Why do dogs have an urge to chew?
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, especially teething puppies or dogs with a specific affinity for chewing. It's a way to relieve stress, and it cleans your dog's teeth. Wood is a favorite chewing material for many dogs.
Chewing on sticks apparently gives dogs a good feeling. Why this is is not known for sure, but scientists believe that dogs use sticks as 'tools' to clean their teeth, to satisfy a certain feeling or because it makes their teeth and mouth feel better.
We'll take a look at why dogs choose branches to chew on, and whether it's safe to let your dog chew on wood or not.
Why Do Dogs Chew?
Chewing is behavior most commonly seen in teething puppies, but dogs of all ages often feel like chewing. Dogs chew because they like it, as it reduces boredom and can help calm them down when they are under stress.
If you notice your dog chewing things excessively, he is probably bored and needs more mental enrichment in his life. It is also possible that your dog has teeth problems, and chewing relieves the pain somewhat.
When your dog gets bored easily, you can provide your dog with appropriate chew toys, in addition to providing a variety of mentally stimulating puzzle toys. In addition, it is of course important that your dog moves enough through walks or dog sports.
Anxiety and stress are other reasons for dogs to chew, especially if it occurs when you leave the house, or in conjunction with other behaviors that indicate your dog is anxious. Anxious dogs also often lick their lips, yawn, avoid situations and may even hide.
Occasionally your dog may chew and eat things due to a condition called pica. If a dog has pica, it will eat inedible and harmful objects.
Pica can be a behavioral problem, but it is often associated with a poor diet or a parasite. If the chewing seems obsessive and your dog is actually trying to eat it all, it's worth seeing a vet to rule out any medical issues.
Why is wood so attractive?
Of all the things a dog can chew on, why wood? Actually for several reasons! For most dogs, wood is tasty! They like the taste of the wood, especially if it has been outside and has a lot of new smells.
In addition, wood has a structure that you will not find in any other material. A dog will usually crush sticks between its teeth little by little, and then spit out the fibers. This feeling is apparently quite satisfying for dogs.
If your dog is on a well-balanced diet, it's not likely to chew sticks to get more fiber. However, you can change the diet or feed your dog a fiber supplement to see if it helps your dog chew sticks less.
A dog that is outside, or has to stay home alone with wooden furniture, can also simply chew on sticks or wood because it is the only suitable chew object. When dogs are bored, they often chew to calm themselves down, and wooden objects are plentiful.
Is it harmful to let your dog chew on sticks?
Chewing on sticks can cause health problems for your dog. If your dog carries a stick around the yard, there isn't much of a risk, but a dog that swallows wood and chews on it can be harmful.
When dogs chew on wood, splinters can break off and end up in your dog's mouth or can be swallowed. This can also happen if your dog only chews on the wood and spits out most of the splinters.
Wood splinters don't move well through a dog's digestive tract due to their rigid nature and can break organs or cause constipation.
If your dog has swallowed a wood splinter, emergency surgery may be needed to repair an intestinal perforation. The dog can even because of his injuries.
In addition, not all wood is safe for dogs. Black walnut, black cherry, yew and red maple wood are some of the species that can be toxic to dogs.
Despite the fact that some dogs chew sticks regularly for years without any problems, it is better to offer your dog alternative chewing material. These pieces of beef head hide are, for example, highly recommended when it comes to chewing material. Your dog can chew on them for a long time, most dogs find them very tasty, and they do not splinter.
Playing with sticks can be a risk for dogs.
Not only chewing on sticks, but also playing with sticks can cause injuries. Again, there are dogs that play with sticks all their lives without injury. Here too, however, it is advisable to provide safer play equipment, because your dog can seriously injure himself on sticks with a bit of bad luck.
Due to the sharp edges and the sturdy material, dogs can be speared when they run with sticks in their mouths. Some dogs have even been impaled by branches on the ground as they run through the woods.
While fetch may seem like a classic part of a happy dog's life, there are better alternatives that are safer for your dog. The Kong Safestix is a good example of an 'artificial branch' with which you can play fetch safely to your heart's content.
Alternative chewing materials for wood
If your dog likes to chew on wooden objects, there are several toys you can buy that are safer for your dogs than the branches in your backyard.
Chewing wood of olive wood or coffee tree wood is considered safe chewing material for dogs, and they do not splinter in principle. However, you have to be careful that your dog does not eat the pieces of wood too enthusiastically. Chewing it is not a problem, but pieces of wood of any kind can cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract.
Other options to consider are dried skin, pork ears, or other dried treats for dogs that are hard and won't splinter. If you're not sure which dried treats your avid chewer might like, the Doorbiters box from Bellobox recommended.
If the toy has become too small, it is best to throw away the rest of the chewing material to avoid choking.
It is important to keep your dog busy with other activities to prevent boredom. A nice walk, tracking and dog sports all ensure that your dog is also mentally occupied.
When your dog suddenly has a huge need to chew, chews strange things or seems to be more hungry than usual, it's important to have him checked out by the vet. This can all be caused by underlying health conditions.
This BLOG has been posted on our website as a guest blog with the author's approval.