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Nylabones are best for keeping teeth clean, followed by either Gumabones or Nylafloss. Virtually any chew toy has potential problems, so always keep an eye out for them.
Nylabones are most highly recommended. They cost about three times as much as a rawhide but last for a very long time.
Some dogs don’t like them and may need some encouragement; most will happily use them. Some dogs chow down on them so enthusiastically that they get “slab” fractures on their teeth.
Nylabones should be replaced when the ends show signs of wear.
Gumabones are similar to Nylabones, but a bit softer and without as much tooth cleaning ability. The manufacturer says that Gumabones are more likable and serve as toys, but the Nylabone is necessary to satisfy frustration chewing and chewing due to a need to chew.
Some dogs have trouble with flatulence when they ingest the small pieces of Gumabone that they chew off. Replace when the toy shows signs of crumbling.
Note that there are many kinds of toys out there made of soft rubber — Gumabones is a particular brand name of a common sort of dog toy.
A similar toy is the “tuffy” or “kong” (several manufacturers and copycats) — usually a red cone-shaped toy made of rubber that is sturdier than the Gumabone variety.
It comes in a giant black size, various smaller red sizes, and one that is white and blue with a throw strap that floats. These are guaranteed against destruction.
This toy has a hollow center and hiding treats in it can provide your dog with much enjoyment.
Nylafloss (also rope bone, booda bone) is well accepted and is the best tooth cleaner of all. To many dogs, though, it is only interesting when you wave it in the dog’s face. (Nylafloss looks like very a thick, knotted rope.)
Watch out for dogs that like to chew them through and swallow pieces of string.
Rawhide is not recommended by most people because the dogs tend to swallow large pieces, which swell and sometimes block the intestines. Also, if the shank gets slimy but the knot is still hard, the dog can swallow the shank and choke on the knot.
You can prevent this by buying rawhide in other shapes, such as chips, or buying shredded and compressed rawhide treats (although these do not last as long).
Lastly, and much more commonly, they cost a fortune if you have a mid-to-large dog or a dog with powerful jaws. If you do use them, look for U.S.-or-locally manufactured ones; imported ones sometimes have chemical residues.
There are specially treated bones that resist splintering, and you can hide treats in the hollow center, giving your dog hours of enjoyment trying to get them out. Untreated organic bones may splinter and cause tooth wear or even gum and mouth injuries. Eating the pieces often results in constipation. The best bones are the large ones that resist splintering.
Replace after cracks or splinters appear. Small bones, especially chicken bones should never be given to a dog. A dog will crunch down and swallow the bones, which may lodge in the throat and choke the dog, puncture the esophagus or stomach lining, or block the intestines. If your dog is not immediately killed, they will require expensive surgery to get the bone out of their body.
Cow hooves are better than rawhide because they break down into smaller pieces and are much cheaper and more durable. However, like organic bones, they can cause gum and mouth injuries if they chip.
They smell somewhat and may cause tooth wear. Smoked hooves are available that don’t smell as much.
Pick out the largest, most solid hooves; replace when they are worn down to a small piece. Stop using them if your dog splinters large chunks off them. Slab fractures are also possible with cow hooves.
Another item is CHOOZ, by the makers of Nylabones. This item looks like a Nylabone but is crunchy like a hard dog biscuit. It can also be tossed into your oven or microwave to change its texture (makes it lighter and more like a hard bread).
CHOOZ has been involved in at least one case of gastric blockage; you may not want to use it.
Pigs’ ears look like good chew toys, but the truth is that dogs can eat them in about 15 minutes or so. Dogs love them, but they are not a chew toy and should be used as an occasional treat instead. Given too often, they will cause loose stools.