Friday, July 22, 2011

Something to Chew On

Did you know that rawhide isn't good for dogs?  That, in fact, in many cases rawhide can be bad for dogs?

For example, the Exer-Hide brand that Wal Mart (and other places, I'm sure) sells has caused death, fevers, seizures, and other unpleasant things for dogs, and has for years.  The claim is largely anecdotal, and "undetermined" on, but enough anecdotes from dog owners is enough for me.

Rawhide can also be treated with things like formaldehyde, harbor things like Salmonella, and is more or less undigestible to a dog.  If your dog eats a lot of it or swallows big enough pieces, it can cause an intestinal blockage, which involves surgery to fix.  If the surgery isn't done within a certain window of time, the affected tissue dies, and the dog will not survive.

So, now that I've done my bit of fear-mongering, here's the question:  What should I give my dog to chew?

Dogs chew.  It occupies their brains, keeps them from being pesky, and keeps their teeth clean.  It satisfies a deep seated need for them, and if they don't have appropriate things to chew, they will find inappropriate things to chew.  

It's hard to find safe things to give your dog, though.  It seems like there are so many recalls and warnings on things, and like there isn't a whole lot of regulation for pet products.  Pig Ears (pictured abobe with puppy-Elka), are a digestible thing that your dog can chew on.  Depending on the size of the dog and the size of the ear, it can last from 10 minutes to half an hour.  Just this year, there was a widespread pig ear recall by the Jones Natural Chews company.  So, like I said, it's hard to choose.  But, baseline, a pig ear may actually count as food, not a bleached and chemically treated waste product that, though cheap, is not.  You wouldn't feed your baby not-food, try not to do it to your dog.

Cow ears are another choice.  They are bigger, and to the touch are similar to rawhide.  A cow ear might last Elka a half an hour or more, which is certainly longer than a pig ear.  It also smells different, as I don't get them for her all the time, so the novelty adds interest.  Another novel thing you can get at a place like your local Tractor Supply is a cow snout or a pig snout, which is the very end of the aforementioned animal's nose, dried after some manner, so that it weighs almost nothing but, (According to Elka, judging by her enthusiasm), contains the very essence that makes an animal like that tasty.

A lot of people feed their dogs raw, and there are a number of ways to do so.  Most of these ways also involves raw bones, which your dog can break down and digest.  Too much bone will affect the consistency and, um, ease of their poop, so you have to be careful with this.  Giving dogs bones is a rather polarizing topic in the dog community, but I feel I can confidently say that if you are going to give your dog a bone, make sure it is a RAW bone, not a COOKED bone, to avoid risk of splintering.  Sharp bone bits in your dog's system are a bad scene.  There is also the caveat that using big weight bearing bones, such as the femur, can increase your dog's risk of breaking a tooth, so really I'm just discussing "real" bones as an intellectual exercise.

Elka has had at least one of those "peanut butter" filled bones in the past, and wasn't all that interested in it after the peanut butter goo was gone.  When she got re-interested in it, she gnawed the ends for awhile, and then it was making her mouth bleed, apparently, so I threw it away.  This is also why I won't give Elka Nylabones; she had a "long lasting chicken flavored chew" that she really wasn't interested in, and then when she did pay it some DoberAttention, it was scraping up her mouth, so I threw that away too.  Plus, Nylabones weird me out, because really, they're plastic.

Bully sticks have been a nice alternative to rawhide as well.  They can be pricey, and they can be smelly, but you can find good deals online, and you can find "odor free" ones online, that aren't pumped full of chemicals, so really, I don't know how they do it.  Bully sticks are made from a certain sensitive area of the bull, dried like jerky for your dog's long lasting chewing pleasure.  A bully stick will last Elka a decent amount of time (not hours, like some people seem to get), though to be fair and warn you, if you get a "full smell" bully stick, your dog's face will subsequently smell.  Very bad.  For a short amount of time.  So if your dog, like mine, wants to be as close to you as possible, you might want to look into the less-stinky bully sticks.

And, while I haven't tried it yet, I have heard the suggestion to slice a sweet potato lengthwise, brush it with olive oil, and stick it in the oven on low heat for a few hours.  This will dry out/toughen the potato, and theoretically take awhile for a dog to gnaw down.  It sounds like a fantastic idea, and one I'm certainly willing to give a test drive.  We'll have a cooking post, one of these days!

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