It was booster vaccination time for Butch, nothing about dog chewing basically. Butch was a Collie crossed dog. I was giving him an all-over health check. As I examined him, I asked his owner if there was anything she was particularly worried about.
‘I’m a bit concerned about his feeding habits’ she told me. ‘He eats trees.’
‘You mean he chews wood’, I asked, hopefully.
‘No. he eats trees. He ate a beech tree last week, and this week he’s half way through a sycamore’.
I looked at Butch’s powerful jaws.
‘I think I understand – is he destroying young saplings?’
‘Not at all. These are full sized mature trees.
I looked in Butch’s mouth, and I could see for myself the evidence of his tree-eating habit. The sharp points of the dog teeth had been blunted. ‘These changes to his teeth indicate that he’s been wearing his teeth down on a hard surface for some time. Has he been eating trees for long?’ I asked.
‘No’ she replied. ‘He’s just started on trees. But he ate a three piece suite last year’.
All dogs are born with an instinctive desire to chew hard objects. The urge goes back to the days of their ancestors, who were wild dogs, hunting in packs. After the kill, the soft, succulent meat would be rapidly devoured by the dog pack leaders. There are rich nutrients in these remnants, but plenty of chewing is needed to extract them.
Hence dogs’ mouths have evolved into very effective dog chewing machines. The chewing muscles are amongst the strongest muscles in the dog’s body.
Most pet dogs are fed a diet that does not need to be chewed. Tinned meat and pea sized biscuits can be swallowed whole. However, pet dogs often still have an urge to chew, which sometimes expresses itself bizarrely, as in Butch’s case.
It is important for their general mental health that dogs should be allowed to chew. In addition, chewing helps keep dogs’ teeth clean and healthy. Dogs should be encouraged to chew, but only on objects that are acceptable to the owner. Smaller dogs may be happy with raw-hide chews, or with the hard bone-shaped biscuits. Larger dogs will also enjoy these. Butcher’s bones are fine, as long as the dog is not able to bite sections of bone away from the main piece. If they do this they may cause damage to themselves by creating sharp edges that can cause lacerations to their digestive system. Specially designed toughened plastic artificial ‘bones’ are the best option.
Butch’s teeth were very healthy, apart from being bluntened. I advised his owner to offer the dog different types of natural and artificial chewing bones. She telephoned later, delighted. She had bought the biggest plastic bone she could find, and Butch had taken to it at once. Her trees and three piece suites were safe at last!