Safe Chew Treats For Dogs

Let’s just make it clear from the beginning, there are no perfectly safe chew treats for dogs. If your dog is putting something chewable in its mouth, there is a risk of choking. Just like you run the risk of choking every time you eat food, or the risk of a car accident every time you drive. But just because there is some risk, doesn’t mean that you stop eating and driving. Similarly, some amount of risk shouldn’t stop your dog from enjoying the benefits of chew treats.

It’s all about managing the risk. Not all chews are created equally, and some are safer than others. In this list, we’ll break down some common types of chew treats, their benefits, and their risk levels.

Durable Chews for Aggressive Chewers

Antlers & Bones

Durability: Super Strong

Risk Level: 6/10

Pros:

  • Good for power chewers
  • Natural

Cons:

  • They are so hard that there is a risk of breaking or damaging teeth
  • Can easily splinter, creating sharp pieces
  • Risk of obstruction

Antlers and bones are somewhat different, but they have enough similarities that I’m lumping them together for this analysis. It’s fairly common knowledge that you shouldn’t give your dog cooked bones, but cooked bones and antlers are fairly common treats, especially for those who are looking for a sustainably sourced, all-natural option.

These are especially tempting for power chewers because they can last so long. The problem is that the same hardness that makes them durable is also what makes them dangerous. If an aggressive chewer starts chomping hard enough on antlers or bones, eventually something has to break: either the teeth or the chew. And either option is disastrous. I don’t need to explain the problem with breaking or cracking your dog’s teeth. That’s pretty self-explanatory. But if your dog’s teeth prove victorious and break the chew, it may be even worse. Bones and antlers both splinter when broken, creating sharp shards that can pierce the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. They can also create blockages since they aren’t particularly digestible. In fact, in two separate studies from 2017 and 2019, around 80% of all foreign body obstructions were found to be bones.

When it comes to durable chews, these ones are pretty low on my list. I know a lot of people like them, but the FDA even put out an official warning to not give your dog bones. It’s one of the reasons we don’t sell them.

Himalayan/Yak Cheese Dog Chews

Durability: Super Strong

Risk Level: 3/10

Pros:

  • Easily Digestible
  • Good for power chewers
  • Natural
  • Comparatively Low Choking Risk

Cons:

  • They are so hard that there is a risk of breaking or damaging teeth

Yak Cheese Dog Chews, often simply referred to as Himalayan dog chews, are made from incredibly hard yak cheese. These chews have a lot of good things going for them. They’re natural, digestible, and very unlikely to cause any blockages. The major downside of these chews is the same thing that makes them great for aggressive chewers: they are crazy hard. That gives them the same flaw as antlers and bones, which is a risk of broken, cracked, or chipped teeth.

As with all dog chews, you need to know your dogs chewing style. Some dogs are going to do really well with these, and some dogs won’t. But they’re a reasonable option (and we aren’t even biased, because we don’t sell them.)

Natural Beef Hide

Durability: Super Strong

Risk Level: 3/10

Pros:

  • Digestible
  • Good for power chewers
  • Natural
  • Comparatively Low Choking Risk
  • Safe on teeth

Cons:

  • Some risk of obstruction

Of course I’m a little biased since natural beef hide is the main product we sell here at Ugly Chews, but I’ve tried to keep things pretty fair. Beef hide is different from conventional rawhide because it isn’t shaved down or processed with chemicals. Because they keep the full hide intact, they last longer and are much less likely to break into choking chunks. Most don’t, but our chews keep the hair on, which helps clean your dog’s teeth, gums, and digestive tract. Don’t worry, we roll the hair on the inside so it doesn’t get too messy.

Because the hides soften as your dog chews, they won’t damage teeth.

Moderate Chews

Rawhide

Durability: Moderate

Risk Level: 9/10

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Lots of different varieties
  • Safe on teeth

Cons:

  • High choking hazard
  • Chemical exposure
  • Can easily create sharp pieces

The more we learn about the health impacts of “classic” rawhide, the worse it gets. When I talk about rawhide, I’m usually referring to the steretypical white twisted or bone shaped rawhides. These are a by-product of the tanning industry, so they’ve often been soaked in salt and lime (not the fruit) to keep them from rotting as they are shipped internationally. Rawhide is usually made from the leftovers after a hide is split, which leaves the dog chew hard, but thin. Combined with the chemicals, this makes for a thin, brittle chew that can easily splinter into sharp pieces or break into large chunks that present a choking hazard.

Rawhides are one of the worst choices for chew treat when it comes to safety, sustainability, and overall health.

Bully Sticks

Durability: Moderate

Risk Level: 4/10

Pros:

  • Low Risk
  • High Protein
  • Cheap And Accessible

Cons:

  • Smelly
  • High Protein

That’s right, high protein is both a pro and a con. The pro is that protein is generally good for you! The con is that too much protein rich food can give your dog diarrhea or other digestional distress. You just need to use caution and moderation.

Obviously, some bully sticks smell more than others. If you are looking for odor free bully sticks I would recommend checking to make sure that they aren’t descented using any harsh chemicals or processes. Aside from the protein issue, the only risks of bully sticks are the same risks that most natural chews have. You need to make sure your dog doesn’t break off a chokable chunk or try to swallow too much at once. But those apply to pretty much every reasonably durable chew.

We’re hoping to carry bully sticks in the future, but we want to make sure we’ve refined the process of making them odor-free while still maintaining our zero-waste, sustainable model. Check back for updates!

Trachea

Durability: Moderate/Light

Risk Level: 1/10

Pros:

  • Low Risk

Cons:

  • Not as durable

Beef trachea is an incredibly safe chew. Again, there is always some risk of trying to swallow too big of a chunk, but trachea is almost as safe as they come. Unfortunately, compared to other items on this list, beef trachea doesn’t have near the durability. They are a great option for moderate chewers, and will still last a power-chewer some amount of time, but they just don’t have the staying power. That can make it kind of discouraging if you have to keep buying more and more to keep your dog entertained.

Still, beef trachea is a great option. That’s why we sell it here at Ugly Chews (or at least we will soon, depending on when you read this.)

More To Come!

There are a lot of chew treat types out there. We’ll keep updating this list over time, adding more and more treats, their pros, and cons. In the meantime, check out our natural, zero-waste chew treats to see if they’re a fit for your canine companion!