Ask the Vet: Chew This, Not That

Which chew toys are best for your dog?


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Question:  We’re thinking of giving our son’s new dog a fresh marrow bone for Christmas, but would a sterilized bone be healthier?

Answer: Bones are harder than teeth, so whether fresh or sterilized, chew bones can break a dog’s teeth, as can antlers, cow hooves, nylon and hard plastic bones, and even ice cubes. Dogs chomp using their carnassial teeth, large, multirooted teeth near the back of the mouth. If a carnassial tooth breaks, bacteria can enter the pulp canal and cause a painful tooth root abscess requiring a root canal or extraction — either procedure substantially more expensive than buying a chew toy that won’t break teeth. Safe chew toys have some “give” — if you can indent it with your fingernail, it’s safe to chew. To add to the fun, choose a toy with a hollow center where you can hide a small treat. Another fun gift idea is a food puzzle, a toy that delivers treats when a dog manipulates it or rolls it around. Rope toys and dental chews complete the list my dogs sent to Santa this year.


Ask the Vet is written by veterinarian Lee Pickett, VMD. Send questions to [email protected] and read more at

This article is featured in the November/December 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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