My dogs aren’t vegetarians, but I am, so I’m always on the lookout for non-meat treats for my gang. I do feed my dogs a meat based diet, but when it comes to their treats, which aren’t so much about nutrition as they are about fun, I prefer to stay away from bully sticks (bull weenies) and pig’s ears.
Between you and me, pig’s ears just make me so sad. Those smooth triangles are just like my own dog’s ears – the same ones I like to softly rub between my thumb and pointer finger while we watch tv at night. I can never make myself buy them, so I searched out a few vegetarian options for my dogs that I could feel better about buying and they would enjoy.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, there are two other reasons why these treats are a good option to consider: smell and choking. Bully sticks and smoked bones stink. These options are a little easier on our noses. And if you’ve ever jumped across a coffee table to sweep a folded piece of slimy rawhide out of your dog’s throat, you know there are some choking hazards to contend with when dealing with rawhide and bully sticks (which reminds me: don’t leave your dogs alone with those things). Plus, variety is the spice of life right? Why not give your dog something new?
Here are my top picks:
1. Himalayan Dog Chews: These long-lasting treats are made of yak and cow milk, salt, and lime juice. That’s right, it’s cheese! Rock hard cheese, actually, that takes forever for your dog to soften and gnaw down. The cheese is made using traditional methods in Nepal and India, which the company purchases directly from the farmers.
Thinking my dog Boogie would destroy these in minutes, I avoided buying them for years, but when I finally brought them home, I was pleasantly surprised. It took Boogie a couple of hours to get through one of the medium-sized chews. For Birdie, who is a moderate chewer, it lasted all day. They’re not cheap, but one Himalayan chew lasts 2-3 times longer than a bully stick in my house, so the cost evens out. Also, they don’t smell and my dogs don’t gulp down big pieces, so I’m not worried they’ll choke. Worth every penny.
2. Sam’s Yams: These dehydrated, 100% sweet potato chews are a great substitution for pig’s ears or rawhide chips. For heavy-duty chewers, try the Big Boyz (each chew is the equivalent of half of a sweet potato), and it might last 1-5 minutes. For more moderate chewers, they can last twice as long. If you’ve got a little guy at home, check out their Bichon Fries. If your dog has allergies, these are a great option because they’re made from a single ingredient. No corn, gluten, soy, wheat – just sweet potato. My only warning: expect orange poop later. Do not be alarmed.
3. The Everlasting Treat Ball: If you have a dog that you need to keep busy for a long time, these rubber-like, almost indestructible toys are the bomb – vegetarian or not. They come in a bunch of shapes: the double-sided ball, the fire plug, and the bento ball and they’re all hollow in the middle, so you can use them as puzzle toys by adding kibble.
How are they vegetarian? Because you plug the openings of each toy with an edible, rounded disc, bought separately, and three of the flavors: Vanilla Mint, Hickory Smoke, and the Wheat Free Chicken (with “natural vegetarian chicken flavor”) are all meat-free. This toy/treat combo can potentially last for many hours, sometimes days, and after they’re done eating, they’ve still got a tough toy to play with.
This is another one of those items I thought my dog would destroy, but has held up really well. When I worked at the pet store, the bento ball and fire plug survived the staff’s large dogs: a pit bull mix, a Weimaraner, and a bulldog mix, chewing on them daily.
With these three vegetarian options, you can feel free to skip the bins of pig’s ears, bull weenies, and cow tails. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just want to give your dog something new to grind on, there’s something for all of us. And if you have any veggie-friendly favorites, let me know about it!