These dog toy safety tips are good to review for new dog owners and veteran owners alike.
Your New Puppy
You just got your new puppy home. Everybody is excited. The kids are running around with huge smiles on their faces as they show off their new furry friend to the other neighborhood kids. Puppy is exhausted and sleeps for an hour or so, how cute, and then wakes up. You rush your new pup outside and you’re excited because he’s done his duty in the right spot. So far, so good.
You’re all prepared with the new dog crate and a pile of toys you picked up in the local pet store and the bargain toys you found at the dollar store. You start showing them to “Spot” a few at a time and he zeros in on the one that looks like a little squirrel. Wow, he really likes that one. Five minutes later he’s choking on something. You don’t know what to do. You begin to get frantic. Fortunately, Spot coughs up and spits out the little sewn on eye from the toy squirrel and is o.k. A tragedy has been averted. This time! Lesson learned?
Unsafe Dog Toys
An unsafe dog toy can spell disaster for your new puppy just as it can for a dog of any age. It is very important to provide safe dog toys for your puppy to not only entertain them but also to provide something safe to satisfy the desire to chew, especially since puppies will be teething. All puppies chew so it’s critical that you remove anything that’s unsafe and provide things that are. Just as you would baby proof your home for that new arrival, you have to do the same for a new puppy, and since puppies are much more mobile from the start, you have to be even more diligent. And just as you wouldn't give your baby any toys with small parts that could come off and easily be swallowed, the same applies to a puppy.
Safety First should be your mindset when picking out a toy for your four legged buddy. What is cute or looks cool to you may not be safe for him or her. There are some toys that are perfectly safe for a small breed which are not safe for a larger dog but I always prefer to err on the side of caution. Dogs have been known to swallow all kinds of things such as coins, rocks, dirt, marbles, buttons, socks, small toys, pacifiers, tampons, rubber bands, tissues, just to name a few, and anything else that will fit in their mouths so survey your house or any area the puppy will be in and remove all of those potentially life threatening items. I stick with things like hard rubber Kongs of the proper size or any of the toys that have been rated and deemed chew proof.
Dog Toys To Avoid
Many dog toys are potentially dangerous. Depending on the age and chew strength of your dog some may be O.K for some dogs but not for others. You should always supervise your puppy with a new toy. The first sign that the toy is compromised in any way it should be immediately discarded. I recommend avoiding these toys to begin with but sometimes you won't know until the chewing begins.
- Plastic and vinyl toys are easily broken or torn apart and pose a risk of being swallowed, potentially causing a choking hazard or digestive problems and/or emergencies.
- Plush toys can be torn open and the stuffing can be pulled out and swallowed. This poses a real threat because of potential choking or blockages.
- Dog toys that have small parts sewn on like eyes or buttons that can come off and be swallowed.
- Stay away from cheap toys with bells and squeakers inside. Dogs love to remove the noise maker and often swallow them, again, potentially hazardous. I recommend toys from companies like Tuffy and Kong who make some really tuff chew toys that no puppy will tear up.
- Be careful with cotton rope toys. They're great when new but over time your dog can start shredding the rope into strings which get pulled off and often swallowed, sometimes very long pieces. That’s another choking hazard or intestinal blockage waiting to happen. Rope toys are fine until that starts to happen.
- Tennis balls. Yes tennis balls. It’s fun to play fetch with tennis balls, but never leave one lying around. They are easily popped and ripped up by most dogs and again, pose a choking hazard. Large breed dogs might try to swallow an in tact slimy tennis ball which can be deadly. Believe it or not, the fuzz on a tennis ball is actually an abrasive to your dog’s teeth and can wear down the enamel, and the glue used to hold it together is toxic. So if you play fetch with a tennis ball, and I do, just put the ball away afterwards and if gets ripped open, toss it in the garbage.
- Likewise, Frisbees are fine for you and your pooch to play with but if left unattended they can be chewed into sharp dangerous irregular pieces and swallowed. Instead use a Frisbee made of tough material which you can find almost anywhere.
- Hard sterilized bones are tough to break but many dogs can do it. The danger is obvious. Even if your dog isn’t a heavy chewer these bones will wear down your dog’s teeth. Those sharp pointy canines in front will become long flattened out teeth. My dogs are heavy chewers so I avoid all natural bones which they can break apart in no time at all and can cause all kinds of problems.
- Greenies, as well as similar dental chews and although extremely popular, they have caused some problems and even some deaths in dogs who have swallowed large chunks that ended up being lodged in the esophagus or the intestine. They don’t break down in the stomach and if too large can cause a blockage in the bowel. Any compressed bones pose a similar threat. It can be a hassle but try brushing your dogs teeth instead.
I am personally totally opposed to anything made from rawhide such as bones, pig’s ears, chips, twists and the like. I know millions of people give these to their dog with no apparent problem and even though dogs love them, it’s like providing your dog with a shoe to chew on and swallow. There are thousands of cases every year where dogs require surgery to remove rawhide from their stomach or intestines and sometimes they don’t survive. They can brake off pieces, sometimes large pieces, and swallow them and they can get caught in your dog’s throat and become a choking hazard. Even if it is swallowed, they can still cause a problem. The issue with rawhide is that it is virtually indigestible and when wet, it swells so if it gets stuck in your dog’s throat, you have a problem. If they swallow a big enough piece, it can become a blockage in the intestinal tract which is a major problem.
Either can result in a costly visit to your vet or animal hospital for expensive emergency surgery. Both situations could potentially be deadly. The other problem is the process used to produce rawhide. Removing the hair from the hide involves a highly toxic mix of chemicals and then it’s washed using a hydrogen peroxide solution. Then there are the chemicals added for flavoring. That doesn’t sound too healthy does it? On top of that, I personally have a problem with the fact that most of these come from China and Thailand. The reports of unbelievable abuse and the brutal murder of dogs and cats for the fur industry would make you sick. The by-product of this fur trade results in some of the dog hide being used to make rawhide twists and chews sold around the world including the U.S.
For more information you can follow this link but the material is graphic and disturbing: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/DogCatFurBooklet.pdf
(For my top safe toy picks click here and then click on the category: SAFE DOG TOYS.)
Let me make some general suggestions on things to watch out for:
- Avoid any dog toys that have small parts sewn on like eyes or buttons that can come off and be swallowed.
- Stay away from toys with bells inside.
- Keep away from buying anything with a squeaker inside especially for strong chewers. Some manufacturers (like Kong) do make some extremely tough soft toys that contain squeakers and they are fine for light to medium chewers and puppies but again I’d avoid these for heavy chewers.
- When considering a toy, bone or chew just look at it and see if it is an item that’s likely to remain in one piece. Look at the label and see if you can gain any information from that. If your not sure, don’t buy it. Price can also be an indicator of the quality as well as where manufactured. Let’s face it, China doesn’t have a stellar record on safe toys for our kids much less safe toys for our dogs. Pet toys are not regulated by anybody so you have to be the regulator of what comes home and what doesn’t. Your dog’s welfare is in your hands. It's not worth saving some money on cheap dog toys now and potentially spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to save your doggie from that very same toy, or worse, losing your dog.
- In my opinion it’s mandatory to always supervise when giving a new toy or bone or chew to your best friend to see how it’s going to hold up in their jaws. They will surprise you with their ability to destroy a toy. Better safe than sorry. I always stick with things like nylon bones or hard rubber Kongs of the proper size but even with those I always supervise.
Always have your vet’s phone number handy as well as the number of an animal hospital or a 24 hour vet service in your area.
Other Dog Dangers
For a great list of Common Household Dangers For Pets visit:
For Information on everyday poisonous and toxic hazards to dogs see:
The top ten human medications that poison our dogs:
What to do if your dog is poisoned:
Auto and Outdoor Summer Safety