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this thing's pretty great
Dog eating a yak chew

Yak chew details

  • Creation process: Made by boiling yak and cow milk, then dried for several weeks to create a hard cheese chew
  • Smell: Odorless
  • Color: Usually light yellow to dark yellow
  • Designed for: To keep a dog’s teeth clean, reduce boredom, and occupy chewers
  • Pros: All-natural, safe alternative to hard bones, long-lasting
  • Cons: Not VOHC approved, can lead to upset stomachs or other health issues if eaten in one sitting
  • Expiration date: Up to 2 years on average when stored properly

What exactly is a “yak chew”?

Yak chews are a centuries-old natural chew made from yak’s milk. They were first developed in Nepal by yak herdsmen who were working in the Himalayas and needed an easy way to get a high level of protein for themselves. Yak chews nowadays are also used as natural dog chews and are made with the same simple recipe: yak’s milk.

Yak on a mountain

Yak chews are made from yak milk 📷 by Sanjay Hona

Why do pet parents like them? 

If you’ve ever let your dog have a natural chew in the past, you can attest to the odor they tend to leave behind. Thankfully, yak chews are stink-free and mess-free (no more stains or smells on your rug). They’re also made from all-natural ingredients and are easy on your dog’s digestive tract.

Yak chews are long-lasting and pet parents don’t have to worry about them harming their dog’s mouths or stomachs (i.e. no bone splinters). Plus, these chews come in various sizes so they can be enjoyed by all dogs, no matter their breed.

Once Fido has chewed the yak chew down to a small piece, pet parents can microwave it to make a “popper” dog treat for their dog to safely eat. Just make sure it’s not too hot before sharing with your dog.

What doggies should enjoy yak chews?

Yak chews are great for dogs who like to (as you can guess) chew. The main exceptions to this are senior dogs or smaller dogs with potentially weaker teeth. According to the AKC , as dogs age, they encounter more dental issues, so it’s important to find them softer chews. Yak chews can be hard on teeth. So if you have a senior pup or dog with dental conditions, yak chews probably aren’t the best chew for them.

👉 Check out our favorite DIY dog treat recipes that are soft and easy-to-chew for senior pups. 

Our favorite yak chew for dogs: Native Pet’s Yak Chews

While we love yak chews as a whole, Native Pet’s yak chews are our go-to’s. They’re made with just four natural ingredients: organic yak’s milk, organic cow’s milk, organic lime juice, and sea salt. They’re incredibly long-lasting compared to your regular dog chew, and the milk also makes them a great protein boost for your dog.

They come in 4 different sizes so they can be enjoyed by any size dog, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes. And pet parents don’t have to worry about splinters or upset tummies, the Native Pet yak chews are digestible and won’t splinter. Our Editor-in-Chief has fed them to her golden retriever Polly and loves how they keep Polly busy!

Supervise your dog while they enjoy their chew

No dog chew is 100% safe — which is why you should always keep an eye on Fido while they enjoy their chew. If your dog bites hard, they could accidentally break off and inhale a small piece of yak chew. It’s important to only give yak chews under direct supervision, like with any treat or chew. And because these chews are also a high source of protein and contain salt, they shouldn’t be eaten in one sitting.

Risks to be aware of

According to our vet Dr. Irish, it’s important to choose a yak chew that’s pliable and has some degree of “give” to it. If a chew is too hard, your dog could chip or break a tooth. To reduce these risks, always watch your dog while they chew. And while we’re comfortable with Native Pet’s yak chews, not all yak chews are created equal.

Pet parents should use their best judgment when selecting a yak chew from other brands. To err on the side of caution, you can opt for one of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved dog chews instead.

Alternatives to yak chews

Here are 2 of our favorite VOHC-approved chews that are great alternatives if you’re not sure yak chews are a good choice for your dog:

1. Virbac C.E.T Veggiedent Tartar Control Chews

The Veggiedent dog chews are made to clean teeth, freshen breath, and support proper digestion. These are a plant-based gluten-free chew, are free of artificial ingredients and preservatives, and are easy on your pup’s stomach. They also come in three sizes, so dogs of all breeds and sizes can enjoy these yummy, healthy chews.

2. Purina Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz

Purina made these dental chews to clean teeth, freshen breath, and help control tartar. They’re high in protein and low in fat and are highly digestible to be easy on your dog’s stomach. Purina backs their food and treats up with extensive testing, so you know you’re getting a high-quality product.

👉 Here’s our entire list of vet-approved dental chews for your furry friend.

Tips for choosing a safe chew for your dog

Here are some helpful tips for selecting the right chew for your dog:

Make sure the chew has some “give” to it — If a bone, chew, or toy is harder than a tooth, it’s too hard. Choosing something more pliable might prevent your dog from breaking a tooth. Products like animal bones, antlers, hooves, and hard plastic or hard nylon bones can be potential hazards.

Read the label and fine print — Make sure to read the ingredient list and label carefully so you know exactly what your dog will be eating. Ideally, you want chews that have one main ingredient with some fillers. In other words, less is more. It’s also good to look for products that are sourced from and made in the US.

Choose properly packaged chews — Aim for chews that are shrink-wrapped, in a resealable bag, or are individually wrapped for freshness and protection. Treats or chews that have been sitting out on a shelf or in an open bin give easy access to bugs, bacteria, and other organisms that could be harmful to your pup.

Keep your dog’s life stage in mind — Your dog’s age plays a role in what kind of chew they should have. Puppies will be teething and elderly dogs tend to have more dental issues, so it’s important to find softer chews for them. Dogs in their prime will typically have strong, healthy teeth that can handle a harder bone or chew, like yak chews.

Frequently asked questions 

Are yak chews good for dogs?

Yak chews are a good source of protein, are low in fat, are fully digestible, and are gluten-free. But like any chew, they’re best in moderation!

How often can I give my dog a yak chew?

It’s recommended to only give up to one yak chew per week. Because these treats are high in protein, you don’t want to give your dog too much of a good thing.

How long can a dog chew on a yak chew?

In general, yak chews have a shelf life of around 2 years when stored properly (in a dry place where moisture and bacteria can’t get to it). Depending on the size you buy for your dog and how aggressive of a chewer your dog is, they can last for a few hours in a single chew session.

Are yak chews bad for dog teeth?

Yak chews help remove tartar build-up and promote healthy teeth by encouraging chewing. While they’re one of the more pliable natural chews, they can be hard on dogs with weak teeth, like puppies, small dogs, or older dogs, and should only be given to dogs with strong, healthy teeth.

Can dogs break teeth on yak chews?

Dogs with weaker or small teeth, like senior dogs and puppies, have more of a chance to break a tooth while chewing on more durable bones and chews. It’s best for them to avoid yak chews and choose something softer on their mouths.

Do yak chews make dogs sick?

Yak chews are made to be completely safe for your dog’s digestive tract, but those made with salt can lead to upset tummies if eaten too quickly, especially in dogs with sensitive stomachs. In severe cases, too much salt can also lead to hypernatremia (too much salt in the blood) which can cause brain swelling and seizures. Don’t let your dog eat a whole yak chew in one sitting.