Chews for Itchy Dogs:
Your options may be limited when it comes to exotic natural chews, so it’s a good idea to introduce a variety of proteins, one at a time. This way, you have multiple options for your dog.
For even more variety, look into some quicker chews, like rabbit ears or fish skins. They may not last long, but they can still be a rewarding treat and provide many of the benefits of a natural chew.
Treating a dog with food allergies is tough, so look for proteins that are unique and those that offer natural sources of omega fatty acids like fish skins, that can help to reduce inflammation and itchiness.
How to Pick Safe Dog Chews
Some natural chews are regarded as safer than others. We typically judge the safety of a natural chew based on its hardness, digestibility, and size. Giving the right chew to your dog means choosing the safest chew. It also means choosing the safest way to feed natural chews.
Here are 6 tips to help you feel confident about your natural chew choices:
1. Tougher Doesn’t Always Mean Better
When looking for a long-lasting chew, it’s easy to assume that the sturdiest option will be the best, but that may not be the case. The harder the chew, the higher the risk of tooth damage.
Bones, antlers and cow hooves are very popular among tough chewers, but they are too hard for many dogs. If you’ve fed these natural chews without incident, that’s great, but just know that the risk is there.
Hard chews are not suitable for puppies, seniors, and dogs with compromised dental health. The risk of tooth damage is too high.
A good rule of thumb is to stick to chews that you can indent slightly with your nail. This doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of your dog damaging their teeth, but it does decrease the odds.
Some chews are easier for your dog’s body to break down than others. Rawhides have long been frowned upon for their poor digestibility. While rawhide does digest slower than animal chews that are less processed, the digestion risks actually lie in how your dog chews them.
As they chew, rawhide gets soggy and slimy, like a large flat piece of gum. The texture allows your dog to swallow larger pieces that digest poorly. This can lead to choking and intestinal blockages.
Connective tissues and cartilage will chew down safer and digest quicker, so the risk of digestive issues from chews like bully sticks or tendons is much lower.
3. Size Matters
There is one pretty simple rule to keep in mind when you pick a natural chew for your dog: It’s very difficult to go too big, and very easy to go too small. Offering your dog a chew that is too small is a recipe for a choking hazard or bowel obstruction.
Dogs get excited about their chews, and they don’t have the forethought to know that swallowing a big chunk of bone or yak cheese may not pass the way they thought it would. Stick to larger chews, and remove the chew when it becomes small enough to be a risk.
4. Supervise Your Pet
We recommend that you monitor your pet whenever they are chewing on a toy or treat, no matter the type. Even the safest chews can be a choking risk if your dog tries to bite it the wrong way or swallow too quickly.
Even if you are comfortable with the way that your dog chews that type of treat, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Whenever you introduce a new treat, monitor to make sure that they are chewing safely.
Any dog can make a mistake and get a chew stuck somewhere, break a tooth, or swallow something they shouldn’t. Accidents happen, but if you choose appropriate treats for your dog and monitor their chewing habits, then you are reducing the risk of injury.
5. Wash Your Hands
Some chews look gross. They are greasy, slimy, and sometimes bloody. They immediately make you want to wash your hands, but not all chews look that unappealing. No matter what type of chew you offer your dog, wash your hands after you touch it.
Washing your hands is recommended after touching anything that goes into your dog’s mouth. Food, chews and even cookies have fat and bacteria present that can go rancid or make you sick. It’s not common, but it is possible.
Not all-natural chews are cooked. Many are smoked or baked, but chews that are freeze-dried or dehydrated could contain the same bacteria that you’d find on raw meat or bones.
This bacteria won’t harm your dog, but you and your family could be affected. As long as you are washing your hands and any surfaces that the natural chew touched, then the risk to you is slight.
6. Don’t Let Them Chew Just Anything
Most dogs are happy to chew on just about anything, but make sure you know the dangers of letting them chew on things that are not meant to be chewed or eaten. Sticks, rocks, and shoes are only a few examples of things that your dog shouldn’t be chewing on.
Choking, blockages, and internal and external damage are possible when your dog is chewing whatever they find lying around. Keep an eye out for these behaviours and make sure that you have a safe, natural chew option to offer instead.
Top 23 Best Dog Chews: Natural, Long-Lasting, and More
1. Bully Sticks
Probably one of the most well-known dog chews, bully sticks are perfect for dogs of any age, size, or breed. They are tough enough to last longer than any of the other chews on this list, but not so tough that a young puppy can’t soften and break them down.
You may not want to know what bully sticks are, but feel assured that they have a high protein content, are low-fat, and contain no carbohydrates or grains.
While bully sticks can be a healthy long-lasting chew for your dog at 9-22 calories per inch (88kcal for an average chew), too much can still make your pet pack on the pounds. As with any treat, you should feed your dog a little bit less food, taking into account that treats add calories. Limit bully sticks to one per day, remembering also that all treats should never make up more than 10% of your dog's daily calories.
Bully sticks, or pizzle sticks, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, lengths, and thicknesses. Dogs go crazy over the natural flavour and taste. Plus, the texture makes them safe for puppies, seniors and dogs with fewer teeth than they should have. They are also great for dental cleaning because of the way they soften. This can help to remove any bacteria stuck in the back of the mouth and gum line.
Most bully sticks have a certain smell to them and can be messy, but there are many varieties you can buy – even stink-free!
We Recommend: Eldon's Free-Range Odourless Bully Sticks
2. Beef Tendons
Beef tendons are an excellent choice for your dog’s dental health. Similar to the way that we floss our teeth, the string-like texture of tendons allows your dog to floss too! As it softens, the tendon sinks between your dog’s chompers and helps reduce some of the plaque or bacteria hiding in the back of his mouth.
Some other factors that make tendons one of our highest recommended dog chews are that they are fully digestible and can be enjoyed by all dogs – puppies, seniors, and doge’s with fewer teeth. Tendons aren’t limited to beef. There are other proteins as well, including beef, bison, kangaroo, and lamb.
Additionally, beef tendons are ideal for a longer chewing experience. They are long and hard, but will quickly soften and allow your dog or puppy to chew without breaking pieces off too fast.
We Recommend: Eldon's Beef Tendons
Rawhide is the most widely known and one of the most affordable chews out there for dogs. Rawhide comes in an assortment of styles and is available in bleached, natural (and unbleached), pressed, puffed, rolled, knotted, braided, or even flavoured.
If you're looking for a rawhide that will last longer, pressed rawhide will be the toughest, but also poses the biggest risk. Multiple paper-thin sheets of rawhide are pressed firmly together, and no matter how much your dog chews, the sheets will still expand in their stomach. This can cause digestive issues, even blockages if large pieces are swallowed.
The safest form of rawhide is puffed rawhide. This rawhide is pre-soaked to expand the rawhide and reduce the amount of moisture that the rawhide can absorb in your dog's stomach. These may not last as long, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? Another alternative is expanded pork skin. It is not pressed or chemically treated like rawhide and will digest much easier.
For your dog's safety and enjoyment, look for rawhides that are an appropriate size for your dog to chew. The entire chew should not be able to fit in your dog's mouth or be swallowed in its entirety.
Regardless of the type of rawhide you feed, there is always a risk of poor digestion of this type of chew. Always monitor your pet to ensure proper chewing, and remove the chew if they are trying to swallow large pieces that could cause an intestinal blockage.
We Recommend: Eldon's Free Range Rolled Rawhide
4. Lamb Horns
This type of chew is one of the newest to the natural chew category, but it has been very popular so far. Horns are very hard and have a very low risk of splintering, but they do not have the same risk as antlers and bones of damaging teeth, so they are safe to feed to puppies and seniors.
They can be found with marrow, or with the marrow removed, allowing you to stuff the horn with dog-safe peanut butter and other treats. Marrow is high in fat, so if you are treating a dog with weight issues, avoid lamb horns with marrow. The horns themselves are very high in protein and can complement any meat-rich diet.
Dental health can be greatly improved with lamb horns. The fibres of the horn break down as your dog chews and will act like floss, cleaning in between teeth and around the gum line.
Horns come in a variety of sizes, so always choose the size that is appropriate for your dog. Never leave your dog unattended with a natural chew, as there is always a risk of choking.
We Recommend: Icelandic Lamb Horns
5. Raw Bones
Raw bones are hands down the safest way to feed bones to your dog. Cooked bones become brittle and have a high risk of cracking and splintering, which can be very harmful to your pet. A raw bone is softer, and dogs are able to chew off small pieces of the bone to properly digest it.
Raw bones can benefit your dog's dental health, safely, and provide essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus that their bodies need to maintain and support skeletal structure and organ function.
There are many options to choose from, but always pick an appropriately sized bone for your pet. Different animals produce different sized and shaped bones, so the large bones of a cow may be suitable for a big dog, but a smaller breed may need to scale down to lamb bones.
Different animal bones have different toughness too. That's why some bones are considered edible, and other recreational. Edible bones include poultry necks and backs, while recreational bones, like most beef bones, are meant for chewing but not eating. Avoid dense weight-bearing bones as they can damage our pet’s teeth.
Some types of poultry bones, raw or cooked, can easily splinter and should always be avoided. While poultry bones are highest in calcium, only bones that are cartilaginous should ever be fed to your pet. Only raw necks, backs, feet, and wingtips are safe.
6. Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are another natural dog chew that is perfect for dogs that love to chew, or just need a distraction. They still have plenty of beef flavour, but not many meaty bits for your dog to chew off like kneecaps do. In this way, beef ribs can last longer as a chew, but may not interest your dog for as long as something that has pieces to chew off.
The flat thin shape of rib bones makes them more likely to crack or splinter than rounder, thicker cooked bones will. These are not the best option for dogs with very powerful jaws like boxers, mastiff and bully breeds.
Always size your dogs chew appropriately. A chew that is too small can be swallowed, choked on, and do severe digestive damage. Rib bones should be too large to fit the whole chew in their mouth. The chew can always be taken away and given back another day, so you're safer to offer a bone that is too big than one that is too small.
We Recommend: ValuePack Beef Ribs
7. Elk Antlers
Elk antler gets our top prize for longest lasting natural dog chew. If your dog just can't get enough to chew, go for an elk antler. It's ideal for very aggressive chewers, but like a bone, antlers can splinter and break. It's best to always supervise your pet with this type of chew, and be prepared to take it away if they break into sharp or jagged pieces.
Chock-full of natural minerals, these renewable chews (elk naturally shed them every year) are a top choice for tough chewers. The chondroitin sulphate found in elk antler is particularly beneficial for your dog's bone and joint health and is often an important component of joint health supplements. While it’s not the most flavourful chew, elk antlers won't stain or smell like other natural chews and they are generally more interesting to dogs than synthetic chews.
While the marrow in elk antlers can be higher in calories, your dog won't be eating the whole chew in one sitting, so there should be no cause for concern.
When you are choosing elk antler, quality does matter. Cheaper elk antler can splinter easily and split, which makes it hazardous to your dog. As with any chew, take it away from your dog when it gets to be small enough to swallow.
Because of how tough this chew is, there is a risk that your dog can damage their teeth as they chew. Avoid feeding elk antlers to puppies, seniors, and dogs with compromised dental health.
We Recommend: Puppy Love Elk Antler
8. Beef Hooves
If you have a really big chewer, beef hooves are durable, natural, long-lasting chews that have another unique feature. With a natural cavity inside them, beef hooves can be filled with a stuffing for added enjoyment. Try peanut butter or Kong stuffing. Want the chew treat to last even longer? Freeze the stuffing inside your beef hooves!
Hooves do have sharp edges, and although that will be the first part your dog chews off, there is still a risk. You can file down the edges if you are uncomfortable with feeding this chew.
The biggest challenge with beef hooves is the smell. To say they reek is an understatement, and the smell gets worse as your dog starts to slobber all over it. This is one chew that is best to feed outside!
We Recommend: ValuePack Beef Hooves
9. Tripe Twist Sticks
Tripe is the stomach lining of any grazing animal. Tripe Twists are made from the third stomach of a cow. These chews are uniquely flavourful and are twisted into a stick to allow your dog to soften and chew off small pieces at a time. These stringy sticks will help to massage their gums and ease pain related to teething. They’re also another great flossing method!
As your dog chews on a tripe twist stick, it softens easily making it great for puppies or senior dogs. This is a great alternative to rawhide, as it is much easier to chew and digest.
Although a tripe twist stick isn’t the longest-lasting chew on this list, it is a huge hit because of its flavour! They’re also low-fat and great for dog’s that need their weight monitored. Don’t be worried if your dog starts chomping away on this one! Tripe twists do not expand in your dog’s stomach – so they are safe to consume.
What to learn more about tripe for dogs? Check out What are the Benefits of Tripe.
We Recommend: Eldon’s Tripe Twist Sticks
10. Beef Strips
Angus Strips are made from the beef esophagus. Our Angus Strips are sourced from grass-fed cows in Argentina and are always hormone and antibiotic-free! No smoke flavour or preservatives added. The texture is similar to a crunchy jerky and is great for less aggressive chewers.
We Recommend: Eldon’s Angus Beef Strips
11. Chomper Sticks
Just like the Angus Strips, our Beef Chomper Sticks are made from the same Argentinian sourced cattle. These sticks are a little tougher than the Angus Strips but are still suitable for all breeds and sizes. The thinner shape also allows them to scrape against hard to reach teeth as they chew.
Chompers are highly digestible, so you can feel good knowing that you are offering your pup a safe and tasty natural chew. They are available in two sizes 6" and 12", so always choose the size that best suits your dog.
Although not as dense as tendons, Chompers, made from beef esophagus, are both fun to chew and easy to digest. Chompers come in a few styles, designed to accommodate different sizes of puppies.
For daintier chewers and small breeds, Chomper strips and sticks are the perfect snacks, while bigger tougher breeds may prefer a braided chomper.
We Recommend: Eldon’s Beef Chomper Sticks
12. Tartar Bones
Tartar bones are one of our best-selling natural treats, made of 100% beef kneecaps. These are composed of mainly beef cartilage and bone, which makes them beneficial to hip and joint health. Our kneecaps are approximately 4" and made in Canada with North American ingredients.
Unlike many other recreational bones, kneecaps are less likely to splinter and are a safer alternative for tough chewers. They are a smaller bone, so they may not be suitable for large and giant breeds. Always supervise your dog to prevent choking or swallowing larger chunks.
While kneecaps are safer than traditionally cooked bones, there is still a risk in feeding any type of cooked bones. When bone is cooked, it becomes brittle and the risk of splintering, however small, is still there. Avoid feeding to puppies, senior dogs or dogs that have difficulty chewing or other dental issues.
Monitor your dog at all times and remove the bone if large or sharp pieces are coming off of it. Dogs with sensitive digestion should avoid cooked bones, as even small pieces can cause irritation.
These tasty chews can also be super messy, so you might want to feed them to your dog outside or on a washable surface. Also, as with other natural chews, beef kneecaps can get smelly.
We Recommend: ValuePack Tartar Bones
13. Pig and Beef Ears
Dogs love the texture and taste of natural pig or cow ears, which makes them an easy guess for this top list. We offer different natural ear options to accommodate the needs of individual pets.
Our pig ears are made from North American ingredients right here in Canada, conveniently packed and priced with your best value in mind. Our Pig Ears are smoked, leaving them crunchy and irresistible to dogs.
Our beef ears are baked and dried for a lower calorie option. Our beef ears are sourced from free-range, grass-fed cattle from Argentina. Beef ears are another great dental care option, as they are thinner than pig ears and can work hard to reach places in your dog's mouth.
We Recommend: Red Bard Puffed Sow Ears
14. Turkey Necks
If you are looking to stick to raw chews but hate the mess, try freeze-dried. Vital Essentials specializes in offering a healthy freeze-dried alternative to some of the most popular chews for dogs.
Feeding bones to a puppy is risky unless you stick to soft, hollow bones and cartilage, like what you’ll find in raw poultry necks, backs, or feet. Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Turkey Necks are an easy way to feed your puppy raw bone without the mess or hassle of fresh raw.
We Recommend: Vital Essentials Turkey Necks
15. Stuffed Beef Strips
A favourite for picky pups, this stuffed treat blends a chewy, tough exterior with a soft crumbly meat filling. Angus stuffers are a beef and tapioca filling, wrapped in a thin layer of beef esophagus.
They don't last forever, but they are easy on the tummy and packed with flavour that no puppy can resist. They are only offered in one size, so they may not be suitable for every dog. Large dogs may be inclined to gulp the tasty treat, while extra small breeds simply don’t need that many calories in one sitting.
We Recommend: Eldon's Angus Stuffers
16. Pork Skin
Unlike traditional rawhide that is processed similarly to hides in the leather industry, pork skins are not chemically treated or bleached. Instead, they are smoked and loosely rolled.
These chews are not dehydrated after cooking, so they will not absorb moisture or expand in your pup’s tummy. This makes them a deliciously chewy treat that is more digestible than rawhide. They are fattier though, so prepare for a greasy chew.
We Recommend: ValuePack Pork Rollers
17. Kangaroo Sticks or Tails
For a quicker crunchier chew, these Australian sourced Kangaroo Sticks are perfect. They are made from 100% ground kangaroo meat that is pressed into a 5-6" stick before cooking. They are far from the longest lasting chew on our list, but they are still a fan favourite.
Kangaroo is an exotic protein, so these chews are preferred for dogs that suffer from allergies and sensitive digestion. They are very lean and are less likely to cause reactions than some of the standard proteins commonly used for natural chews.
Homes Alive Recommends: Kangaroo Sticks
18. Bladder Chews
They may seem like an odd animal part to chew on, but bladder sticks are cooked, long sticks made of a cow’s bladder. They aren't the most pleasant smelling chew either, so they are best fed outdoors, in kennels, or just away from people who can't handle the stink.
Bladder is made of muscle and connective tissues, similar to a tendon or ligament. They are firm when cooked and dried, but soften as your dog chews. Similar to a tendon, Bladder Sticks are great for dental health and provide a healthy source of collagen to your pet.
We Recommend: Eldon’s Bladder Sticks
19. Cod Sticks
Fish skins are an excellent chew for teething puppies. They are soft enough to be easily digested but chewy enough to give your puppy a gummy chewing experience. If you don’t mind the fishy scent (we know your puppy won’t!), then Icelandic+ Cod skins are a great option.
Icelandic+ focuses on sustainability and environmental impact, so all of their products are free-range, grass-fed, or wild-caught from the clean landscapes and waters of Iceland.
Additionally, fish skins are often recommended for dogs with little to know teeth. The strips of fish skin are thin enough for your dog to gum. It's a great jaw workout and as the skins soften, small pieces can be safely mashed and swallowed with their tongue and gums.
Homes Alive Recommends: Icelandic+ Cod Sticks
20. Rubber Chews
For dogs who love to chew all day, a chew that cannot be consumed makes sense for their health. Well-made rubber dog chews also tend to last a lot longer than most consumable chews, and are still a reasonable price. If you buy a good-quality rubber chew, your dog will likely get the most chew for your money.
Kong, one of the top brands for rubber dog toys, has a wide variety of dog-tested chews, even Kong Extreme for the toughest chewers. Kong also has special treats, consumable chews, and stuffing that can be used with their chew toys, making them more enticing for dogs. A new flavour can be just what it takes to revive an old toy into a favourite again.
The downside to rubber chews is that some dogs just don't like them. Rubber has a strong smell and a different texture, so if your dog is picky, he just may not pick it up.
Try out some of these fun tricks in 13 Ways to Use a Kong to get your dog interested in a plain old rubber toy.
We Recommend: Kong Dog Toys
21. Nylon Chews
Nylon chews are an excellent long-lasting dog chew choice as they are very durable. Nylon chews often come in different textures and shapes and with special flavours to interest your dog. They can even help clean your dog's teeth. Flavoured nylon bones make good chews for overweight dogs.
Scented, yummy-tasting varieties keep your dog interested longer than plain nylon. Tasty Bone infuses natural flavours throughout the entire toy, unlike most brands that just coat the nylon toy. This will keep your dog interested for longer.
Like any chew toy, they are not edible. Very small pieces can be swallowed and passed safely, but these toys should never be consumed. Never leave your dog unattended with a nylon chew, and inspect the toy regularly for damage.
We Recommend: Tastybone
22. Yak Cheese (Himalayan Cheese)
Yak cheese is a hard, natural product that many dogs find extremely tasty. Non-staining and odour-free, it makes an excellent natural chew choice for any dog. Low-fat and more digestible than rawhide, bones, or antlers, yak cheese is irresistible to most dogs.
As with any natural chew, always monitor your pet with it and remove it if the chew is small enough that your pet could swallow it whole. Also, watch how much yak cheese you give your dog. While yak cheese is low in fat, it is high in calories.
If the yak cheese chew gets too small for your pet to safely chew on, you can microwave it on high power for 45 – 75 seconds, let it cool for 2 minutes and give it to your dog as a crunchy, puffy cheese treat.
We Recommend: Himalayan Dog Chews
23. Rope Chews
An inexpensive and universally loved chew and toy is the rope bone. These toys consist of cotton ropes generally braided into a bone shape. For a natural chew, look for 100% cotton fibres. As your dog's teeth rub on the fibres, plaque and bacteria that cause bad breath and gum inflammation are removed – just like “flossing” your dog's teeth. Dogs love chewing rope toys, but they'll love it when you play tug-of-war even more.
For teething puppies, rope toys can be soaked and frozen to help relieve some of the pain and discomfort from their teeth moving. This can, of course, get messy, so this is a great option for when your dog is in their kennel, outside, or on an easy to clean surface.
Thread from rope toys can shed as they chew. Small pieces won't harm your pet, but do your best to avoid letting your dog eat the rope toy. This can do damage to their intestinal tract.
Homes Alive Recommends: Flossy
10 Things You Should Never Let Your Dog Chew
Many of these dangerous “chews” can often be found in your house, your yard, and at the park. Be aware of the dangers around you. You know your dog better than anyone, so scan your environment to remove threats, and keep your dog close to avoid the temptation of picking up objects that could be harmful
Here are 10 dangerous things that dogs love to chew, but really shouldn’t:
This is a tough one because sticks can be found anywhere that there is grass and trees. Whether your dog is patrolling the yard or investigating a bush on your daily walk, your dog is likely to come across sticks, twigs, and branches that are lying around.
For some, it’s a fun toy; for others, it could be a tasty snack, but both can pose a serious threat if you are not careful. The risk of dry splintered wood puncturing or cutting your dog’s mouth is high.
Dead wood becomes dry and brittle, so any dog crunching on it is likely to break off small sharp spears that can damage their gums, or worse - their esophagus, stomach, or intestines if swallowed.
Instead of sticks, offer your dog a Tripe Twist. These natural chews will have a similar mouth feel, but will chew down safer and be much easier to digest. They won't last as long, but they can help to curb your dog's dangerous stick obsession.
Even as a game of fetch, a stick caught the wrong way can get lodged in the mouth, break teeth, or damage eyes if they fumble the catch badly enough. Of course, you can’t account for every freak accident, but you can choose safer fetch toys like tennis balls or frisbees.
It’s easy for a dog to think of a rock as a fun chew or toy. They see us skipping them across ponds and casually kicking them as we walk. It’s a game for us, and they do as we do.
For dogs that play with rocks, especially those that chew them, their dental health is at risk. Rocks of any size can break or crack their teeth, causing your dog severe pain and sticking you with a hefty vet bill.
If swallowed, larger rocks can be a choking hazard or potential blockage. Even smaller rocks can build up to create obstructions in the intestines or damage the soft tissues of the digestive tract.
Instead of rocks, give your dog some Yak Cheese. These tasty chews will have a satisfying hard crunch with significantly less risk to your dogs dental health.
If you suspect that your dog has swallowed rocks, contact your vet immediately. The rocks may pass, but you need to know what to look for over the next 48 hours.
3. Cooked Bones
This is a controversial subject, because cooked bones are often sold in pet stores, and can have some dental benefits for a dog that is lucky enough not to suffer the consequences.
While chewing is vital to your dog's dental health, cooked bones get brittle and hard. This could lead to cracked or damaged teeth. The bone can easily splinter, creating sharp pieces that can cut your dog’s gums.
Pieces that are swallowed could cause blockages or puncture their stomach or intestines. While this doesn’t happen to every dog, the risk is very real, so use caution when feeding any type of cooked bone.
Raw Bones are a safer alternative to cooked or smoked bones. Though they are still a long-lasting chew, raw bones have much less of risk of splintering.
Some dogs have been eating cooked bones for years with no problems, and I’d say they are lucky. If you do choose to feed cooked bones, I recommend monitoring your dog at all times. You may be able to prevent disaster if you are able to take away a bone or a piece of a bone that looks dangerous.
4. Plastic Bottles
Maybe it’s the sound or the texture, but dogs go nuts for an empty plastic bottle. Chewing them is both engaging and satisfying for your dog when they feel the crunch of the bottle. For prey driven dogs, it could even feel similar to the feeling of crunching down on fresh prey.
It’s quite common to use plastic bottles as part of a DIY toy or treat dispenser. As long as they are not chewing the bottle with the intent to destroy it, then using them in this way is safe.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer, then using a tougher toy meant to withstand their bite will be safer.
Plastic is not edible, and as your dog chews it, sharp pieces and ridges can form and could cut your dog’s mouth and irritate their esophagus. Thin plastic bottles are easy enough to destroy, so breaking off larger chunks can lead to choking or blockages.
Dogs that love chewing plastic will likely enjoy a durable dog chew toy. Try to find toys that are tough enough that your dog can't destroy them, and always supervise your dog's chewing sessions.
Make sure that your recycling is safely stored away from your dog. If it’s in reach, your dog is likely to be seduced into sneaking a quick chomp of the makeshift toy.
Most dogs enjoy an occasional ice cube. We’ve all dropped a cube or two when trying to free them from the tray and quickly called Fido over to clean up our mess. A single small ice cube is unlikely to do any harm, but larger blocks of ice are too hard and can risk damaging their teeth.
Puppies, seniors, and dogs with dental issues should avoid chewing on ice. The risk to their teeth is even greater.
If your dog is an ice cube fiend or you want to help cool them down in the summer, try freezing shallow ice cubes. They will be easier to chew and will melt quicker in their mouth.
Freezing ice inside of rubber toys is another great way to offer a refreshing treat. The toy itself provides a protective barrier, and the ice will begin to melt into smaller pieces before they can get it out.
For dogs that love a frozen treat, try one of our favourite frozen dog treat recipes. These chilled snacks will keep your dog cool and will satisfy his icy cravings. Plus you can load your frozen dogsicles up with tons of nutritious ingredients.
Not everything on our list is something that you want them to consider a chew toy. Destructive chewing, like on your furniture, is a common sign of anxiety, boredom, or frustration in dogs.
The materials in your furniture can be toxic if swallowed, so make sure that you are quickly breaking this habit to keep your dog safe.
Couches and other fabrics may look like a really big stuffy to your dog, but the stuffing, foam, and fabrics inside are dangerous. They can lead to intestinal blockages, constipation, or choking. Beyond that, you have no idea if the fabrics have been treated with flame-retardant chemicals or other substances that can be toxic if your pet ingests it.
Wood furniture like tables, chairs, and even baseboards may be another target for a puppy throwing a tantrum. These are not only a splintering risk, but are typically finished with a stain, varnish, or paint that could be toxic to your dog.
When your dog nibbles on the couch, offer a fun Plush Dog Toy instead. They can be pulled out quickly to distract and redirect your dog's destructive behaviours. Plush toys come in all shapes, sizes, and textures, so try different options to keep your dog engaged.
If your dog has this unhealthy anxiety habit, then you should look into ways to calm anxiety, distract them, or consider kennel training your dog when they are unsupervised.
Another nasty habit of anxiety-ridden dogs is chewing on fences, crates, and whatever else they feel is keeping them captive. While metal is less likely to break off and be ingested, the real risk is the damage to their mouth.
Chain link fences, chicken wire fencing, and the bars of a crate or kennel may get chewed if your dog is anxious about being confined. They are likely to break teeth, wear away protective enamel, and irritate their gums to the point of bleeding.
They may even bend or break bars or links in an attempt to escape. This raises the potential for severe cuts and injury. In cases of extreme anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional trainer that can equip you with the tools and methods to ease your dog’s stress.
Your dog needs a distraction; try a Beef Trachea to occupy him. Offering him a safe and edible natural chew can offer a safe and fun distraction during down time.
Another DIY toy material, cardboard, can be fun to play with and tempting to eat. Most cardboard is non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk. Small pieces are ingested and will stick to each other when damp. It can accumulate into a thick gooey mass in your dog’s stomach, which may be too big or dense to break apart. Life-threatening intestinal blockages are possible.
If your dog has ingested cardboard, keep an eye out for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and lethargy. Also, monitor bowel movements to make sure that the cardboard is passed correctly over the next day or two.
Replace that cardboard with an Angus Strip. These thin chews will be much more appetizing than plain old cardboard, and are a great chew for helping break this unsafe habit.
9. String, Ribbons, and Wire
Pretty much anything string-like could be risky. Decorations from holidays and parties, string from meat packaging, and even dental floss could be a significant risk to a curious dog.
The biggest risk is that the string can become tangled in the digestive tract causing a blockage, constricting blood flow, and damaging sensitive tissues in the digestive system.
If it’s floss your dog is craving, then give him a Beef Tendon. These chews soften as they chew and slide between the teeth pulling out bacteria and food debris that contribute to bad dog breath.
If you ever see a string hanging from your dog’s mouth that has been partially swallowed, or peeking out of your dog’s behind, do not pull it out. It could be stuck on something. Trying to force it can do more damage than good. Instead, call your vet immediately. They will advise you as to whether it is safe to remove.
It may be the oldest stereotype in the book, but chewing on shoes is a typical puppy habit, and most of us have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up. While this annoying and destructive habit can be infuriating, we also need to consider how dangerous this is for our pets.
Many of the materials used in shoes can be a hazard for a curious pup. The dye and materials could be toxic if ingested. As we went over in the previous section, letting your dog chew on shoestrings could risk internal damage and choking.
Bully Sticks are a great treat to make your dog forget about your shoes. They will last much longer and taste way better.
Any of us would be devastated if our favourite pair of kicks got demolished, but the biggest offenders are often the cheapest: flip-flops. Everyone has a pair, or seven, of cheap foamy flip-flops that get tossed in the car for road trips and visits to the lake. The material of these shoes is a particularly appealing texture to dogs.
They are easy to destroy, but the pieces that are swallowed are not going to digest easily. In fact, it might not digest at all. Intestinal blockages are more likely with spongy materials like these.
Keep shoes, no matter how replaceable, out of reach.
Don’t Settle on Just One
If your dog will eat just about anything, then whatever you give them is probably their favourite thing. You may not be thinking of the possibility that your dog could get bored of having the same old chew over and over again.
Many dogs will have no problem eating the same boring chew day in and day out, but offering them some variety is about more than just preference.
Each natural chew will have a different shape, texture, and nutritional value. Rotating different types of chews each week will provide your dog with a fuller spectrum of the benefits of natural chews.
If you are using chews to improve your dog’s dental health, then offering some long-lasting chews will help to scrape at the plaque build-up on their teeth, but a softer chew will massage the gums and floss their teeth.
Another reason to rotate is that dogs are good at learning the weak spots of their favourite chews. They use these tricks to crush the chew faster and faster each time you offer it.
If you are offering different types of chews, then each chew will be a new experience. This can make chews last longer and work different parts of their mouth and jaw.
Lastly, new is always more fun. Using chews to help with boredom and anxiety is more effective when your dog is excited about the chew. It has to be more appealing than the destructive behaviour that you are trying to prevent.
Now that you know what to look for start trying out some chews and find out which natural chews are right for your dog!
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.