Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chew Toys For Dogs - What Is Safe?

Does your dog love to chew? Here is some helpful information on safely satisfying your canine friend’s urge to chew. 

Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. Because chewing can reduce canine stress and help minimize other behavioral problems that can develop from boredom, in most cases it is good to provide your dog with safe toys and outlets for chewing. However, like anything else – allow your dog to chew in moderation! While some chewing is good, too much can cause excess wear and damage to the teeth. Also, with ANY "safe" item to chew, there is always the potential risk of choking and gastrointestinal blockage. I worked for a veterinary dental specialist last year, and her favorite expression is “there are NO safe chew toys” - she repairs the broken teeth and damage on a daily basis. 


If you research this topic on the internet, or speak with your vet, you can be overwhelmed with the differing opinions that you read or hear. For example, are rawhides safe? The answer is that there is always a risk, and this risk is larger for dogs who gulp or if they are permitted to swallow larger pieces or the ends of the chew. I have also removed rawhide and other bones surgically from dogs. Just a couple of weeks ago at the ER we performed endoscopy to remove a small rawhide fragment from the esophagus of a dachshund.

My favorite chew toys and activity toys for canine patients:
A 'no-no' for a treat!
  • Kong's stuffed with a number of tasty items - they can even be frozen so that it takes longer to lick out the tasty filling:
  • Busy Bone, especially the bouncy ball
  • Nylabones
  • Galileo bone
  • Orbee line of toys from Planet Dog

For any of the harder toys listed, again, dental complications are a true concern. As long as you know the risks you can make an informed decision.

For rawhides, always use a rawhide that is too large for your dog, and take the last of it away before it is chewed down to swallowing size. Definitely avoid rawhide that has knots at the end. 

(this is not Gracie! :))
I will admit that I personally give my dog a periodic rawhide under CLOSE supervision. My lab Gracie drifts off into this zen-like state as she chews the bone – I just love seeing her so happy! -  but I never give the kind with knots on the end, and I always remove the last bit of rawhide before she can swallow the last chunk whole. 

Here is a great handout on chewing and using toys as tools:

Blog written by: Laura Bacon, DVM
Lap of Love 
Pet Hospice

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