What's like rawhide, but healthier?
October 8, 2010 5:39 AM   Subscribe

What durable but consumable treat can I give my very chewy dog to chew on as I wean him off his rawhide habit?

If I don't give my dog approved chewing materials, he chews all sorts of definitely unapproved materials.

So, I give him stuff to chew on. I've tried Kongs, Kongs frozen with peanut butter, carrots, ice cubes, cow tails, and rawhide "bones". The only ones that seem to really fit the bill are the raw hides. It takes him hours to work through one, but he really enjoys every minute of it. Everything else he finishes in minutes (even the frozen kong) and then grows bored of chewing it (so he moves on to other things; my things).

Problem is, I don't think his one-a-day rawhide habit is really good for him. What can I give him instead?

Keep in mind, anything you suggest will eventually be destroyed. Every "indestructible" toy I've ever given him has eventually been destructed (or ignored). So, the constituent tiny bits of your suggestion must be edible.
posted by Netzapper to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This ball in both large and medium survived a pit bull puppyhood (he ate two half-sofas, part of a chair, and a PDA), regular tug-of-war between two large dogs, and six Texas summers and winters and hasn't even faded.

We did occasionally actually put treats in the treat slots of that ball, but the thing that allowed him to live through puppyhood was the Buster Cube. Exercises the brain, which makes them more tired and less bored and frustrated. Choose an exercise toy that is significantly larger than his mouth, and one with the least number of biteable edges, for durability. I think you'll notice a behavioral difference, and it's healthier and far safer than letting a dog eat rawhide unattended.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:51 AM on October 8, 2010

Elk antler! Lasts a long time, great for dogs. Might seem a little pricey for what you get but it takes them a while to chew it down.
posted by KathyK at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2010

Its going to be tough to find anything consumable that is going to be strong enough to stand up to alot of chewing. Try something like Nylabones. Just replace when they start to get worn.
posted by Busmick at 6:09 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding elk antlers (scroll down the page). Also, jumbo or triple-braided bullysticks; unlike rawhides, they are fully digestible. I'm not a fan of chews that are not digestible, especially for heavy chewers, so things like Nylabones are right out.
posted by vers at 6:15 AM on October 8, 2010

Cow toenails.
posted by Shike at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buster Cubes are great. We actually feed our dog with the Buster Cube. She’s a red healer so she needs to stay busy and this takes her about an hour to eat dinner. The other things I get are stuffed animals from Goodwill. You can get them for about $.50 each and she likes to de-stuff and destroy them. She doesn’t eat them and I think most dogs don’t, but you might try one just to be sure. I just got tired of buying basically the same thing for $5 at the pet stores only to have it last a day. As far as a consumable, I haven't found anything that lasts as long as a rawhide. I'll have to try an elk antler.
posted by iscavenger at 6:21 AM on October 8, 2010

Seconding bullysticks. Just warning you they smell like hell.
posted by yerfatma at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Nthing Nylabones. I've seen pitbulls eventually chew them down to a sliver, but for your average dog they'll last for ages.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:19 AM on October 8, 2010

Seconding bullysticks. Just warning you they smell like hell.

Agreed fort he standard variety -- but the low odor and no odor versions are barely noticeable.
posted by vers at 7:22 AM on October 8, 2010

Bully sticks last a while. They are stretched, smoked bull penises, so they don't just smell like hell... once the dogs start chewing them, they smell like smoked urine. But, man, dogs love them. Dogs are gross. OTOH, a bully every day might mean spending $100-150 /month on chews.

We had a buster cube (or similar device) for our oldest dog. He almost immediately figured out it was an engineering problem -- obviously the hole to let the food out was just too small. It kept him REALLY well occupied the first day, while he diagnosed and rectified that particular problem, but was useless after that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 AM on October 8, 2010

I recommend cow hooves. They last a long time, but your dog won't ingest a lot of the stuff. They do sometimes give off a slight game smell, but usually not too bad.
posted by parkerposey at 7:50 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Probably the best thing we've tried with our chewy 1-yo pointer mix is one of the Petstages Occupis and load it with a Busy Bar. I don't know if my husband mismatched the sizes when he bought these or its a design flaw, but the Busy Bar sticks out from the toy about an inch and is easily pulled out and consumed in about 10 minutes. So I saw the bars them in 1/3rds (the busy bars are hard as hell) and use that.

She also likes frozen buffalo marrow bones. They're pricey, but they're good for almost an hour "fresh" but have more residual interest after all the meat bits are gone and can be "reloaded" with PB like a kong. We get them from the freezer case at the fancy-pants pet store. I don't know if they're any stronger than regular old cow marrow bones, but she hasn't managed to make much of a dent on the actual bone after almost 2 months, and she's a pretty capable chewer (she's about 1/3 of the way through a heavy-duty nylabone in the same period of time).

The nylabones and other types of rubber chew toys only hold her attention for a while.
posted by drlith at 8:19 AM on October 8, 2010

Elk antlers. They take a good while to get through and DON'T SMELL.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:21 AM on October 8, 2010

My pups love antler (they are gnawing on deer right now). I've also just ordered Himalayan dog chews for them -- but can't vouch for them as they've not arrived yet. I've read that the smell is less abrasive than bully sticks and that they last a nice long time.

I'm with you on the rawhide -- I like how long it lasts, but I'm not comfortable with them ingesting much of it... A previous dog of ours had a lot of allergies, and rawhide always gave him a rash, which got me out of the habit of giving it.
posted by hilaryjade at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2010

I am against cow hooves for serious chewers. They are great for dogs that just gnaw on them. However, if your dog figures out they they will shatter if they get them on their molars, then they will happily eat chunks of hoof- which is then hell on the digestive tract. I have also had a dog almost choke on a hoof chunk. Other dogs I know think they are the greatest, and they last for months.

Our bearded collie puppy, who chews for roughly 8 hours a day, loves her nylabone quite a bit, but loooves cow tibias. They last a long time, can be stuffed with things, and are cheap-5 dollars for something that lasts at least a few weeks. No digestive issues with the bones so far, except for a little bit of looseness the first day when she ingests all the fat and stuff on the very outside. She currently has three tibias that she rotates back and forth between. The only time that she has eaten a shoe was when she was left in the kitchen with no tibias...

The buster cube works great for dogs that are actually food-motivated. It has a few other benefits. Its shape is hard for a dog to attack, and it takes much less time to fill than other food balls, which often have to be filled one individual kibble at a time. Plus it is made in Denmark, and in theory, has fewer nasty additives than china-made plastic dog stuff. The only annoying thing is that buster cubes are incredibly loud if used on a hardwood or tile floor- it works best to fill it and give it to the dog on the way out the door!



posted by rockindata at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2010

I have a very picky and strong-mouthed chewer at my house, and he LOVES femur bones. I bought him one about 5 years ago and he is seriously still chewing on the same one. They usually come with yummy stuff on the outside and some marrow (?) left on the inside, but that lasted all of about 2 days for my dog, and I figured he would lose interest. Years later it looks like a shiny white bone tube, and he still goes nuts over it.
posted by tryniti at 10:34 AM on October 8, 2010

Best answer: I'm surprised only one person has mentioned bones - and those were frozen, expensive buffalo bones.

Buy a cheap slab of ribs - you should be able to get them for $2-3/lb on sale. Slice them into separate ribs, and let your dog have one or two thawed (but uncooked). The previously-frozen USDA meat will be parasite-free, and harmless if you give it to him fresh. Soon thereafter, the pup will have stripped the bone, which will provide a tasty, nutritious chew toy for days or weeks.

Uncooked, because cooking makes bones brittle, which could put sharp shards in his gut.

Alternatively, ask a butcher for bones.


BTW, as long as your dog is a good chewer, there's nothing wrong with a rawhide a day. It's just dried skin, which is a natural part of a wolf's diet anyway (and dogs are something like 99.8% genetically identical to gray wolves).

Dogs that gulp can get obstructions from rawhide toys, but other than that, it's OK.

Ollie's occasionally sells rawhide scraps at $4/lb, which I then soak, roll up, and tie with strings. When dry, they make cheap rawhide "bones", at about 10 cents apiece. Unfortunately, my boy now goes through one in about 5 min, but it's a nice chew treat.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:09 PM on October 8, 2010

Heh... and while posting, someone else mentioned bones, too.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2010

My dog eats antlers like they're croissants. Bully sticks too. I let her have a rawhide every few days and cow bones the rest of the time and she's been fine. She's got a cast iron stomach though so YMMV.
posted by fshgrl at 3:02 PM on October 8, 2010

I thought I'd add one more comment, since the Himalayan dog chews I mentioned above happened to arrive today. The pups love them, but my older dog doesn't seem too interested. I think that their "long-lastingness" might be a bit.... ermmmm.... overstated on the product web site.

They smell yummy, though. Like smoked cheese.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:18 PM on October 8, 2010

Response by poster: I bought my dog a Buster-Cube-like-thing from Kong. He's a lot of fun to watch eat supper now. And, I do note that instead of wolfing down his supper then bouncing off the walls, he kicks the dispenser around for forty-five minutes as he eats, and then has himself a nice little rest afterward.

I also got him some Booda Bones.

And, now that I know they're okay, I'll be getting him some beef ribs. I'd always heard that bones were not okay for dogs, and I never could figure out why. Makes sense that people mean cooked bones.
posted by Netzapper at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2010

My dog Lyle loves the Himalayan dog chews, but they are salty, so be sure to give extra water. I also give him thick-walled marrow bones (frozen).

I will urge you to supervise your dog carefully with any chew treats. Early in Lyle's time of living with me, I gave him a "beef shank filet" treat which he swallowed without chewing properly and could not digest. Here's a picture of that bone - before, while trapped in his tummy, and after the expensive surgery to remove it.
posted by judith at 2:07 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

judith made a good point that my dog helped me overlook, since he's really great about chewing his food well.

To reiterate a point I glossed over...
BTW, as long as your dog is a good chewer, there's nothing wrong with a rawhide a day...

... or bones. But the first few times he goes at them, you should watch him carefully, to make sure he "gets" the idea of gnawing, not wolfing down, bony meat a/o bones.

Dogs have an instinctive desire to wolf their food at the source, to protect their share from other packmates. In the wild, they learn to gnaw safely on bones, so this isn't an issue. Domesticated dogs, newly introduced to things like bony meat, can be a bit naive about the process.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2010

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