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A guide to safe and not-so-safe dog bones

The essentials

  • Know the safe options — It’s best to choose chews that are natural, appropriately sized, and designed to improve dental health while keeping your pet engaged.
  • Heed your vet’s warnings — Many vets advise against giving dogs raw bones due to potential risks, like choking or intestinal blockages. 
  • Supervise chew time — Always supervise your dog while they’re chewing, regardless of what they’re gnawing on.

Not all dog bones are created equal. Some are a safe and healthy option for your furry friend, while others could pose serious risks. Understanding safe and unsafe options for your pet is the first step in safely spoiling them — and our veterinarians and experts are here to do just that. 

Read on to learn more about the safest dog bones we’ve found, and dog bones you should pass on the next time you hit the store. 

What to look for in quality dog bones

Choosing the right bone for your dog goes beyond just picking up the first one you see on the shelf at the pet store. 

Here are a few  important elements to consider in your bone choice. 

  • Durability. It’s important to pick a bone that can withstand your dog’s chewing. Durable bones are also cost-effective, and keep your dog entertained for longer. 
  • Right-sized. Small dogs will have different size requirements for their bones from large dogs. You’ll want to experiment, and find one that fits your dog’s mouth.
  • Hardness. A bone that’s too hard can damage your dog’s teeth. It’s best to choose one that’s tough enough to last, but not so hard that it could cause dental problems.
  • Digestibility. Bones that are easily digestible are safer for your dog. Non-digestible pieces can create blockages in your dog’s digestive tract.
  • Ingredients. Look for bones made from natural, wholesome ingredients. Avoid bones with artificial additives or preservatives, which could harm your dog’s health. 
  • Taste. While this isn’t a safety concern, a tasty bone will be much more enjoyable for your dog. And happiness is always what we want for our pups!

Types of safe dog bones

When it comes to your furry friend’s chewing needs, safety is key. We know that navigating all of the options can be overwhelming — which is why our veterinarians and specialists have selected and summarized the best bones and chews on the market. 

1. Pig ears

Pig ears are a great choice for many dogs. They’re not only tasty, but they also provide a good chew that can keep your dog entertained for hours. Plus, the texture of pig ears is somewhat tough, which can help clean your dog’s teeth as they chew. They’re also a good source of protein, which helps build and maintain muscle mass and provides energy for active pups. 

2. Bully sticks

Bully sticks are another safe option for dogs. They’re made from beef and are easy to digest, proactively preventing GI upset before it happens. Bully sticks come in various sizes and shapes so you can find one that fits your pup perfectly. Like pig ears, they’re also packed with protein.


Tendon chews are tough and durable, providing a long-lasting chew that will satisfy your pup. They’re high in protein and rich in collagen, two essential nutrients that contribute to muscle development, and help maintain your pet’s skin, coat, and joints. 

🚨 Be sure to choose the right size tendon chew for your dog to prevent choking hazards. 

Know your dog’s chewing style

Understanding your dog’s chewing style is key to ensuring their safety and enjoyment. Some dogs are “nibblers” who take their time, while others are “gulpers” who try to swallow large chunks. Be sure to choose a bone that matches your pet’s chewing habits.

Be cautious with these dog bones

When it comes to your dog’s chewing habits, balance is key. Certain types of dog bones, while not inherently harmful, require careful consideration before being offered to your pet. 

The bones on this list can be harder on the teeth, pose a choking hazard to your pet, or can lead to health issues (like pancreatitis) due to higher fat content.

1. Antlers

Antlers are extremely durable and can provide a long-lasting challenge for aggressive chewers and help remove plaque and tartar from their teeth. However, they are also quite hard and can potentially cause dental damage if chewed too hard. 

If you’re going to offer antlers, opt for those that have been split into pieces, as these expose the softer marrow and pose less risk to your dog’s teeth.

2. Yak cheese chews

Yak cheese chews are a popular choice for many dog owners due to their natural ingredients and durability. However, they are extremely hard, and can lead to dental issues if your dog chews too aggressively. They can also pose a choking risk if large pieces break off.

If you offer yak cheese to your pet, be sure to supervise them. One wrong chomp can slough off a problematically tiny piece. 

👉 Did you know that you can put the small end of a yak chew in the microwave to turn it into a piece of “doggy popcorn”?

3. Dental bones

These types of bones are designed to improve dental hygiene by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. While they can be beneficial, some dental bones may be too hard for certain dogs, potentially leading to dental injuries. Always choose a size appropriate for your dog and monitor them while chewing.

Unsafe dog bones you should avoid

Seeing your pet happy is one of the joys of being a pet owner — but their safety should always come first. Some types of bones and chews can potentially harm your pet, leading to serious health problems. We recommend avoiding the following to limit your pet’s risks:

1. Rawhide

Rawhide bones are made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. While they might seem tempting for your pup, they pose several risks. Rawhide bones can cause digestive blockages if large pieces are swallowed, and they’re often treated with chemicals during production, which can lead to health issues.

Why to avoid them:

  • They’re a choking hazard (and they can cause blockages, too!) Large pieces of rawhide can get lodged in your dog’s throat
  • They can lead to stomach issues later on. Rawhide can lead to a blockage in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, even if they chew well.
  • They may contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. As a by-product of the leather industry, many rawhide bones undergo a chemical treatment process that can leave harmful residues.

Rawhides sourced from areas with poor regulation on dog treats can increase the likelihood of contamination with chemicals and bacteria.

Dwight Alleyne, DVM

3. Plastic bones

Plastic bones (or nylon bones) are durable and long-lasting, making them a favorite for many dog owners. However, as your dog chews, these bones can break into sharp fragments that may injure your dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines.

Why to avoid them:

  • They pose an injury risk. Sharp pieces of chewed plastic can cause injury to your dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive tract.
  • They’re excessively hard. Plastic bones are incredibly hard and can cause dental damage — especially in dogs who are aggressive chewers.
  • They’re virtually non-digestible. If swallowed, plastic fragments from nylon bones cannot be digested, and may cause serious blockages.

Nylon bones should only be given to smaller dogs whose teeth are not large enough to bite through them. There is a greater risk for large breed dogs to bite through and cause sharp fragments leading to obstruction or injury.

Dwight Alleyne, DVM

4. Raw bones

Raw bones can be a natural and enjoyable chew for many dogs. They’re often filled with nutritious marrow, can help clean your dog’s teeth, and satisfy their instinctive urge to chew. However, these bones are not without risks — and they should be given cautiously.

Why to avoid them:

  • They’re a choking hazard. Similar to other types of bones, raw bones can pose a choking risk if your dog tries to swallow large pieces.
  • They could lead to a bacterial infection. Raw bones, especially those that aren’t fresh, can harbor bacteria like Salmonella and lead to foodborne illnesses in both pets and humans.
  • Fractured teeth. Some raw bones are quite hard, and can potentially cause dental damage.

5. Cooked bones

Cooked bones, especially those from poultry, can splinter into sharp pieces when chewed. These splinters can cause injuries to your dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. They also pose a choking risk, and can cause blockages in your pet’s digestive tract.

Why to avoid them:

  • They could splinter. Cooked bones can easily break into sharp, smaller pieces that could internally injure your dog.
  • They could be a choking hazard. Small pieces of bone fragments can be accidentally swallowed, posing a choking risk.
  • They can lead to blockages. Splintered bones can cause blockages in your dog’s digestive system, which may require surgery to remove.

Benefits of giving your dog bones

We all love seeing our furry friends content, especially when they’re engaged in a good chew. But did you know that giving your dog a bone goes beyond simply keeping them busy? 

That’s right — your pet’s bone is more than just a treat; it’s a tool that plays a crucial role in their overall health and well-being. 

Chewing on bones can offer numerous health benefits for dogs, such as:

  • Clean teeth, fresher breath, and improved oral health
  • Mental stimulation to alleviate boredom 
  • Satisfaction of their natural urge to chew
  • Weight management support

Navigating pet ownership can be complex, especially when it comes to your dog’s chewing habits. After all, the right bone isn’t just a treat, but a tool for boosting their health and happiness. 

While we enjoy the happiness they get from a good chew, we can’t overlook the importance of safety measures — like supervision and a tried-and-true bone selection process. If you’re not sure which chew is appropriate for your dog, reach out to your veterinarian for tailored recommendations that can support your dog’s health.

Frequently asked questions

What is the safest bone to give a dog?

Each dog is unique and has their individual needs. However, many agree that the safest bones are synthetic bones and certain types of natural bones. Be sure to steer clear of smaller, brittle bones like those from chicken, turkey, pork, or rib bones; as these can splinter and pose a choking hazard.

Do vets recommend bones for dogs?

Your dog might love gnawing on bones, but many vets say you need to choose chews carefully. There are potential risks, including choking, intestinal blockage, and even fractured teeth. Instead of raw bones, opt for edible synthetic bones or hard chews designed specifically for dogs. 

What is the safest thing for a dog to chew on?

Edible synthetic bones and hard chew treats are some of the safest options for your dog to chew on. Some dogs also enjoy rawhide chews, made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides. 

What do vets recommend dogs chew on?

Veterinarians typically lean towards recommending synthetic bones, hard chew dog treats, or bully sticks for your dog’s chewing needs. These options don’t just keep them occupied — they can also support your dog’s dental health. As always, keep a watchful eye on your dog while they’re enjoying their chew. 

What are the best natural bones for dogs?

Options for natural dog bones can vary, but beef and ham bones are popular choices. Some pet parents also opt for edible raw bones like chicken wings and necks, or turkey necks. But vets say you should be cautious with these natural options, even if they’ve been processed in a pet-safe way. Raw bones carry a risk for illness and small, cooked bones can splinter. 

Are Benebones safe for dogs?

Benebones, a synthetic chew option, can indeed be a safe choice for many dogs. However, factors such as the dog’s size, chewing habits, and the specific Benebone product can affect the safety of the chew for your dog. It’s always a smart move to chat with your vet before introducing new foods and chewing items into your dog’s routine.