Benefits of Chewing for Dogs & Cats

It is commonly known that puppies go through a time of teething when their adult teeth start to come in. This is usually around 12-16 weeks of age. When Wellingtin was teething he chewed up some linoleum in our bathroom! He also liked to steal shoes, but he didn’t chew on them. He would grab them, take them to the living room, & then rest his head on the shoe until we found him…

Anyway, we all know how important it is to provide teething puppies with appropriate things to chew on. But did you know that it is important for dogs of all ages to chew? If you have an adult dog that doesn’t get to chew he is missing out on some serious health benefits!

What Is The Best Thing For Your Dog To Chew?

There are lots of options available when it comes to chews for dogs. Some options are good & some are not. Let’s look at the bad options first.

Just Say “No”

Okay, commercial “dental chews,” this is Greenies & the like. These are not good options. They are full of carbohydrates that will stick to your dog’s teeth & cause bacteria to grow, which leads to dental disease. Also, they don’t actually take long for a dog to chew, typically 10 minutes or less.

Chew toys are not always a great option either. Some dogs don’t chew on them at all, so obviously the chew toys won’t help your pet. Other dogs chew on chew toys very aggressively. This can damage to toy to a point where it is no longer safe & pieces may get lodged in your dog’s throat or his digestive tract.

Smoked & cooked bones are often available at the pet store & sold as chews. However, these are not a good option for your dog to chew on. Cooked bones are much harder & will likely break or fracture teeth. In addition, cooked bones can be brittle & prone to splintering. This can cause cuts &  perforations all down your dog’s digestive tract.

Yes, Please!

A better option is single-ingredients animal chews. This would be dehydrated things like lamb ears, rabbit ears, trachea, esophagus, bully sticks, snouts, pig ears, & others. All of these options will last for varying lengths of time, but typically they will last longer than the “dental chews” that you can find.  Be careful using rawhide as it has been associated with some major digestive issues.

Raw Meaty Bones: Edible versus Recreational

Now the best options by far are raw meaty bones. These are the most natural chew for a dog to enjoy. There are two different kinds of raw meaty bones that you need to be aware of: edible bones & recreational bones. Edible bones are bones that your dog can completely consume. How edible a bone is can vary depending on the size of your dog. The bones of smaller creatures like chicken, duck, goose, turkey, & rabbit are typically all going to be edible. Turkey legs, oxtail, pork & beef ribs may be edible to some, larger dogs. However, it is unlikely that smaller dogs can actually consume these. Edible bones will take varying lengths of time to consume but they typically are not going to last super long.

Recreational bones, on the other hand, are bones that a dog can chew on but not fully consume. This could be things like knucklebones, femurs, beef necks, antlers, shoulder bones, pelvic bones, & other weight-bearing bones from large animals. For maximum benefit make sure that the recreational bone still has some meat & stringy tendons on it. A recreational bone will typically provide your dog with hours of chewing.

Dental Benefits

I am sure that you have heard it said that over 80% of dogs over age three have dental disease. This is crazy to me! It does make sense if you break it down though. Most dogs are fed high-carb kibble. The carbohydrates in the kibble stick to a dog’s teeth & which leads to bacteria, tartar, & plaque build-up.

However, if you are already feeding your dog a raw diet you’re already a step ahead of dental disease. This is because a species-appropriate, raw diet will have very little, if any, carbs in it. No carbs = no carbs to stick to your dog’s teeth!

But adding in a few raw meaty bones or recreational bones can be a great way to take dental health to the next level. When your dog enjoys a nice bone he will have to chomp, gnaw, & pull on the bone & meaty attachments. The act of chewing on bones helps to clean & scrape off bacterial build-ups. The pulling on stringy bits of meat is like flossing for dogs!

Providing your dog with bones at an early age & continuing to give him bones throughout his life can help prevent dental disease. So, don’t be afraid to give your dog a raw meaty bone.

Physical Health

Dogs are meant to have powerful jaws so they can crunchy, chomp, rip, & tear through the flesh of their prey. Sadly, most dogs don’t get to use or develop their powerful jaws. This is not the best thing because any underdeveloped muscle can cause weakness or overdevelopment of other muscles. Long term this can lead to misalignments & pain elsewhere in the body.

A dog’s mouth is connected to his head, which is connected to his neck, which is connected to his spine, which is connected to his legs, etc. This means that as a dog chews he is not just exercising his jaw. Indeed, if you watch a dog chewing on a recreational bone you will see him gnaw with his jaws, pull with his neck, press with his front legs & shoulders, & use his back end & abdomen to stabilize himself. A good chew can be a full-body workout!

Even if a dog is chewing on something a little easier than a recreational bone he will often use his jaws, neck, & paws. So, the amount of exercise your dog gets from chewing will depend on the chew you give him. That’s why it can be a good idea to give your dog a recreational bone on a day when you can’t get out to walk or your dog is recovering from an injury & needs to be a little less active.

Mental Benefits

Let’s face it, the life of the modern dog can be pretty boring. They get up, get a walk, get fed, & wait for you to come home from work. Once you get home the fun starts again, walks, food, snuggles. But how boring are the 8-10 hours you’re not at home?

When we compare the life of a modern dog to that of the wolf, life is very boring indeed. A wolf gets to be outside with its pack most of the time. A dog is inside alone, pretty often. Wolves constantly have interesting & different things to smell. Dogs mostly, only get to smell new things on their walk or on you after you get home. Wolves have things to chase, hunt, kill, eat, & gnaw on. Our modern dogs get to chase things that we throw for them, they might hunt bugs, they are rarely allowed to kill anything, they do get to eat, & if we provide them with chews they get to gnaw. Just another reason to add some tasty bones to your dog’s life!

Chewing on a bone or nice meaty chew releases endorphins in your dog’s brain. These endorphins encourage happiness, reduce stress, & put your dog’s brain into a state of relaxation. So, if you have an anxious dog providing him with a bone to chew on can help relieve his stress.

Bones can also be like a puzzle for dogs. Different shapes, sizes, & sources of bones can all be extremely interesting for your dog. Your dog will have to figure out how to attack each bone, where to hold it, how to chew it, & where to start first. These are all mental challenges for your dog. This will help to keep your dog’s brain sharp & active.

Safety Tips

Please watch your dog when he is enjoying a chew, especially the first time he has a chew that he hasn’t had before. It’s important to know how aggressive of a chewer he is, this can help you choose the best bones for him. An aggressive chewer is more likely to break teeth, chew till his gums bleed, or swallow large chunks. Other dogs are passive chewers & will give up if the chew is too hard for them.

Keep in mind that the bones you feed to your dog are raw. So, treat them that way, wash your hands, & properly sanitize surfaces. Also, don’t let your dog chew on the bone in an area where you wouldn’t want to set a raw chicken. That said, it is often best to feed your dog his bone outside, in an easily cleaned room, or on a towel that you can easily wash.

When I give Wellingtin a recreational bone I typically cover our bathroom floor with towels & then let him have a nice chew. He is weird though &  won’t chew it unless I’m in the room with him. But if I get too close to his bone he gives a little growl. So, silly!

What If Your Dog Can’t Chew?

Back in June, Wellingtin was chewing on a pork rib & somehow he broke a tooth! The vet said that he must have bitten down just right for it to have happened, it’s pretty rare. Welly has had pork ribs before & been just fine. I think he was chewing on it more aggressively than normal because there was another dog nearby. Anyway, after that, he was not too into chewing on anything. After treating the tooth with homeopathy & a dental probiotic the tooth is doing fine. So, I’ve started trying to get him to chew more.

If you have a dog who doesn’t have the best teeth or recently had a dental injury here are a few things that I have found for Welly, who is a Cavalier, to chew. He likes to chew freeze-dried rabbit ears, toes from duck feet, smallish chunks of poultry neck, & raw trachea. I think raw green tripe stripes would be a good option too.

I am slowly making the bone pieces for him to chew larger & larger as he seems able to handle them. The raw trachea seems especially helpful for him because it cuts easily into smaller or larger pieces. It is also nice because it is not as hard as a bone, so it is more comfortable for Wellingtin to chew, even on the side with the broken tooth.


Chewing is so important for dogs. It is excellent for their mental, physical, & dental health. Even if your dog has dental issues & does not seem like he wants to chew, you can find something that he will enjoy chewing. Chewing is good preventive medicine if you choose appropriate bones for your dog. It is often recommended that you give your dog recreational bones at least 2-3 times per week. So, be sure to give your dog something to chew on & enjoy watching the fun!

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