Everyone has his own idea about what is the best product out there for Fido to chew on. It's tempting to say, "The best one is the one he likes best!" However, there are a few elements that comprise a really good chew treat and some to avidly avoid.
Types of Chewy Treats
Several different types of chew treats are on the market. Some of them are made from the hide and other body parts of animals, some are made from gluten, some are made from grain. Rawhide chew treats are manufactured from the hides of cows or horses. They are brought to you by the same companies that make leather, not meat, and their manufacture is closely related to the tanning of leather through the use of harsh, dangerous chemicals. Everywhere you turn, they are being offered for sale at prices you just can't pass up. But if many veterinarians had their way, they would probably be taken off the market. Your puppy wouldn't want you to know this, but these treats pose a significant risk to him in the form of intestinal blockages, salmonella or E. coli contamination and irritation of the digestive tract. Not only that, but their manufacture is environmentally destructive and since most of them are made in other countries, any USDA laws or regulations pertaining to the safety of these items do not apply.
Parts R Us
That leaves you with some alternatives. Some chew treats are made from body parts of other critters. Some of them, such as the kind made from deer antlers and yak milk, do not necessitate slaughtering an animal. Others, such as pigs' ears and hooves, are byproducts of slaughterhouses. There are pros and cons to each type. "Pizzles" are made from the dried penises of bulls and other hoofed animals. They have the right consistency and do not pose the same risks as rawhide, but the yuck factor is a big problem for most people. Pigs' ears are also the right consistency, but may pose a risk of salmonella. Hooves are downright dangerous because they splinter and can lacerate your pup's alimentary canal lining.
Deer and elk antlers are safe because they are the right consistency, last a long time, are made with only organic preservatives and do not pose a significant environmental threat. There are manufacturers in the United States so you can purchase products made in accordance with USDA regulations. Yak's and cow's milk chew treats are also a good choice for these same reasons.
Fruits and Things
Yams have taken center stage as the newest thing in dog chew treats. They are made in the USA and formed into a jerky consistency that keeps dogs happy for quite a while. Other products, such as those made from corn or potato starch, are also safe and come in a variety of flavors. They are sold under the brand name Nylabone or Booda Bone. Greenies are made from gelatin and a whole long list of other stuff you have to be chemist to pronounce, but they also pose a significant risk of intestinal blockage. A better choice would be the Terrabone, which has only a few natural ingredients and is safe.
The Bottom Line
The best chew treat, of course, is the one your puppy will love and be safe ingesting. Look for non-rawhide products, made in the USA, with a consistency that means they won't break into shards. Many trainers recommend sterilized bones with a little peanut butter smeared inside. If your dog will go for that, it is really your best choice.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.