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Position Statement on Dog Chews/Treats

Background
The ASPCA recognizes that chewing is a natural behavior in canines.  Virtually all puppies chew objects as they explore the world with their mouths and while they are teething, presumably to relieve discomfort in their gums. Adult dogs appear to find chewing a pleasurable way to pass the time when they are bored or restless; many guardians avoid destructive chewing of home furnishings by providing their dogs with appropriate chew toys when they must leave them alone. Others use chew toys and treats to reward their dogs for desired responses during training. In addition, chewing may provide dental health benefits.

Animal product manufacturers typically design edible flavored or dental chews, rawhide and other toys for puppies and dogs who are average or moderate chewers. Larger, durable products are appropriate for large breeds and/or aggressive/frenzied chewers who might otherwise quickly consume the toy or treat object. Small, bite-sized treats are appropriate as a reward for any dog as long as the amount provided is adjusted to remain nutritionally appropriate, neither providing too many calories nor causing the overall diet to become unbalanced.

Rawhide chews are manufactured from animal hides. Rawhide chews are available in many sizes, shapes and flavors, as well as in compressed or natural form. Most dogs find rawhide chews highly palatable and often consume an entire chew during a single session. Pet parents should limit the amount of rawhide consumed at any given time and discourage consumption of significant pieces that could cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction. Obstruction may be more likely to occur in smaller dogs.

Durable chew products typically are manufactured from plastics, including nylon and other synthetic polymers impregnated with flavorings. These products are well suited for aggressive chewers. Pet parents should choose a product size consistent with their pet’s size and chewing habits. Dogs who find these chews desirable will slowly wear down the ends of the chews, resulting in thin sections that can be broken off and swallowed. Guardians should discard these chews before they become excessively worn.

Edible compressed chews have gained popularity because of their attractive taste and advertised dental benefits. Although these products differ in specific formulation, their purpose is for extended chewing followed by consumption of small pieces. Pet parents should match these products with appropriate moderate to light chewers. Overly aggressive chewers may consume large chunks, leading to intestinal obstruction requiring surgical intervention. Inappropriately small chews may also be swallowed whole, resulting in choking or blockage.

Rubber or hard plastic toys are not designed for consumption and should not fragment into smaller pieces that can be swallowed. Excessively small products or products that fragment should not be offered as pet toys to any dog, as intestinal blockage requiring surgical removal can occur.

ASPCA Position
The ASPCA encourages pet guardians to understand the chewing habits and preferences of their individual dogs. When choosing an appropriate chew, they should avoid products that their pets can consume in significant pieces. Consumption of compressed dental or durable chews should be slow and deliberate. Guardians should not permit rapid consumption of any such product forms. Inappropriate rapid consumption may lead to intestinal obstruction and intestinal perforation requiring immediate life-saving veterinary intervention.

The ASPCA recommends that people read and follow label directions explicitly, and choose products designed for the species, size and chewing habits of their pets. In addition, the ASPCA encourages guardians to actively observe their dog while chewing and to immediately consult a veterinarian if their pet consumes a chunk of chew material.