This article is a pre-publication preview of a recently-completed seminal study. The objective was to assess chew safety and efficacy, while progressing chew safety/efficacy science.
As a trusted veterinarian, you advise clients on the healthiest dog diets, best treats, and safest chews. However, it can be extremely difficult to sift through available information to provide your clients with knowledgeable guidance. That’s why we conducted this study.
Chewing is essential to dogs, and they benefit from it in a variety of ways. It enhances oral health and satisfies psychological needs.
Many chew packages claim high digestibility and longevity, which implies they are safe for dogs to consume over an extended period. Yet many dogs suffer from severe gastrointestinal obstructions due to chews. They also experience lesions or lacerations to their gums, mouths, or digestive tracts from chews that break into sharp shards upon mastication. And chews often do not last all that long.
The study evaluated 32 dog chews across ten categories, five safety metrics, and two durability measures. Tests included in vitro canine digestive studies (Figure 1).
Unfortunately, we found that only one commercial chew we tested (3.13%) can be considered safe. This product is not durable. Eighteen chews we tested (56.25%) claim high digestibility on their packages, yet none exhibited this consistently. Two new chews to the market (commercialization Q2 2022) claim “Highly Digestible Degradability” and they tested that way (Figure 2).
Sixteen chews in the study claim “Long-Lasting” on their packages. Just four (25%) were found to be durable, and only two of those were also found to be safe. These two were the products to be commercialized in 2022.
In other words, many commercial dog chews are unsafe and falsify packaging claims.
The study debunked a few myths:
• Soft chews are safer: Not necessarily. Although they may pose a reduced lesion/laceration risk, they can be extremely undigestible, presenting a heightened GI obstruction risk.
• It is OK to throw your dog a bone: No, it is not. Bones are some of the least digestible and unsafe chews available, highly prone to fracturing into sharp shards.
• Hard cheese chews are safe because they are natural: No, they are not. They are extremely undigestible, are prone to fragment into sharp shards, and can even expand in a dog’s digestive tract.
• Dental chews are safe: Not necessarily. Some were found to be quite undigestible.
Disclosure: The author of this publication developed DigestaBone™ — an all-natural, safe, and durable dog chew supporting digestive health, and has a financial interest in True Health Enterprises, LLC (DBA Chews Happiness®, chewshappiness.com, email@example.com).
Tavor White holds a B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering with a specialty in Applied Chemistry and Materials Science, as well as an MBA, all from Columbia University in NYC. He has over two decades of experience working in R&D and has conducted extensive research in materials science, surface chemistry, and in vitro canine digestive studies. Tavor started studying dog chew safety when his first dog experienced an almost fatal GI obstruction. For the past eight years, he has been researching dog chew safety and efficacy, and has conducted hundreds of tests on experimental and commercial dog chews.