Chew solutions for our dog with tooth-wear
July 13, 2018 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Our 2-year-old German Sheppard is a very heavy/powerful chewer. She's wearing her canine teeth down on the bones we give her. Any solutions?

We give her real bones (horse? cow? shank-type bones) filled with peanut butter as a treat when we leave the house. We started giving her these bones when we had a problem with leaving her in the house alone - she would get anxious when we would leave and would scratch up the door/wall and chew furniture or shoes. She loves these bones and works on them all the time. But her canine teeth are becoming quite worn - the "sharp" points of her bottom canine teeth are basically worn away and she isn't yet 3. Her other teeth look fine, but the canines are very visibly worn.

Our vet is a very "low-intervention"-type - she often says things aren't a big deal / aren't a big problem or are just the way dogs usually are. She says the dog is a very heavy chewer and she is either going to chew these bones or our house, so there's nothing to do.

I've thought about giving her something softer to chew, but I think she would just destroy it and eat it rapidly, which generally would not be good. Rawhide is definitely out for that reason. I think she would do the same with a nylabone-type product, although maybe that would be less bad because it is not digested?

Or maybe this tooth-wear isn't a big problem? Anyway, has anyone ever dealt with this and found a good solution?
posted by Mid to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be a bone product? What about supervising her with something like a Kong toy to see if it holds up? They make an Extreme line of their rubber ones that's geared toward power-chewers.

Our dachshunds would splinter and eat nylabones (and make their gums bleed) so we stuck to the heavier rubber products.
posted by lesser weasel at 6:37 AM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you can't scratch it with your thumbnail, it's too hard.

You could try ropies, "bully sticks" aka dried penises, kongs, tuffy toys, etc. Most of these will end up being vastly more expensive than bones, but yet vastly cheaper than extensive dental work. Our Nina broke two of her molars or carnassials on an antler and that would have been a few grand if biscotti didn't work at the clinic.

You might try to find a behaviorist for more direct help with the anxiety issues, or crate training strategies so you can crate her while you're out, or for more direct help with chewing inappropriate things.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:58 AM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Seconding an Extreme Kong. My 86-pound lab rottie is a power chewer, and most toys last 5 minutes with her. The Extreme Kongs have lasted 3 years so far.
posted by smich at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I came in to say crate training because it was a lifesaver for my super anxious dog, so seconding GCU Sweet and Full of Grace.
posted by cooker girl at 7:04 AM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Kong Xtremes--this seems like about the perfect use case for one of those. Obviously, supervise her for her first experience with one to see if . For a GSD who is a heavy chewer, I would suggest an XL or and XXL--they run smaller than you think they do.

You may also wish to look into Goughnuts, which are designed to be dentally safe chews for hard chewers. They can be pricey, but when your dog chews down to the central indicator, they will replace the toy if you send the chewed one back to them. (They encourage this as a measure of safety, incidentally, and include these safety indicators in all their toys. These are built for power chewers)

Himalayan yak chews are safer than antlers and bones on a hardness level, but they are pricey as hell. They are also edible toys.

I second GCU Sweet and Full of Grace's suggestion to maybe look into behaviorist help with the anxiety. This is unusually heavy chewing, and it sounds like there's a general anxiety component that might be a little obsessive or self-soothing. It might be a good idea to work on the underlying anxiety both as a safety issue and a general quality of life issue, either with training or with medication.
posted by sciatrix at 7:06 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should add that the crate is a lifesaver for my separation anxiety dog, although she's not a power chewer (she's more prone to crying and emptying the pantry around the house). The crate is soothing enough to her that she will actively demand to be locked into it when she sees that we're leaving the house and will force herself inside if it's been broken down for a little while before we can even get it set up. Some anxious dogs seem to find them actively reassuring, especially if they are dark and enclosed (either plastic crates or crates with a blanket over them).
posted by sciatrix at 7:09 AM on July 13, 2018

Thanks for all the advice so far. Couple of clarifications - (1) she is crate trained and is happy in her crate, but we don't like to leave her in the crate for long periods if we can avoid it because she can be more comfortable around the house (get water, lay in the sun, etc); (2) she eats bully sticks (and similar treats) in about 2 minutes in by cracking them into gigantic chunks/pieces and swallowing them. I really like the ideas of a rubber or similar toy, though I don't know if she will like it as much as a bone.
posted by Mid at 7:17 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Kongs can be filled with peanut butter in much the same way as your current bones, and Goughnuts sell a similar product as well. That should help with catching her interest. There is also a product from Starmark (the Everlasting Wheel) that includes both an edible portion that must be slowly gnawed down and a hard rubber portion that makes it difficult for a dog to get enough leverage to crack the edible portion open. That might also be an option, depending on her destructiveness with rubber toys; it's a touch softer than an Xtreme Kong but also has a relatively difficult shape for a motivated dog to get leverage on.
posted by sciatrix at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I leave Kongs filled with frozen, layered treats. I plug the Kong holes with cheese or peanut butter and layer baby food, yogurt, pumpkin puree, and kibble in the Kong and freeze it solid. The dog has to do a lot of licking to get the treat to melt. I'd be concerned about the teeth. The wear coupled with aging could leave your dog with severe and expensive to deal with tooth damage later in life. My vet cautioned against unsupervised bone treats because of the risk of cracking teeth.
posted by quince at 9:01 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Consider that chewing that hard risks cracking her teeth, which is what happened with my strong-chewer anxious GSD. She ended up needing dental surgery, which involves general anesthetic and all the risks that entails.

I bought softer cloth-based toys that are designed to withstand a lot of chewing. They cost a bit, but it was better than having her grind her teeth down to nothing (or crack them).
posted by suelac at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2018

I feed my dog a raw diet, so just raw meat, on or off the bone. The rule of thumb is that dogs can eat all raw weight-bearing bones of smaller animals (rabbit, chicken, duck, maaaaaaybe turkey depending on size of dog), and non-weightbearing bones of anything bigger than them (lamb, pig, cow, deer, elk, etc.). The smaller bones (like chicken wings) aren't dangerous when fed raw, because they don't splinter the way they do when they are cooked. And the large bones are still softer than the huge smoked recreational ones you can buy - so beef ribs or neck bones or knuckles are ok and will take a while to work through, but those hollow smoked bones you can buy and fill are going to be way too hard.

I would stay away from all antlers, hooves, and marrow bones, and try feeding some smaller raw bones if your dog really likes chewing. These aren't going to provide the hours of mindless chewing that antlers/other bones do, but will cause way less damage. You could also look into doing something like a snuffle mat or frozen stuffed kongs for something anxiety-soothing that isn't heavy on chewing.
posted by autolykos at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

She says the dog is a very heavy chewer and she is either going to chew these bones or our house, so there's nothing to do.

Considering how ridiculous this advice is, one thing you should definitely do is get another vet. There's a world of things to try with a anxious heavy chewer that involve neither house destruction nor bones. Frozen stuffed Kongs, Thundershirts, snuffle mats, behaviorists are all better ideas than just shrugging this off.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

You are trying to solve a non-problem. The wear you describe is fine. Your dog does not need razor-sharp canines to strip the meat off a deer she and her pack have just brought down! But if you're worried, get hooves or horns you can fill with whatever; they are not bone, but the slightly softer keratin.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:37 PM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can't recommend a long enough as the first thing to try (as many others have as well). We plug one side with some loose kibble and then fill with mashed bananas and kibble mixed, top with a good plug of peanut butter. For an extra treat, sometimes will stuff in a treat to use as a handle after frozen solid.

Cloth style chews can often also be dampened and frozen for extra fun on a hot day. When I ended up with sucky teatowels one time, I took three, gave it a tight braid, slipped treats into the folds and gave that a quick dunk and freeze with good success (pride tip, don't use cookie consistency treats for this for risk of mush)

My chewers also like that hard yak cheese, but one can break it into pieces quickly, so we had to stop with them.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 10:12 PM on July 13, 2018

I stopped giving my dog bones after she cracked her tooth on one. That turned into a very expensive veterinary trip in which she had to be anesthetized and the tooth was removed. After that I gave her a rope toy to chew. Good luck...
posted by shw at 12:44 AM on July 14, 2018

How to make a kong last longer: Microwave a piece of cheese inside the kong. (Half a slice of American cheese melts very quickly and evenly.) Freeze the kong. What you have a few hours later is that the insides are coated with hard cheese. Takes usually hours of licking to get all that goodness out.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:21 AM on July 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you exercising your dog regularly? Dogs with a lot of stimulation in their non-alone time, typically don't funnel as much energy into chewing behavior. My chewy girl used to chew until her gums bled or until she had torn the toy apart, so we also decided to look for different toys. For chewing, she has had success with:

The Kong Tire

JW Pet's Holee Football

The Hyper Pet Dura Squeaks Line

We chose these ones specifically because they have varying textures and a little bit of give so it provides her with the chewing sensation but still bounces back. The durasqueak stick has lasted us for a couple years now and she still chews it. YMMV

Mostly though we found that exercising her helped a lot, we play a bunch of different games including fetch, chase (either she chases us while we hold a toy or we chase her), monkey in the middle, and obedience training games have all worked to tucker her out a bit which means she is less likely to destroy my shoes.

Alternatively you can also work on managing her separation anxiety. It's fairly easy to practice. Put her in one room, close the door, and stand outside of the door for progressively longer times and distances, and then coming back and giving her a cookie and lots of praise once she realizes that you outside the door is not cause for alarm. Repeat with the front door. Make it a game until she gets into the groove of you being out as being quiet sleepy time as she probably needs the sleep anyhow (14 hours each day).
posted by donut_princess at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2018

I had a ridgeback who would carelessly chew into tiny pieces every single chew toy we bought him, including normal and Xtreme Kong toys - *except* the floaty Kong toy I bought on a whim. As someone else has observed, the slightly bouncy texture seemed to resist being shredded, and he had it for years.
posted by glitter at 2:25 PM on July 14, 2018

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