Most dog parents have probably heard of Nylabone. But in case you haven’t: it’s a popular brand of dental chews and chew-toys for dogs made by the Central Garden & Pet Company of California. As the name suggests, many of these chews come in the shape of beef bones. I’ve tried a few and they’re OK. (Though I still prefer giving my dog raw beef bones to chew on.)
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling bothered by the number of people on social media asking the question, “Can dogs eat Nylabones?”
Check the label
The Nylabone brand makes both edible and inedible chews for dogs. The labels on their products — which are edible and which aren’t — are distinct and obvious.
So it worries me when people still ask if dogs can eat Nylabones. That means there’s persistent consumer confusion right there. (And not just with the Nylabone brand, but any other brand that makes inedible or edible chews.) That confusion can lead to feeding mistakes that place dogs in danger.
So please: check the label on the pet product you buy, whether it’s by Nylabone or any other company. Once it’s out of the package and in your dog’s mouth, remember which sort of product it is.
How you let your dog safely use the product will depend on its type.
1. For non-edible Nylabone chews
The Nylabone brand takes its name from one of the main materials it uses — nylon — to create its famous dog chew-toys. Over half of the brand’s products are non-edible chews made of rubber, nylon, or plastic.
The company started making these chews back in 1955 for dogs that had serious chewing habits. (“I’ll spare your shoe if you give me a Nylabone chew!” as one of the company website’s mascots say.) These days, the brand’s non-edible products have been extended to include “dental chews” (to help clean and massage your dog’s teeth and gums as they chew) and “interactive toys” that dogs can play catch or tug-of-war with.
So if you see a Nylabone product made of rubber, nylon, or plastic and it’s labeled as a “toy,” “chew-toy,” or “dental chew,” remember these are only meant to be chewed by your dog, not eaten.
- Keep nylon, rubber, or plastic toys and chews clean by washing them with soap and water. Use an old toothbrush or a gentle scouring pad to brush off any stubborn stains. Do not boil them, bake them in an oven, subject them to bleach, or clean them in a dishwasher or washing machine. You must keep them away from extreme heat or cold, which can melt, warp, or crack the material. This will make it a lot easier for your dog to wreck into pieces and accidentally swallow.
- Never allow your dog to play with or chew non-edibles without your direct supervision. (Even if it’s one of those extra-tough Nylabone products.) Some dogs can gnaw through even the toughest manmade material and break off pieces that they can swallow — which can become a serious health hazard. (More on that later!)
- Don’t just keep an eye on your dog. Always inspect the quality of the chew-toy before and after your dog uses it. Make sure nothing looks dented or damaged, and that there aren’t any small pieces lying about that may have broken off. If you find the toy’s appearance has changed, it means it’s finally begun to break down and is no longer safe for your dog to chew. You’ll have to replace it with a new one.
- Some of the non-edible durable Nylabone chews come in different flavors. These flavors, combined with the Nylabone material, might trigger skin allergies in certain dogs. If you see your dog suddenly develop itchy, inflamed skin around his paws, mouth, or face (and constantly scratching), stop using that particular Nylabone and take your dog to the vet for treatment. Use a different chew that’s already been proven safe for your particular pet.
2. For edible Nylabone treats
Nylabone products that are edible are usually labeled as “treats,” “chew treats,” or “healthy edibles.” They come in various shapes, including the traditional beef bone shape.
These treats are usually made of natural meat (e.g., chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef) and wheat. Sometimes they also include real cooked bone and additional flavoring.
Many of these edible chews are designed to endure a whole lot of chewing from a dog, before finally eroding or breaking into pieces small enough to be swallowed.
- While edible, these natural edible chews or treats can be nearly as tough to chew as the nylon-based Nylabones. Because of this, these are not recommended for puppies or young dogs. A dog needs to have strong, permanent teeth to eat these. So make sure to get your vet’s advice if these treats are safe for your dog.
- If you’ve got a huge dog with serious chewing issues, you can’t leave him unsupervised to chew these edible treats on his own. These things are tough to chew and he might just decide to swallow big pieces whole — which could be huge enough for him to choke on! You’ll have to be on hand to prevent your dog from doing this.
- And just as with the inedible chews, these natural treats can also trigger skin allergies for certain dogs, especially those with allergies to wheat or certain meats. Again, consult your vet on this matter if your dog has a history of food allergies.
If your dog swallows inedible stuff
So what happens when, despite your vigilance, your dog still manages to chew off a piece of inedible Nylabone and swallows it?
Well, don’t panic. The Central Garden & Pet Company says that any piece of rubber, plastic, or nylon no larger than a grain of rice won’t break down your dog’s digestive tract and will safely pass out through his poop. If this is about the size of what your dog swallowed, he’ll be fine.
However, if you think your dog has swallowed a lot of these pieces or an even larger chunk of material, then bring him to the vet right away for examination and treatment. (Your vet will know what to do.) Again, don’t panic!
If your dog starts choking
What can you do if your dog bites off more than he can chew (of edible or inedible material) and starts to choke?
You’ll know your dog is choking on a piece if he starts acting distressed and tries to vomit or retch, but nothing comes out. His chest will be heaving and he won’t be able to breathe.
Once you see that, act quickly and perform the Heimlich maneuver for dogs. (Click on this link to see how it’s done — it’s different for small dogs and for bigger dogs.) Once the object is dislodged and taken out of your dog, discard that piece and the rest of the damaged Nylabone. Bring your dog to the vet for an examination, to check for any damages to his esophagus or trachea.
So are Nylabones safe to use? Yes! Just be sure you know which Nylabone is edible or inedible and which is appropriate for your particular dog before you purchase one. They’re great alternatives to raw beef bones, but only if you know what you’re doing.