Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

5 Safe Chews for Dogs: How to Choose the Right Dog Chews (Vet-Approved)

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by Dogster Team

Golden Retriever holding a chew

5 Safe Chews for Dogs: How to Choose the Right Dog Chews (Vet-Approved)


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

No one is about to argue that our dogs love to chew! It’s one of their favorite daily activities. Since it’s something they do so frequently, you may think that they have an iron stomach and can chew up whatever they want.

But that’s just not the case. And there are even some types of chews on the market that aren’t the safest and can certainly pose major health risks for your dog. So, if you’re in the market for safe dog chews, we’re going to go over five of the best options.

dogster face divider

The 5 Safe Chews for Dogs

1. Bully Sticks

Bully Stick
Image Credit: DmitrievMikhail, Shutterstock
Safety: 4.5/5
Ingredients: Beef muscle
Suitable for: Any dog that can chew and does not swallow chews in large bites

Bully sticks are growing in popularity in the dog community because they are safe, attractive, and healthy for canines. Generally, these snacks are made of a rather interesting ingredient, to say the least. Bully sticks are made from beef muscle—more specifically, bull penis. While it might sound not-so yummy to you, these sticks are a terrific source of protein, amino acid, and omega fatty acids.

On top of being nutritionally friendly, the chewy texture could help reduce dental bacteria and plaque 1. You can find bully sticks at virtually any pet shop or online and most selections are affordable.

Because of the texture of bully sticks, it makes it perfect for mild to moderate chewers and poses less of a risk of bowel obstruction than some other options. These sticks are considered some of the safest chews on the market today but they are not completely full proof. Dogs that eat quickly could find themselves choking, or with a large piece lodged in the esophagus.

Bully sticks are excellent for dogs with certain food allergies, as they only have a single ingredient. So, if you have a sensitive pooch, it might be just what they need to enjoy gnawing away without the tummy upset.

One downfall of bully sticks is that they might be contaminated with bacteria 2. If so, consuming a bully stick might lead to food poisoning in rare circumstances. Any type of uncooked or improperly prepared meat-related product is potentially able to pass harmful bacteria.

  • High protein
  • Single-ingredient
  • Great for dogs with allergies (other than beef allergies)
  • Mightdental health


  • Could contain bacteria
  • Needs to be eaten slowly

2. Yak Cheese Chews

Safety: 4.5/5
Ingredients: Yak or cow’s milk, lime juice, vinegar
Suitable for: Healthy canines with no milk allergies/intolerances

Yak chews are growing in popularity as dog chew treats. These chews are generally made from a concoction of yak milk, lime juice, and vinegar or salt so the material will boil and form into solid matter. As they are very hard they can result in broken teeth for an unlucky pup. A general guide to assessing the tooth safety for a chew is to check you can make an impression in it with your thumb nail. If you can’t it may cause damage to teeth.

Because a yak typically has a better diet than farm cows, yak chews tend to have a more nutrient-dense profile. They contain a dose of protein, iron, magnesium, and calcium—plus, they contain linoleic acid and omega fatty acids.

Because this is essentially a hard chunk of cheese, pieces can break off and get swallowed. This is potentially a choking hazard, though often less harmful than, say, a swallowed hoof. The cheese naturally breaks down when it comes in contact with saliva, helping it melt.

Dogs can have lactose intolerance, and these dogs may get digestive upsets from these milk based chews 3. They might also have a protein allergy that causes sensitivity to these chews. Because yak chews have less lactose than traditional cow’s milk, they can be a safer or less irritating option.

  • Melts in mouth
  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Short ingredients list


  • Some dogs can have lactose intolerance
  • Potential choking hazard if not chewed carefully

3. Synthetic Bones

Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala_Shutterstock
Safety: 3.5/5
Material: Nylon
Suitable for: Mild to moderate chewers

Synthetic bones are an option for dog owners to consider. They are safer than rawhide. Generally, they are made of nylon or other artificial ingredients. At times, they can have flavoring or just be plain.

These bones shouldn’t be given to dogs unsupervised. If they are supervised, your dog can spend hours trying to gnaw away at the material. It lasts much longer than edible options and really seems to captivate their attention.

Nylon bones are generally safe for most canines. However, they are often avoided if folks have an avid chewer. Nylon bones can pose a genuine hazard for dogs, as they can be ingested and cause major blockages in the esophagus or intestines.

Unless other ingredients are added, these types of chews don’t offer any type of real nutrition for your canine. So, if you were looking for a caloric boost, this isn’t the right option to select.

  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to find


  • No nutritional quality
  • Potential foreign body or choking hazard
  • Will not break down in the stomach and should never be ingested

4. Natural Raw Bones

Image Credit: David Tadevosian_Shutterstock
Safety:  2/5
Ingredients: Bone
Suitable for: Mild to moderate chewers

Natural bones get a bad rap when people don’t understand the benefits. Cooked bones, after all, splinter and piece apart, causing major hazards for dogs when swallowed. Natural raw bones, however, don’t have the same splintering effect and clean the teeth. However there are a number of serious risks.

Large, hard bones can fracture your dog’s teeth. Conversely smaller bones can be ingested and cause choking and blockages in the gastrointestinal tract, even leading to intestinal perforation and even death.  Raw bones can also carry bacteria and other pathogens, so there is a fair risk of contracting disease from bones.

On the other hand some will argue that this is the most species-appropriate snack you can offer your dog apart from entrails and lean meats. If you think about a dog’s origins, we know they are related to their wolf cousins. While wolves are obligate carnivores, dogs are omnivores that can also delight in a wide selection of plants and grains. Their digestive system has evolved from wolves, so it is not necessary to feed them bones.

Overall, bones are a matter of opinion. If you decide to offer your dog bones, always make sure that your dog’s bones are all natural and uncooked—always avoid boiled or baked bones. Make sure it is fresh, and cannot be swallowed. You also have to be careful if your dog has an allergy to a certain animal protein so that you don’t give them a bone from that animal.

  • Some people think they are a natural part of dog’s diets
  • Helps keep the teeth clean
  • Don’t splinter as easily as cooked bones


  • Can still pose a choking hazard

5. Stuffed Chews

dog playing with its toys
Image Credit: TeamDAF, Shutterstock
Safety:  3.5/5
Ingredients: Dependent upon product
Suitable for: Mild to moderate chewers

Stuffed chews are our last honorable mention for dog chews. These chews are very different depending on the product you get, so there are no definitive ingredients we can explain to you. We encourage you to scour ingredients on every label before purchase.

These chews can be synthetic or made of natural ingredients. They can be stuffed with anything from peanut butter to meaty pie. They can entice your pup to chew due to the flavor and tend to pose slightly less of a chance of total bowel obstruction if followed.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all stuffed dog bone, look for potential allergy or sensitivity triggers. It can also cause an uptake of calories, making these chews unsuitable for overweight pets.

  • Easy to locate
  • Appetite enhancing
  • Variety of products


  • Can trigger allergies or sensitivities
  • Not ideal for overweight pets

dogster paw divider

What to Look for in a Chew

So, if you are in the market for chews for your dog, what should you be looking for?


The hardness level is a very important aspect when you’re thinking about buying chews for your dog. While dogs love chewing on harder surfaces, if a chew is too tough, it can cause dental damage and gastrointestinal obstructions.

There’s a sweet spot in the middle that makes a certain chew perfect for a dog, mainly depending on the overall composition and the aggressiveness of the chewing.

white pitbull playing with ball at the park
Image Credit: AlejandroM04, Shutterstock


You’ll certainly want the chew to hold up for its intended purpose. The last thing you want is to get a chew you think will be long-lasting, and your dog has it torn to bits in just a few minutes.

Also, you don’t want the chew to be so stiff that they can’t chew it. You still want it to be appetizing without being hazardous.


Since chews tend to last a long time, as they are meant for long-term chewing sessions, size is important. If you get a chew that is too big, it can be uncomfortable or even impossible for your little dog to chew.

If you buy a chew that is too small for a large dog, it can cause a major risk of a choking hazard.

Happy Teddy Roosevelt Rat Terrier puppy playing on field of Clover
Image Credit: Michele M Vogel, Shutterstock


It is essential to read over any ingredients in the chew. Even if you think a chew is all natural and made from one substance, they can add certain chemicals or preservatives to make it last. Dogs can be very sensitive to certain chemicals, dyes, preservatives, and other additives.

They also have food allergies that make them intolerant to certain ingredients as well. Well, they should be pretty straightforward, always do a quick suite to make sure there’s nothing you’re missing.

dogster paw divider

Additional Factors to Consider

Take Your Dog’s Behavior Into Account

There is no one size fits all solution for dog chews. Some dogs chew delicately over time, and never swallow any big chunks. These dogs are a lot safer when it comes to some of the chews on this list. Other dogs attempt to swallow a chew whole and are at much higher risk for problems. There are certain dogs that should never be given anything that won’t break down in their stomachs; this includes bones and synthetic chews.

Types of Chews to Avoid

Chews have notoriously been associated with dangers. Some very common veterinary emergencies involved dogs swallowing large pieces of inedible or otherwise bulky items. Here are some chews to avoid, especially if you have an aggressive chewer on your hands.

woman playing tug of war with her dog
Image Credit: Hero Images Inc, Shutterstock

Cooked Bones

Cooked bones splinter into shards and it is a definite no no. These pieces can not only get lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, they can break into shards, wounding the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

dogster paw divider

Emergencies Related to Chews

Dogs love to chew on things, even things they shouldn’t have! It’s no wonder that intestinal blockages are very common. Chews can easily cause intestinal blockages that can lead to partial or complete obstructions.

These obstructions require emergency surgery in some cases and may pass in others. It’s certainly not worth the risk, and not all pet parents can afford it. This could lead to losing a pet prematurely.

Buying the appropriate chews and toys can prevent untimely accidents or death.

dogster face divider


Chews are a must for all canines, despite their chewing level. Dogs will chew on something regardless of what it is, so it’s important to make sure it is safe and even healthy or beneficial for your pup. Chews should be free of any harmful additives or splintering potential.

Hopefully this article gave you some terrific ideas so you can give your peppy pup the chewing pleasure they deserve.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.