This article is from the Dog Supplies FAQ, by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
Nylabones are best for keeping teeth clean. Followed by either
Gumabones or Nylafloss. Virtually any chew toy has potential problems,
always keep an eye out for them.
Nylabones are most highly recommended. They cost about 3 times
as much as a rawhide but last for a very long time. Some dogs
don't like them and may need some encouragement; most will
happily use them. Some dogs chow down on them so
enthusiastically that they get "slab" fractures on their teeth.
Nylabones should be replaced when the ends show signs of wear.
Gumabones are similar to nylabones, but a bit softer and
without as much tooth cleaning ability. The manufacturer says
that Gumabones are more likable and serve as toys, but the
Nylabone is necessary to satisfy frustration chewing and
chewing due to a need to chew. Some dogs have trouble with
flatulence when they ingest the small pieces of gumabone that
they chew off. Replace when the toy shows signs of crumbling.
Note that there are many kinds of toys out there made of soft
rubber -- Gumabones is a particular brand name of a common sort
of dog toy.
A similar toy is the "tuffy" or "kong" (several manufacturers &
copycats) -- usually a red cone-shaped toy made of rubber that
is sturdier than the Gumabone variety. It comes in a giant
black size, various smaller red sizes, and one that is white
and blue with a throw strap that floats. These are guaranteed
against destruction. This toy has a hollow center and hiding
treats in it can provide your dog with much enjoyment.
Nylafloss (also rope bone, booda bone)
Nylafloss is also well accepted and is the best tooth cleaner
of all. To many dogs, though, it is only interesting when you
wave it in the dog's face. (Nylafloss looks like very a thick,
knotted rope.) Watch out for dogs that like to chew them
through and swallow pieces of string.
Rawhide is not recommended by most people because the dogs tend
to swallow large pieces, which swell and sometimes block the
intestines. Also, if the shank gets slimy but the knot is still
hard, the dog can swallow the shank and choke on the knot. You
can prevent this by buying rawhide in other shapes, such as
chips, or buying shredded and compressed rawhide treats
(although these do not last as long). Lastly, and much more
commonly, they cost a fortune if you have a mid-to-large dog or
a dog with powerful jaws. If you do use them, look for
US-or-locally manufactured ones; imported ones sometimes have
There are specially treated bones that resist splintering, and
you can hide treats in the hollow center, giving your dog hours
of enjoyment trying to get them out. Untreated organic bones
may splinter and cause tooth wear or even gum and mouth
injuries. Eating the pieces often results in constipation. The
best bones are the large ones that resist splintering. Replace
after cracks or splinters appear. Small bones, especially
chicken bones should NEVER be given to a dog. They will crunch
down and swallow the bones, which may lodge in the throat and
choke the dog, puncture the esophagus or stomach lining, or
block the intestines. If your dog is not immediately killed, it
will require expensive surgery to get the bone out of its body.
Cow hooves are better than rawhide because they break down into
smaller pieces and are much cheaper and more durable. However,
like organic bones, they can cause gum and mouth injuries if
they chip. They smell somewhat and may cause tooth wear. Smoked
hooves are available that don't smell as much. Pick out the
largest, most solid hooves; replace when they are worn down to
a small piece. Stop using them if your dog splinters large
chunks off them. Slab fractures are also possible with cow
Another item is CHOOZ, by the makers of Nylabones. This item
looks like a nylabone but is crunchy like a hard dog biscuit.
It can also be tossed into your oven or microwave to change its
texture (makes it lighter and more like a hard bread). CHOOZ
has been involved in at least one case of gastric blockage; you
may not want to use it.
Pig's ears look like good chew toys, but the truth is that dogs
can eat them in about 15 minutes or so. Dogs love them, but
they are not a chew toy and should be used as an occasional
treat instead. Given too often, they will cause loose stools.