Are Nylabones Safe for Dogs (+ what are the best chew toys)?

Nylabones are a really common chew toy given to dogs of all sizes. Are they actually safe for dogs though, or are there better chew toy options you should consider?

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I was wondering your thoughts on Nylabones and similar things like that? My Lab likes to gnaw on them every so often and also on things like antlers, yak milk bars, etc. Would love to hear your views.

And so jumping into my first question, which is from Bexy Boo, who writes that she was wondering what my thoughts were on Nylabones and similar dog chews were. Her Lab likes to gnaw on them every so often, and also on other things like antlers and yak milk bars.

The risk of giving bones

So this question was triggered by my discussion of the risks of bones in my complete raw diet review, and that those risks really are that they can cause fractured teeth, which are a source of pain and a reason for tooth root abscesses to develop.

Bones also have a risk of causing a potential obstruction and also perforation of the intestines resulting in septic peritonitis, which has a 50% mortality rate, so 50% of dogs that develop septic peritonitis are likely to die. So there are some significant risks with bones.

Now antlers actually cause a similar problem, and they cause all these problems because they’re also very, very hard. They can break teeth and if a small enough chunk is swallowed, then that can cause similar obstruction problems.

Are Nylabones Safe for Dogs?

Now Nylabones are obviously a synthetic product, and they are also incredibly hard and could cause fractures in teeth. They’re unlikely to get shattered and splintered, and so swallowed. Tooth fractures, like I say, are painful and detrimental to health and are reason enough to never give a dog a nylabone. We definitely shouldn't ignore this risk.

Broken teeth are painful

Unfortunately, all too often, when a dog has a fractured tooth they're still going to be eating, they're still going to appear like they're absolutely fine, and so the temptation for many is just to ignore the fact that there is a broken tooth.

Dogs just don't let on that they are in pain, and if you've ever had any kind of dental problem you'll know just how painful they can be.

But I always say that a dog or a cat, they don't know that if they stop eating, they're going to be taken to the vet and have their teeth fixed. They simply know that if they stop eating, they're going to die. So just imagine how painful it needs to be for them to stop eating!

We never want to use the fact that your dog stops eating as the trigger for treating dental disease. If we do this, your dog will have already been suffering for quite some time.

Any fractured teeth really need to be removed, or addressed with root canal treatment or other advanced endodontics.

The Best Chews for Your Dog

But that aside, really from a dental chew point of view, a rule of thumb that we suggest is that if it would hurt to be hit on the knee with it, then really it shouldn't be used as a chew toy for dogs.

The Brilliant Kong

So what are my preferences then? While I prefer the strong rubber chew toys like the ubiquitous Kong. I think they're fantastic. Kong’s need to be an appropriate size and they need to be an appropriate hardness for your dog. So there's no point giving a small breed Kong to a big large Labrador, because they potentially are going to swallow it or it’s going to get stuck and they're going to choke. Also if you've got a power chewer then you want to use one of the harder, tougher black versions rather than the classic red version, which are a little bit softer.

You're also going to need to discard and chew toy when they’re getting worn, although generally they will last an incredibly long time. You can also fill them with something tasty to encourage that chewing, to encourage them to get absorbed in trying to get that tasty treat from the middle. So they are a great source of mental engagement and help to a certain degree with dental hygiene as well.

Food Puzzles

There are other food puzzles that we can use. If we're talking about mental engagement and trying to make our pet's lives more interesting. These include food puzzles, licki mats, and snuffle pads.

You always want to use these particular toys under supervision because you don't want them chewing bits off. Certainly the snuffle mats with fabric strips that you hide food in, and the last thing you want is your dog to be chewing the strips and swallowing those because they can cause problems as well.

Now if we're then moving on to dental specific chews, while there are various options, what you really want to be doing is choosing one that has got a VOHC, or veterinary oral health council, seal of approval because that means that there is some evidence that they do reduce or prevent tartar build up.

Dental care is important

Now they're not the be all and end all. They're not going to completely eliminate any tartar, they’re not going to completely eliminate the need for doing other dental healthcare procedures. So that could be tooth brushing or dental diets, and also intermittent health cleaning, hygiene cleaning with a scaler and polishing just to try and keep things nice and clean.

Oral health is really important for general body health so it’s definitely something to think about. Like I say there are a number of other things we should do, but if we're looking at dental specific chews, you want to be looking for that VOHC seal of approval and that can also go with other oral care products, toothpastes and that kind of thing.


So really those are my thoughts. We want to avoid the really hard chews, so Nylabones, antlers and that kind of thing as well as bones and consider some of these other options instead.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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