Which Dog Bones Are Safest? The Pros & Cons Of The Most Popular Bones

Many pet parents give their dogs bones to occupy them or clean their teeth. Let's take a look various dog bones and their advantages and disadvantages.

Eric Mann, DVM

Updated November 03, 2022 • Published November 03, 2022

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Which Dog Bones Are Safest? The Pros & Cons Of The Most Popular Bones

As a veterinarian, once question we hear a lot from pet parents is, "Which bone is best for my dog?"

Well, the reality is that there's not a straightforward answer to that question. It depends on the size of your dog and how aggressive of a chewer they are. And despite the benefits that bones can provide, there are also downsides that be can harmful to your pup.

Let's take a look at the most popular types of bones, which dogs they work best for, and the pros and cons of each.

Types of dog bones

The four main types of bones are rawhides, nylon or plastic bones, antlers, and dentabones.    

Rawhides

Rawhides include pigs ears, bully sticks, and pig hooves. All of these are natural options, as they come from animal parts left over after meat production.

Pros:

  • Good for most dogs

  • Rarely damage a dogs' teeth

  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Pieces can break off that are not digestible, and that can result in choking or a need for foreign body surgery

  • Your dog must be monitored while chewing these

At the end of the day, most veterinarians will recommend these for almost any dog, but will give you a warning about the potential hazards. They will instruct you to stay close to your dog while they're chewing, so if they break a piece off you can take it away. Not doing this puts your dog's health in jeopardy and could result in foreign body surgery. This type of surgery can be simple and straightforward or can be very complex, and even potentially deadly. 

Nylon & plastic bones

Nylon (nylabones) or plastic bones are very common. They're good for medium chewers, so not for small or toy breeds.

Pros:

  • Very rarely break off in large pieces

  • All natural flavors like peanut butter, bacon, or liver are safe and encourage chewing

Cons:

  • Can break into small pieces that are easily swallowed (but will pass with ease)

  • Can cause fractures to teeth if there is a lot dental disease present (fractured teeth can require dental work, including extractions or root canals)

  • Your dog must be monitored while chewing these

Antlers & horns

Antlers and deer, elk, or cow horns are another type of chew bone. We'll also include knuckle bones as part of this, as some butchers sell them as chew bones. 

Pros:

  • All natural (for example, deer drop the antlers and they are picked up and sent to be treated to sell as chew toys)

  • They are very hard and do not break off, so you'll have minimal worry about your dog swallowing a part of it

Cons:

  • They break teeth—even healthy teeth—and when your dog breaks a tooth from an antler, it will need to be extracted, as it normally fractures in multiple pieces

  • Your dog must be monitored while chewing these

Dentabones

The last group of bones are dentabones. These are typically made from a compressed vegetable base, or some other digestible substance. 

Pros:

  • Contain a chemical that kills bacteria in the mouth, and bacteria is the main cause of tartar

  • Inexpensive and can be given daily

Cons:

  • Break off into pieces that can be swallowed

  • Just because it's made from something that should be digested does not mean it always is (I have removed pieces of dentabones from a dog's intestines)

  • Your dog must be monitored while chewing these

Which dog bones are safest?

The big takeaway here is that any bone you give your dog has advantages and disadvantages. Never give your dog a bone and walk away for the day, because bad things can happen.

A good resource to look into is the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and their seal on various dental products for dogs.

If you have questions about dog bones or are worried that your dog has swallowed a piece, the Vet Pros at Pawp are here to help 24/7.

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