Dogs need to chew throughout their lifetime. It keeps their teeth and gums in good condition, exercises their jaw muscles, and wards off boredom. However, what you select for your dog to chew on can have major ramifications in regard to their health. Some dog chews can cause acute life-threatening conditions like bowel obstructions. Others can break teeth, leading to expensive dental bills. More sneakily, many of the dog chews on the market contain ingredients that actively promote the development of obesity and cancer, or contribute to climate change. Choosing all-natural, healthy dog chews from sustainable sources, such as antlers, bully sticks, gullet sticks, and tendon chews can avoid all of these problems. Natural chews are:
Good for the environment
An assortment of long-lasting chews from different companies can be found in most pet supply stores. Most of these chews are made out of nylon, a type of plastic. Nylon is made from petroleum in a very energy-intensive process. As your dog chews on the fake plastic bone, your dog creates and swallows a lot of microplastics. Some of these microplastics get into your home, where you and your children inhale them, and they get deposited out in the world in your dog's feces. Nylon is not recyclable or biodegradable, and all of those microplastics will remain in the environment forever, disrupting the ecosystem. Contrast that with all-natural antler chews that are shed by wild deer and elk every spring, collected, and recycled in the form of dog chews. Antlers are made out of a type of soft bone, which your dog can digest. They are sustainable and biodegradable.
Do not promote weight gain
Obesity and overweight are major health problems in domestic dogs today. Many people believe exposure to microplastics (see the section above) alters the metabolism of dogs, cats, and people, promoting fat deposition. In addition, sitting next to the fake plastic bones in most pet supply stores are a different type of fake bone, the fully edible fake bones, which your dog is intended to eat and digest. Most dogs consume these "bones" quite rapidly, suggesting they provide little benefit in terms of chewing. Their ingredients vary a bit, but most edible fake bones are made out of carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, or corn, and they tend to provide a lot of calories. Feeding one edible fake bone to a dog every day could promote weight gain, especially if the owner failed to realize how many calories were in each bone. Contrast that with an all-natural bully stick. Most dogs will chew on the same bully stick for up to a week before consuming it completely. One bully stick has about the same calorie content as an edible fake bone, but your dog would eat one bully per week versus seven edible fake bones.
Do not promote cancer
The good old rawhide chew is still widely available. Rawhide might sound all-natural, but it isn't. Rawhide is a waste product of the leather industry. When making leather, skins are soaked in various toxic chemicals such as ash-lye to remove hair and fat. Then, the skins are "puffed" with other toxic chemicals and the top layer is peeled off to make leather. The bottom layer is treated with more toxic chemicals to prevent decay and to bleach it white or dye it some other color. Traces of all of these chemicals remain in the rawhide bone, and your dog consumes them. A random sampling of rawhide products revealed that they are contaminated with lead, mercury, formaldehyde, chromium salts, and other toxic compounds. Delicious. Contrast that with an all-natural dog chew such as a gullet stick. It's a waste product of the beef industry and is just shaped, baked, and dried after removal from the slaughtered cow.
Do not cause bowel obstructions
Veterinarians have been urging dog owners not to give rawhide to dogs for years. Not because of the toxic chemicals, but because the product is indigestible and big chunks of swallowed rawhide are a major cause of bowel obstructions in dogs. Many dog owners are quite shocked to learn that big chunks of swallowed fake plastic bones are another major cause of bowel obstructions in dogs. Contrast that with an all-natural dog chew such as a turkey tendon. Completely digestible. Even if the dog somehow manages to swallow the entire tendon, it will just get broken down in the dog's stomach.
Provide nutrients your dog needs
All-natural dog chews can contribute substantially to your dog's healthy diet. Most of them are rich in protein, which dogs need to support their muscles, and glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen, which support joint health. Contrast that with a fake plastic bone that provides only microplastics to your dog's diet. The recommended daily intake of microplastics for dogs is zero.
The bottom line
All-natural dog chews clean your dog's teeth, provide valuable nutrients, do not contribute to climate change, and do not contain toxic chemicals or cause bowel obstructions.