To Chew or Not to Chew: Should I give my dog a bone, rawhide, or bully stick?

Should I give my dog chews or bone like treats?   My short answer, if you don't like to read long posts, is NO.

If you want to know why I choose not to, read on.

I had always heard from the grapevine that dogs naturally should chew things like bones or rawhide because of reasons like, "it's good for their teeth!"

I took it upon myself to visit a nearby pet store and just went to town, picking and choosing different items like tendon,  a puff braid, and bully twists.  I had conversed with the store employee there, who did his job well, and advised me of what was available, asking if my dog had any allergies naturally, since some bones are made from beef, others are lamb, etc.  Somehow I ended up coming home with 5 different items for my adult 6-year old french bulldog.  I thought to myself, after all, what dog doesn't love bones?  That's like a thing, right?  Why wouldn't I shower my pup with some delectable goodies? 

Well, I immediately had second thoughts when I returned home and watched my pup enthusiastically, and energetically go to town on the first item I brought home for him.  

In a split second, I kid you not, my dog licking on a 5" by 2" wide esophagus rawhide-alternative turned into my dog inhaling it in one swift gulp.  My heart nearly stopped.  Wait, did my eyes deceive me?  I had heard that when you give a dog a chew treat, you MUST supervise him.  I was!  I was supervising by sitting right next to him, but it all happened so fast, I would've never guessed it could be gulped down faster than the speed of light. By the time I reached his mouth, poof, nothing.

Immediately, my stress levels rose, and I crouched to investigate the area in and around his mouth.  I got him to hold still for a few seconds while I managed to keep his mouth open and investigate any sign of chew.  None, whatsoever.  How is this even possible?  Surely, it cannot just vanish into thin air? 

I flipped his bed upside down, to see if my eyes had failed me.  Perhaps this was some wicked trick, maybe my mind was playing games on me?  

Alas, the rawhide-alternative chew was long gone.  The only confirmation I received was from a loud forceful burp that Eggy let out, startling both of us.

If I was a calm, cool, collected person by nature, this wouldn't be such a big deal.  I would accept that these things occasionally happen, and just roll with the punches.  His stomach has the proper acid, I tried to convince myself.  The bone will be destroyed on its own, his body will know exactly what to do. 

However, the hypochondriac in me went to the extreme ends of Google searching to discover that this was all too often a problem most dog parents go through.  The research I would uncover, was not reassuring at all.

The response I ultimately put together, and please note I am no expert, nor doctor on the matter*, was that I would have to keep an eye on him for the next 24 to 72 hours to make sure the chew really did pass successfully.  Otherwise, there was a plethora of things that could go wrong.

  • The chew could crack a tooth or get dislodged in his mouth
  • The chew could get dislodged in his throat
  • The chew could get dislodged in his stomach
  • The chew could get dislodged in his small intestine
  • The chew could cause bloat and in severe circumstances lead to death.
  • All of the above could also lead to forced vomiting, xrays, surgeries,  etc.

Needless to say, I was frantic, and kept putting Eggy's face in palms of my hands to see if there was any sign of discomfort, struggle, or dire need for me to take him to the emergency vet. 

I kept a close eye on him, and he didn't seem phased by it the first few hours.  He walked around leisurely, then he did his usual patrol of the neighborhood from the balcony.  He even took a little cat nap.

I mixed some of his wet food with water in order to force him to drink some water right away.  I figured if it wasn't coming back up, maybe I can help it go down.  I also added a tiny little apple cider vinegar in the hopes that would add a little more acid to help break it down asap.

I read it takes anywhere from 8 to 12 hours for chews of a small size to digest.  I was hoping 5" was considered small.  If not, as an abundance of caution, I would definitely monitor his actions, and investigate his stool for the next week. 

I had read somewhere that in one case with a puppy swallowing a bone, signs of discomfort didn't show up until day 6?!  I was beyond worried.  The last thing I wanted was to feel this guilt, that had I not fed him this new treat, I could've prevented this entire chaos.

Every site I visited, led me to one giant conclusion.  While there can be advantages to letting your dog chew, with much required supervision, there would be occasionally frequent situations of various dogs that would accidentally swallow the entire bone or rawhide.  From what I gathered, rawhides which are the inner skin or hide of an animal are the absolute biggest gamble to take.  They typically are NOT easy to digest, and not only can become a choking hazard but can also lead to blockage and severe illness or death. The single pro of cleaning your dog's teeth wasn't cutting it for me. 

I did some more research and discovered luckily, the chew treat I gave Eggy was not rawhide, but a natural alternative, which was created to be easily digested and with proper manufacturing practices.

It isn't until you witness your dog inhale a bone that this sudden realization swells up inside of you that your dog's inability to chew calmly, and innate desire to just eat the entire thing, leaves you with a desire to turn back the clock, and simply pass up the bones and chew section when you're at the store. 

The risks of something going wrong are far too stressful for me to deal with.  Later that day, I'd say a few hours later, I noticed Eggy drooling excessively from his mouth, mostly on one side.  I had seen him drool like this before, after eating some blackberries which he shouldn't have because of the natural xylitol amounts that blackberries contain being a foreign and toxic substance.  It seemed to me that this type of drooling was a way of his body trying to force the foreign object out. 

How excessive is excessive drool?  The kind that leaves a good sized puddle next to where they were laying.  The kind that has to be wiped up every few seconds to not drip onto the floor.  If your dog normally never drools, this type of excessive drool should be observed, and monitored.  If it doesn't clear up after a day, I would definitely go to our vet.

Anyway, the excessive drool, was followed by his irrational pattern of laying down in different spots, and one moment where he came directly to my side and started hacking a dry cough.  I assumed this was his way of trying to vomit, and I wanted nature to take its course so I eased his nerves petting him but let him do his thing.  Ultimately, if he was able to vomit it out naturally, that would probably be best right?  Then, it occurred to me that sometimes vomiting something sharp isn't recommended either as it could cause damage coming back up.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) nothing came out.  He licked his chops for a few more moments, and the excess drool returned.  A little later, again, I went to give him more water.  I had to be careful however to not give him too much, because sometimes water can in turn expand what was swallowed, which isn't all that helpful either.  Talk about a lose-lose situation.

It has now been almost 12 hours since the incident and the drooling has slowed down considerably.  He is resting and sleeping with his head sweetly resting on the arm of his human dad, and I for one, am relieved though still upset at myself for letting it get to this in the first place. 

I'm kicking myself, and have decided that good for his teeth or not, I will no longer choose to give him any type of chew or bone.  There is just too much at stake.  One, I could never live with myself if something horrible were ever to happen to him and it was because of something that I did.  Two, why increase chances of something bad happening?  We already have so much to worry about, like when the kids come over and drop chocolate chip cookies on the ground, or when he gets curious about anything that falls onto the kitchen floor - why increase the odds of something to go wrong?  

Never again.  

I'll continue playing helicopter mom the rest of the week, making sure he is back to 100%.  Until then, goodbye chew bones and treats.

*disclaimer, this article was written from my own experience, shared in case it may spark some relatable moment you've had or discussion, etc.  In no way do any of the stories I share serve as advice.  You are responsible for your own actions and should contact a veterinarian expert for proper medical advice to address your own unique experience and needs.

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