Dogs have evolved over the millennia to be constant chewers. An active mouth is a healthy mouth for a dog, and regular gnawing behavior prevents gum disease and tooth decay. In addition to a clean mouth, chewing provides a sense of comfort and stress relief for a dog left alone or in an unfamiliar situation. But there is an alternative to coming home and finding chewed shoes and furniture: choose from several products to keep your dog's mouth healthy and his mind occupied.
Bully sticks, also called beef sticks or pizzle sticks, tend to be sold as dried beef muscles or tendons, but this isn't entirely true; they are actually dried bulls' penises. However, the penis is thoroughly cleansed and drained during the manufacturing process, making it sanitary and safe. During the manufacturing process, the bully stick may be stretched or braided to make it suitable for all sizes of dogs. Last, it is smoked and dried. A bully stick is all natural and extremely difficult for a dog to splinter or shatter; it is also less likely to harbor harmful bacteria than other types of organic chewing treats. Despite the popularity of pig ears and rawhide, bully sticks are by far the safest choice for your dog to chew on.
Pig ears, literally the dried ear of a pig, are popular and easy to find in any pet store, but disturbing facts are coming to light about their safety for dogs. Health Canada warned that several brands of pig ears were found to be infected with salmonella, symptoms of which include diarrhea, vomiting and long-term complications. Humans can contract salmonella by handling pig ears or simply by coming into contact with an infected dog. Vets and Health Canada recommend that dog owners avoid giving their pets pig ears.
Rawhide consists of the inner layer of a cow's hide. According to AskaBreeder.com, rawhide can carry Salmonella and, depending upon the country of origin, can also contain arsenic, antibiotics, lead and insecticides. Rawhide imported from Thailand can even contain pieces of dog and cat skin. In addition to these dangers, rawhide also poses a choking hazard because of the way it can shatter.
The length of time a bully stick, pig ear, or rawhide bone will last for your dog varies largely by the size and breed of the dog. Certain breeds, such as Spaniels, can be overly possessive, and will make efforts to gnaw their treat as quickly as possible. Other dogs are more laid back and chew at their leisure. If your dog is a digger, she might bury her half-chewed treat.
With any treat, supervise your dog while he is eating it. Always consult your vet immediately if he shows signs of choking or gastrointestinal distress, as evidenced by lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or a hunched, ill appearance. You know your dog best; if you think there might be something wrong, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Leah Coghill has been writing professionally since 2010, with her work appearing on eHow. She specializes in writing about art, wildlife and gardening. She attended Alberta College of Art and Design.