How do you choose the best dog toys for your dogs and how do you avoid the pitfalls and hazards that come along with dogs…toys…and chewing?
This is a never-ending question that doesn’t always have a straight forward answer because some dogs treat their toys differently than others. Some dogs are prolific chewers. Some like to disassemble toys but don’t swallow the parts. Other dogs, will ingest anything they can get their paws on… so how do you know what is safe for your pets?
This could be a really long post if we tried to tell you all the toys you can buy that are tough, and all of those that you should stay away from. Instead we will talk about 4 of the most common toys and chews on the market.
As we discuss toy dangers it is important to know that 95% of the time, when your dog swallows foreign objects, they will pass through their system without incident. It’s that other 5% of the time that can be life threatening and result in expensive vet bills or worse.
Rope Toys – From a tug of war stand point and if you play with your dog or supervise your dog this can be a fairly safe toy. BUT if you leave a dog to their own devices and their goal is to pull the rope apart and ingest it, then it should be a toy kept out of reach.
The Dangers: Strands of rope can be very dangerous when swallowed. Vets categorize this as a “linear foreign body.” The danger occurs when one part of the rope is stuck in the stomach and the other part of the rope makes it into the intestines. The digestive system attempts to pass this through its system, and it begins to cinch on itself like the drawstring in a pair of sweatpants. This slowly tightens the digestive track and can become life threatening and painful. Even small pieces of rope overtime can accumulate like hairs in a shower drain causing a blockage.
If your dog is continually trying to strip off the pieces of rope, even if this is a favorite toy, it’s best to find a different toy for your dog friend.
Nylabones – In the constant quest for something for prolific chewers some pet owners are divided about Nylabones. There are pros and cons to these synthetic pet chews and you will get varying opinions on the use of these chew toys. While the pros are that these help promote healthy chewing (And saves your couch from time to time) and provide mental stimulation, there are some cons as well.
The Dangers: When unsupervised some dogs can chew these into small pieces that are not digestible. They can cause intestinal blockage, and when chewed into sharp shards can also pose a threat by puncturing the intestines.
Sometimes ring chews give a dog less purchase to break off small pieces and Nylabone does have some rings that may work well for your needs. Again supervising is the key. Know what your dog is doing to the toys you provide.
Rawhides – Again, the debate is real. So many vets, rescues, and dog experts steer away from the use of rawhide bones. While once a staple in dog families when they first became popular in the 1950s, our knowledge has evolved and the sources for rawhide varies. While dogs need to chew, and some people still gravitate toward rawhides because they are cheap and easy, the risks are worth keeping in mind. Especially with questionable sources from China containing such toxins as formaldehyde, arsenic, and other contaminants.
The Dangers: Some rawhide bones have been found to have trace contaminants and toxic chemicals not good for your dog’s consumption. Choking and blockages can occur when your chewer ingests pieces of the rawhide bones. Your dog may be sensitive to rawhide and it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of poor health.
Balls and Tennis Balls – This is an all-time favorite for most dogs who have any kind of fetching skills or ball drive. Who doesn’t think tennis ball when they think of retrievers? But most people aren’t aware that tennis balls and balls in general can actually be dangerous for larger breed dogs. (Or any size ball that is the wrong size for the dog in question.) The most important thing is to be aware, be smart in choosing your ball toys, and know what to do in case of an emergency.
The Dangers: Balls are a major choking hazard for dogs. Especially if the ball is wrong sized. Typical tennis balls can be too small for larger breeds like golden retrievers and, you guessed it, Labs. The ball can get stuck in your dog’s throat when he or she catches it and cause a blockage.
When this type of accident happens, you will not have time to get the dog to the vet before he could choke. It’s important to get to your dog immediately, straddle the dog, open the mouth and grab it out of the throat, it may mean sliding 2 fingers down to try to get it un-wedged. If it’s lodged too deeply you may need to work on the outside of the dog’s throat first and try to roll the ball up. The faster you can get the ball out the better your dog’s chances of survival. At the end of the day it’s important to consider oversized balls that won’t go down their throats when engaging in play.
The bottom line is, that when our dogs are left to their own devices it’s important we don’t leave them with toys that can be harmful. It’s also important to supervise their play and know the right toys for the right sized dogs.