Dogs have a natural tendency to chew objects in their environment, and they use chewing to manage anxiety, frustration, and boredom. Chewing can also help keep their teeth clean, which is an added bonus. Finding the appropriate chew toy is important, to ensure your dog does not suffer from a toy-induced injury. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic wants to provide advice to help you choose safe options when shopping for your pet’s chew toys.
Determine your dog’s chew technique
All dogs are different, with their own unique personality. Knowing how they will react to a chew toy can help you decide the toys best for them. Dog chew types include:
- Calm chewers — These dogs are more likely to lick or suck their chew toys, which tend to last for a long time. They can be trusted not to destroy plush or fabric toys, and often like to carry these toys in their mouth. Good options include soft toys, rubber toys, edible chews, and balls.
- Moderate chewers — While these dogs typically tear apart fabric toys, other toys are usually safe from complete destruction. Good options include rubber toys, edible chews, and balls.
- Aggressive chewers — When given a chew toy, these dogs are determined to not stop chewing until they have completely destroyed or ingested every piece. Good options include edible chews and rubber toys. You can use a ball to play fetch with these dogs, but don’t leave the ball for them to chew.
Ensure the pet chew is safe
While a dog’s chew technique should be considered when choosing chew toys, some qualities are important for every dog toy. These include:
- Hardness — Chew toys that are too hard can break your dog’s teeth. You should be able to bend the toy using your bare hands. Another test is seeing if the toy’s surface gives, when pressed by your thumbnail.
- Durability — The toy should not be easily torn apart, allowing your dog to swallow pieces, or the inside stuffing.
- Size — The toy should be large enough that your dog cannot swallow or choke on the object, or get the toy lodged in their mouth.
- Coating — The toy should not have a flavored coating that has a high fat content, or could cause gastrointestinal upset.
- Washability — The toy should be able to be washed by hand, in the dishwasher, or in the washing machine, for periodic disinfection.
Avoid certain pets chews
Some pet chews are dangerous for all dogs, and should be avoided. These include:
- Bones — Bones are hard enough that they can not only break your dog’s teeth, but can also splinter. Splinter fragments can choke your dog, or damage their esophagus. If the fragment does pass through your dog’s intestine, the bone can collect in their colon and cause constipation.
- Antlers and cow hooves — Antlers and cow hooves have been touted as great natural pet chew options, but like bones, these materials are hard enough to cause fractured teeth, and also brittle enough to splinter.
- Sticks — You may think sticks are great free toys for your dog, but they can cause severe puncture wounds to your dog’s mouth, face, and eyes. In addition, broken pieces can become lodged in their mouth, and fragments can be swallowed, damaging their esophagus.
- Pig ears — Pig ears are high in fat, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, and possibly pancreatitis. They also tend to harbor bacteria, such as salmonella.
- Balls with a single hole — When only a single hole is present, a vacuum can be created when your dog chews on the toy. Their tongue can become stuck inside the ball, and, if not removed quickly, their tongue’s circulation can become compromised.
- Rawhides — If chewed apart, rawhide pieces can cause your dog to choke, or become a gastrointestinal obstruction.
Use caution when offering pet chew toys
Some dogs seem to find a way to make every encounter a hazardous situation. If your dog has a tendency to destroy their chew toys, you should always monitor them while they enjoy their treat. Safer chew toy options include:
- Rubber chew toys — Rubber chew toys that are firm enough to withstand serious chewing, but have enough give to not cause tooth damage, are the safest option for your dog. Choose the appropriate size toy, to ensure the object cannot be swallowed, or become lodged in their mouth.
- Edible chew toys — Edible chews, including dental chews, may not last long, but since they are meant to be consumed, you don’t have to worry about gastrointestinal obstruction. They can also minimize or slow plaque and tartar accumulation.
- Rope toys — Rope toys are great for playing with your dog, but you should not allow them to play with these toys unsupervised. If a strand comes loose, they can swallow the string, causing an intestinal obstruction.
Choosing the appropriate chew toy for your pet will ensure they aren’t affected by serious issues, including fractured teeth, gastrointestinal obstruction, and choking. If your pet has an unfortunate chew toy incident, do not hesitate to contact our Fear Free team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic.