Benefits of chewing for dogs

Dogs have an urge to chew, which is strongest when they are puppies but carries on throughout life. Chewing exercises jaw muscles and helps scrape away dental plaque, and provides relief from irritated gums when puppies are teething. It also helps to relive boredom. When dogs chew animal parts such as bones and tendons they also gain natural nutrients.

Providing something for your dog to chew on is an important part of dog care. Feeding appropriate chews allows you to manage this behaviour and satisfy the dog. Otherwise items such as shoes, kid’s toys and furniture are likely to be targeted, which is both annoying and creates a risk to the dog from poisoning and injury.

To manage chewing, we have found that providing a “toybox” containing the things the dog is allowed to chew is very effective. Play with the dog with these things and encourage him/her to fetch them from the box and chew them. If the dog chews something not from the box, gently tell him/her off, and direct them to the box where the right chewy things are.

Over the last 12 years Happypet has supplied vast numbers of deer tendon chews to dogs and puppies and had constant feedback that these are the very best chews of all. Dogs love them, they are clean to feed and they don’t splinter like a bone can. They are made of strong collagen fibres which supply natural protein for skin, tendons and muscle health, while also making a great job of cleaning teeth.

Your dog will most likely be very thankful for the treats and devise ways of letting you know he/she would like another one!

Natural Diets for Dogs

Natural history of dogs, Canis familiaris

Domestic dogs are descended from wolves and are closely related to them. Wolves usually hunt in packs and prey on medium to large animals such as deer and moose. Solitary wolves feed on rodents and other small mammals. The skin, fur and most other parts of animal prey are eaten. Wolves also eat insects, fish, fruit, nuts and grasses.

During their 15, 000 years of association with humans, dogs have mainly subsisted on waste animal and vegetable products and vermin.

Common-sense feeding

An affordable and healthy diet for your dog can use a variety of commercial foods as a base, supplemented with careful feeding of meat, raw bones, fish, eggs, milk, vegetables, rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. (See Foods suitable/unsuitable for dogs, below.)

Cooking a bit more when preparing your own meals is a convenient way of adding healthful variety to your dog’s diet. If these foods make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, then take extra care to provide the right balance of nutrients (see table below). Nutritionally balanced recipes for dogs are available in books and on the internet.

A good way to assess how well your dog is digesting his/her food is to inspect the faeces which should not be overly runny (diarrhea) or hard and dry (the dog may be constipated).

Cooking meat increases its digestibility, palatability and food safety (there should be no safety issues anyway) but destroys some nutrients, especially vitamins.

Important nutrients for dogs

An average adult dog needs:

  • Protein: 20-25% of diet
  • Fat: 9-15% of diet
  • Vitamins: A, D, E, K: in liver, fats, oils, cereal germ
  • Calcium (Ca): 1000 mg/day (9kg dog)
  • Phosphorous (P): 880 mg/day (9kg dog)

Food type

Nutrients provided (g per 100g as fed)





Ca : P ratio

Chicken mince (meat & bone)






Canned tuna in water






Raw venison mince






Raw beef liver
























Rice (cooked, white)






Whole wheat bread










Note that:

Providing Ca:P in the ratio between 1:1 and 2:1 is important.

Supplementation (e.g. with Ca) can cause health problems, so seek veterinary advice before using supplements.

Growth & lactation are critical times when extra nutrients are needed, from good quality formula feeds or well-informed diet planning.

Aged pets can’t easily deal with a poor diet or excessive nutrients. In general they need highly palatable, digestible food, with reduced protein, phosphorous and sodium. They can become reluctant to eat dried food due to decreased secretion of saliva. If you feed dried food ensure there is a readily accessible, continuous supply of clean water.

Foods not suitable for dogs

  • Sudden changes in diet
  • Raw fish (some have harmful organisms and toxins)
  • Onions & garlic (large amounts are toxic)
  • Raw egg white on its own (ok with raw egg yolk)
  • Chocolate (feed only sparingly, and do not feed dark chocolate)
  • Xylitol sweetener (e.g. in some chewing gum)
  • Grapes (toxic at 32g/kg dog),
  • raisins (toxic at 11g/kg dog)
  • Macadamia nuts (even just a few can be toxic)
  • Cooked bones (can splinter), or more than 1-2 large raw bones/week (can obstruct the digestive system)
  • Excessive milk (milk is very nutritious but give no more than 20 ml/kg of body weight, and make sure it’s not causing diarrhea – some dogs can’t digest it)
  • All-meat, or all-fish diets (deficient in calcium and other important nutrients)
  • Excessive liver (can cause vitamin A poisoning, so feed liver only 1-2 times/week)

Foods suitable for dogs

  • Whole eggs, cooked or raw
  • Milk (most dogs can enjoy small amounts) & cheese
  • Meat (cook or deep freeze offal, pork or mutton)
  • Large raw bones (nb: unsuitable for dogs that swallow large pieces or become constipated from bones)
  • Vegetables (cooked or raw)
  • Fish (cooked, boneless)
  • Fats & oils (no more than 10% of diet)
  • Grass (have clean, long, green grass available)
  • Starchy foods e.g. potatoes, pasta, and rice (rice is considered the most digestible of these 3)

Natural Diet for Cats

Domestic cats are true carnivores, with teeth designed for shearing flesh and bodies superbly adapted for hunting small animals. They are thought to be descended from the African wild cat, a desert animal. Wild and domesticated cats eat most parts of their prey, usually starting with the head, but usually leave the entrails (or “guts”).

Cats have a different way of using animal protein and a higher requirement for it than dogs. In cats, protein is used as an energy source by enzymes in the liver. They can’t turn these enzymes off when a low protein diet is fed.

Cats need about 25-30% of their diet as protein, and thrive on high-fat diets (the fat content of the diet should be 25-50%). They have especially high needs for some nutrients that are supplied by animal protein. These nutrients include the protein taurine, and the vitamins niacin, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin A, and the essential fatty acid, arachidonic acid. For these reasons, commercial food that is prepared for dogs is not a balanced diet for cats.

Some cats, especially females, are very erratic feeders, but in general a cat likes to snack every few hours. Free-choice feeding is recommended (unless the cat has a weight problem), or at least three meals a day, especially during productive times (growth, reproduction, and lactation).

Any single item, e.g. canned fish, should not be more than 25% of the cat’s diet. The diet should be varied, from a young age, to prevent the cat developing a fixed food preference. Meat (muscle) on its own is not a balanced diet for a cat, being low in important nutrients (e.g. calcium).

Cats vary greatly in the amount they need to eat. Owners should aim to keep the cat at optimal weight, when the ribs can’t be seen but there is no excess fat under the skin (e.g. in the tummy area).

Benefits of NZ Deer Sinew

Particularly beneficial to elderly pets and hard-working dogs

This supplement is available as a food sprinkle or yummy tablet providing superior nutritional support that is natural and gentle for joints, tendons and overall good health.
Deer Sinew is cartilage and connective tissue, taken from a special part of the deer, between the hoof and hock. It contains natural glycosaminoglycans and is of great nutritional benefit to elderly pets and hard-working dogs.
In traditional Chinese medicine Deer Sinew is used by elderly people as a gentle, safe supplement for:

  • Joint and leg pain
  • Strengthening weak, aged limbs

It is also used for general good health at all ages. Pets enjoy the taste and quickly learn to line up for their deer sinew treat.
Our customers can’t stop sending us positive feedback. This is an exciting health product for pets.

About NZ Deer Velvet & Sinew

Mobility & Strength, Condition, Performance, Stamina

Deer Velvet and Sinew has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries, for strength, health and mobility.
Our Happypet Deer Velvet and Sinew tablets combine 3 natural deer products that provide natural glycosaminoglycans, anti-inflammatory substances, and a multitude of natural vitamins and minerals.

Ideal for building up to top condition, increasing stamina and aiding recovery after a physical challenge.
These tablets have had marked, rapid success in cats and dogs that are still young but have developed mobility problems.

Owners often report a dramatic increase in mobility, playfulness, vitality and overall health.

Feeding your Elderly Pet

Longevity can be increased by proper nourishment in the latter years, as old pets are vulnerable to poor feeding. Low cost food is likely to supply only poor grade protein and may contain excesses of some nutrients.
Old pets should be given highly palatable, digestible food, with reduced protein, phosphorous and sodium. It is recommended that the intake of some nutrients is increased, including vitamins A, B1, B6, B12 and E, lysine, unsaturated fatty acids and zinc.

Care Tips for Elderly Pets

Aged pets often become less agile and sometimes less attractive, just as people do in their old age. Many owners accept these natural consequences of ageing and accommodate them…sometimes making major changes to their own lifestyle to do so!
Your pet’s twilight years provide you with the opportunity to repay them for all the enjoyment they have given you, by providing the extra attention they need.
Sadly, many pets are “put down” soon after age-related health troubles arise.

Some tips for caring for old pets:

  • Provide comfortable bedding in places where the pet normally rests during daytime. Cushions or foam mats can be laid on the ground wherever he/she habitually lies. Sheets or blankets on these resting areas can help you deal with incontinence problems. Make sure the pet can rest somewhere cool on hot days and somewhere warm on cold days.
  • Ensure that the night-time bed is warm, dry, draught-free, easy to get into and in a suitable location – some dogs would rather sleep on the floor near their owners than elsewhere in a warm bed! (Or on the doorstep, nearer you, than in a warm kennel.)
  • Take your pet for annual veterinary checks, so that health problems (common with gums, teeth, kidneys and arthritis) can be picked up early, when they can be treated more easily.
  • Daily walks for dogs need to be less physically challenging, but rich in experience, e.g. plenty of sniffing, or digging in loose earth or sand.
  • Ensure clean, long grass is always available. Old pets with missing teeth will appreciate your hand-feeding grass to them. Pets that are feeling sick will rush outside and start “grazing” immediately so have some grass handy to the outside door.
  • Elevate feeding and water dishes a bit, and keep water near resting places.
  • Ensure the water supply is reliable and continuously available, especially if feeding dried food.
  • Use ramps or stairs for getting in and out of cars and for access to favourite resting places. There are plans for homemade ramps on the internet and commercial ramps are available too.
  • Use Deer Sinew to provide safe, gentle nourishment for joints and overall health: see Deer Sinew.

Raw, Dried Treats for Healthy Pets

Most commercial pet foods are cooked at some stage in the manufacturing process. This destroys many of the nutrients naturally in the food, especially vitamins.
Happypet’s venison treats are preserved without cooking. The tendon chews are air dried, while the other venison treats are freeze dried.
To freeze dry meat, the product is frozen and the surrounding pressure is reduced in a vacuum chamber.
A small amount of heat is then applied and because the pressure in the vacuum chamber is so low, the frozen water turns straight from ice to gas (water vapor). Shrinkage is minimized, and near-perfect preservation results.
The process of freeze drying food was first used by the ancient Peruvian Incas of the Andes. The Incas stored their food crops at high altitudes in the mountains. The cold temperatures froze the food and the water inside slowly vaporized under the low air pressure.

Grass a Natural Part of your Pet’s Diet

Grass is a natural part of the diet of cats and dogs. For many pets it is normal for them to eat grass every day.

When they are sick, cats and dogs must have grass available because they have a very strong urge to eat it- it is part of the way they cope with sickness.
Pets that have swallowed something they shouldn’t have, such as pieces of bone, eat grass and vomit the item back up.
The reasons why cats and dogs eat grass are not at all well understood.

They may include:

  • nutrition
  • digestion
  • cleaning teeth
  • soothing sore stomachs
  • removing internal parasites
  • inducing vomiting (when sick)

Cat & dog owners should make sure they have long grass at home for their pets. Bird owners too will find that grass placed in the cage/aviary will be used heavily.
Pet grass can be grown in an area of the garden or in a pot.
You need to ensure the grassy area is not used as a toilet by pets (because long grass attracts this) or sprayed with weed killer. For these reasons, & to prevent it becoming a garden weed, pet grass is often best in a container.

A simple, immediate way to provide long grass for your pet is to find some long grass that hasn’t been sprayed, dig it up & put it in a pot with some soil (put stones & holes in the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t become waterlogged).
Keep moist in a sunny spot. It is less tasty when it goes to seed so replace it if/when it does.
Happypet’s grass seed pack supplies 30g untreated, pure ryegrass seeds (as used by BioGro and Certenz organic producers) plus growing instructions.


Tips for safe feeding of bones

Dogs and their ancestors have been chewing on bones for at least 65 million years (when primitive carnivorous mammals, Miacids, first appeared on Earth).

Some supervision and common sense are required when feeding a bone to a dog:

  • Dogs that swallow large chunks, or get diarrhea from bones, should not be fed them.
  • Bones should not be fed to excess (can cause compaction in the stomach).
    One or two large bones per week is a suitable amount.
  • Safe types of bones should be fed (raw, relatively large bones or soft rib and brisket bones).
    Do not feed cooked bones.
  • As always, long green grass should be available to your dog, in case it swallows something it shouldn’t (see “Grass for dogs”)