What Not to Chew!


“My dog chews on everything, his teeth are great!”  Hmmmmm, as a veterinarian when I hear this I get shivers down my spine. Although it is great to allow chewing to prevent boredom and inappropriate destruction and to help clean teeth, there are some things your dog should just not be allowed to chew on when it comes to dental health or possible other catastrophes.

Top Five List of “what not to chew”:

  • Deer Antlers- these popular chew treats are great at fracturing teeth. They are so hard, and because they are round and are small diameter, they cause problems. This is true of any hard chew treat that does span across several teeth. If you watch a dog chew, you will see them put this antler between their molars with a large portion of the object sticking out of the mouth. They use their paw to hold the end. If you remember grade 10 physics, this causes a shearing force that causes a slab fracture of the tooth. Instead, choose a flat object that spans several teeth.
Note the antler at the back of the mouth and the leverage placed on it by the paw.
Note the antler at the back of the mouth and the leverage placed on it by the paw.
slab fracture
Slab fracture

2) Animal Bones: In addition to the above-listed concerns, there is also a concern of pieces of the bone chipping off during chewing and being swallowed. These pieces can cause irritation or even perforation of the intestine.

3) Rocks: For some strange reason a lot of dogs like to carry rocks or even chew on them. Rocks are a lot harder than teeth and therefore can cause chipping or fracturing of teeth. More commonly I see wearing down of the teeth until the sensitive tissue below the enamel is exposed.

worn teeth
Worn teeth

4)Wood/sticks:  Depending on the tree a lot of wood is not extremely hard but some, if chewed aggressively, can cause dental fractures. The more common issue I see is infected slivers of wood in the gum or pieces of wood stuck onto the roof of the mouth.


5) Round, compressed rawhide or Bullwinkle’s: compressed rawhide is made by taking small chips of rawhide compressed into a shape similar to the way that particle wallboard is made. This is tough stuff and like above can cause slab fractures BUT when it is chewed vigorously and softens slightly large pieces can break off and be swallowed. So this stuff can cause tooth fractures and intestinal obstructions. A DOUBLE WHAMMY!



What should my dog chew for healthy teeth and gums?

There isn’t anything that replaces good at-home oral care. The mechanical action of brushing is a must but only on the teeth that you want to keep! LOL.

1) CET Chews/Enzadent chews– these are flat, digestible rawhide chews that are imbedded with an enzyme that helps reduce bacterial build up. Because they are flat they span several teeth and prevent that shearing force on one tooth.

2) Kong Toys– these come in all sizes, shapes and textures. They are pretty close to indestructible but you should still examine the toy for wear after each chew session. They are also great for distraction. Filling them with peanut butter, yogurt or cheese whiz and freezing them will give hours of fun.

3)T/D food– this is a prescription diet that mechanically cleans the teeth. Most food when bitten into will crumble into small pieces but when a tooth penetrates into the T/D piece it only breaks when the tooth makes it way through the food. I have seen this food do a great job on removing tartar and keeping teeth clean. Remember though that it only works on the teeth that it makes contact with. Some pets, like people, are one-sided chewers. And if there is a sore area of the mouth the pet will avoid chewing there altogether.

I am sure there are many other safe options but these are my favourites. If there is something that your pet loves to chew and you are unsure of its safety bring it in to show us.

Ashley Kirkham, DVM