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Choosing Safe Chews: Evading foreign body obstructions and other chew hazards

Mar 29, 2022

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This article is the second pre-publication preview (first article: https://ivcjournal.com/how-much-a-dog-can-bite-off-and-chew/) of a recently-completed, pre-peer review seminal dog chew safety/efficacy study.

“Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible” — Abraham Lincoln’s advice to his generals. Unfortunately, his guidance describes many dogs’ chew experience.

A PROFUSION OF DOG CHEW CASUALTIES

Most of the 64 million U.S. dog households offer chews to their 90 million dogs. A survey of four studies (Table 1) provides an estimate of annual U.S. chew casualties (Figure 1): 21,000 esophageal obstructions, an associated 393 fatalities, and millions of gingival lesions.

There are doubtless many casualties that never make it to the ER and are outside the USA. Additionally, another study found that hard, durable chews provide significant dental health benefits (Table 1, Study 5).

Annual Dog Casualties Due to Chews: Estimation Sources

ASSESSING CHEW SAFETY

As reported in the last issue of IVC Journal (Winter 21/22), we found that although many chews claim high digestibility and longevity, most are not safe or durable. As such, they are essentially falsifying claims.

While serious dog chew casualties are uncommon, there are a significant number of victims and less severe chew wounds are commonplace. You would not give your child a snack that was not digestibly degradable, and/or might fragment into sharp shards, would you? Of course not!

Estimated Annual Dog Casualties Due to Chews

We developed two composite safety and dura-bility metrics: Chew Safety Index (CSI), a relative measure of digestive degradability and prevention from fracturing into sharp shards; and Chew Durability Proxy (CDP), a relative measure of durability (click here for the full study). As can be seen in Figure 2, only one chew type we tested, DigestaBone®, can be considered both safe and durable.

Chew Safety Index Vs. Chew Durability Proxy for Chews Tested

So, there is an imperative for veterinarians to provide beneficial dog chews and chew safety and efficacy education.

Disclosure: The author developed DigestaBone and has a financial interest in Chews Happiness® (chewshappiness.com).

Tavor White founded the Chew Safety Institute (chewsafetyinstitute.org), holds B.S./M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering, and has conducted hundreds of dog chew safety/efficacy tests (info@chewsafetyinstitute.org).

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