Dogs love to chew, and pit bulls are no exception. However, finding a long-lasting chew treat for a pit bull isn't easy. We've all purchased chews advertised as long-lasting only to watch our dogs devour them in sixty seconds flat. Add to that the dangers associated with chews--fractured teeth, perforated intestines, bowel obstructions, choking hazards--and finding a chew treat that's long-lasting, safe, healthy, and delicious becomes quite a challenge.
What Makes a Great Chew Treat?
A great chew treat keeps teeth and gums clean and healthy, provides great nutrition, and fulfills a psychological need in dogs. Here's what we look for when selecting chews for our dogs:
- Long-Lasting - Now, obviously this is somewhat relative, since it greatly depends on the individual dog. An aggressive chewer might plow through a treat in an hour or two, while a less aggressive chewer can make the same treat last for a week. Generally speaking, we look for treats that will provide even the most aggressive chewer with at least an hour of chewing entertainment.
- Safety - A safe chew wears down slowly without splintering. There should be no sharp fragments, and the treat should be easy to digest (see below) to prevent obstructions. Chews should be hard enough to be long-lasting, but not so hard that they'll fracture teeth.
- Digestibility - Many commercial chew treats are made of indigestible substances like plastics and poorly digested animal parts such as hides; we avoid those, and look instead for chews made of quality ingredients that dogs can actually digest.
- Human-Grade - Treats should contain only ingredients approved for human consumption, as "feed-grade" ingredients can legally include rancid fats, meats from diseased animals, and other things we don't want our dogs eating.
- All-Natural - We don't want chemical preservatives or artificial flavors, colors, and other additives in our dogs' treats, and we especially don't want treats made from synthetic substances that aren't even foods. Treats containing meats raised without growth hormones and antibiotics get extra points.
- Healthy - We like treats that are high in species-appropriate proteins or minerals, and we prefer to avoid treats containing sugars, rendered meats, starches, and empty fillers.
- Non-Staining - While it's always possible to put your dog in her crate, the kitchen, or outside while she's busy with her chew, we like treats that won't make a mess on the carpet. Less odor is a plus too.
- Not Made in China - Given China's lax food safety standards and history of recalls, we try to avoid chews that are made in China or use ingredients from China.
What about Bones?
Pet supply shops and catalogs carry large selections of femur, shank, and knuckle bones, both plain and roasted or smoked. Additionally, raw bones are available in grocery stores and butcher shops. These hard, weight-bearing bones can provide long-lasting chewing exercise for pit bull puppies (particularly during the teething phase), but we don't recommend them for adult pit bulls. We know a number of dogs who've crunched right through these hard bones and fractured teeth in the process, to say nothing of the dangers posed by the sharp bone fragments that are created when these bones start to splinter.
If you want to feed your pit bull bones, stick to soft, raw bones with plenty of meat that are easily digested. See our series on feeding a home-prepared raw diet for details.
The Best Chews for Your Pit Bull
The following chews are the all-around best we've been able to find. They're safe, natural, long-lasting, nutritious, won't stain carpets, and your pit bull will love them!
Bully sticks are dried bull pizzles. They're high in protein, low in fat, and completely digestible. In fact, world-class athletes have been known to consume pizzles for their excellent nutrient profile and reported stamina enhancing benefits.
Caution: Bully sticks vary widely. We've seen pencil-thin bully sticks that a pit bull could eat in a couple of minutes. Others are irradiated or chemically treated. Our favorite source for inexpensive, high quality bully sticks is BestBullySticks.com.
We recommend you get the thick 12 inch bully sticks for your pit bull. To get the very best deal, buy them by the case! They also sell 18 inch bully sticks and even full-size 30-36 inch pizzles!
Deer, elk, and moose naturally shed their antlers every year, and these antlers make excellent, mineral-rich chews for our dogs. As your pit bulls chews the antler, it is ground down slowly without splintering.
Deer antlers from Antlerz and elk antlers from Wapiti Labs are widely available in pet supply stores and online. Unfortunately the deer antlers from Antlerz are cut quite short; they vary in thickness but not in length, so even the largest size is only about 4-5 inches long.
We prefer Deer Antlers For Pups for deer antlers. For elk, deer, and moose antlers, try Perfect Pet Chews (they have assortment packs, so you can get one of each), Active Dog Supplies, and Elk USA. You can also look for deals on eBay and Craigslist.
Antlers are pricier than Bully Sticks, but they'll also last considerably longer.
Himalayan Dog Chew
This is a very unusual, long-lasting chew made from yak or cow milk according to an ancient Himalayan recipe. The milk is brought to a boil and then left to dry for several weeks in order to create this all-natural, hard chew. Apparently, folks in the Himalayas chew this treat while working the fields, but your pit bull will appreciate it too!
The Himalayan Dog Chew is high in quality protein and super low in fat (less than 1%). Like our other recommended chews, it won't make a mess. And it smells so delicious, you may be tempted to start chewing it yourself.
We definitely recommend you get the large size (about half a foot long and a good two inches around) for your pit bull. Yes, they're a bit pricey, but they should last at least a few days and possibly a couple of weeks.
Compressed Buffalo Tripe Bone
Compressed Buffalo Tripe Bone is a super healthy, nutritious chew that dogs can't get enough of. Made from dehydrated green tripe complete with gastric juices, this highly digestible treat is incredibly rich in essential fatty acids, probiotics, antioxidants, essential minerals, and high quality proteins.
The tripe comes from free-range, grass-fed buffalo raised without hormones and antibiotics. They're made in the USA and come in 6 inch and 12 inch sizes.
Packages of smaller Buffalo Tripe Bones can be found at Active Dog Supplies. To save even more, check out their 10 count, 25 count, and 50 count packs.
By the way, Canine Caviar also makes the fabulous Buffalo Stix. These are like bully sticks, except that they're made from free-range, grass-fed buffalo pizzles. They're available in 6 inch and 12 inch sizes and have a very nice thickness. Again, Active Dog Supplies seems to have the best prices; however, Buffalo Stix cost more than twice as much as the thick bully sticks recommended above.
What NOT to Give Your Pit Bull
Besides avoiding hard, weight-bearing bones (except for puppies), we also stay away from rawhide treats, Greenies, hooves, pig ears, and the many chemical chew concoctions bursting with sugar and other sweeteners, corn starch, wheat gluten, meat by-product meals and digests, and artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Check out this link to learn about some of the dangers many of these popular treats pose.
Have you discovered a healthy treat that lasts your pit bull at least a few hours or, better yet, a few days or weeks? Tell us about it! We're always looking for new chews that are long-lasting, safe, and healthy.