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"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 9 September 2019  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Something to chew on
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   Dogs need something to chew on. They chew to satisfy their need to chew, they chew to displace anxiety or fear, they chew as a natural need to exercise their teeth and gums and clean the outer surfaces of the teeth. It is all good; unless, of course, they chew on your furniture, shoes or anything they should not chew on. How do you direct their chewing so it is healthy and not destructive?
   It starts with puppyhood. Giving them plenty of appropriate things to chew on, then praising them when they do. It may take several trials and items before you find the right one for your canine buddy. But try lots of praise and a stern "No!" when they chew on the wrong thing. Only do this when you catch them in the act. Never be negative with a pup or a full-grown dog when you see the evidence of bad behavior that may have happened hours or days ago. It does no good except to make your dog avoid you, no matter what.
   How do you choose a good chew toy that is safe and satisfying? First, get something made in the USA! They are "generally" safe because the makers are concerned about toxicity, and all of them remember the scare from China-sourced chews a few years back.
   I was recently at the big-box store here in Falcon and purchased a bag of chicken jerky treats for my dog, as they love them and I only use small bits to help with training and entice eating. I was shocked when I read the label and found they were made in China — the same country that poisoned hundreds of dogs years ago. Has this store chain not learned? I believe they don't seem to care. What matters is what sells at the lowest price. It doesn't matter that it could cause liver or kidney failure in your precious dog.  I did find some made in the USA. Watch for that!
   Next, think about the size of your dog. I have Great Danes and they need a huge chew toy. If not, they will swallow the thing and then we are heading into the surgery room to remove it — that simple. When you are trying the chew toys out to see what works for your pooch, please get something they cannot swallow.
   Veterinary dentists will tell you not to get a chew toy that you cannot hit yourself on the knee with. I understand the point here, but that is unrealistic. My Dane loves the soft plastic chews, and he does a great job of filing them down and fulfilling his strong need to be content and chew. I would not want to hit my knee with it, but I also don't let my dogs chew on bleached bones or anything you could drive a nail with. Watch these things carefully; when they get small, throw them away.
   It is true that softer is better so they won't fracture a molar when they really get after it, but some of the soft rubber toys will just not do the trick. The rule here is common sense. Don't throw the toys, for example, to play fetch because in catching the chew toy they can likely break a canine tooth, which is over $1,000 to repair.
   If your dog has any food allergies or hypersensitivities to certain types of carbohydrates or proteins, watch what these things are made of and steer clear of those things that will upset your dog's stomach.
   Rawhides are fine for some dogs; others will chew them up in 30 minutes, swallow the whole thing and the next day be in serious medical trouble from an intestinal obstruction. If you have an aggressive chewer, then get a tougher toy. Although rawhide looks tough; after a little time and saliva, it will soften up and is easily swallowed.
   The bottom line is to supervise your dogs with everything they chew on or eat. This is a huge source of medical problems in dogs, and they do not know what is good or bad for them. They rely on you to make those decisions. If you would not chew on it, don't let your dog chew on it.
   They do need to chew — a lot more than we do — so be very careful in your selection of these important items for puppies and adult dogs.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian in Colorado Springs and also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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