Safe Chew Toys for Dogs

The desire to chew is both good and natural for dogs. Chewing on the right kinds of things can help keep canine teeth clean, and offering your pet an approved chew toy can help prevent him from tearing up your favorite pair of shoes or a chair leg. However, many seemingly acceptable options can actually present dangers to dogs--such as choking hazards, intestinal obstructions or cracked teeth. Here's how to choose the right chew toy option for your dog.

Safe(r) Chewing Options
No chew toy is without risk, which is why you should always supervise your dog when you give him something to chew on. No matter how carefully constructed, if a small bit breaks loose, it can cause your pet to choke. If your dog is a frequent, strong chewer, ask your vet about pet CPR classes in your area and ask for a demonstration on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on your dog.

When choosing a commercial chew toy, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Choose the right size chew for your pet. Most chew toys are labeled by the size of the dog. This is to prevent dogs from choking on toys that are too small for their mouths.
  • You should also discard toys that have been chewed down to a small size as they also pose a choking risk.
  • Avoid rawhide chews with knots on the ends that might be broken off. They can be a choking hazard or become lodged in the digestive tract.
  • Be cautious with wooden toys that can splinter and injure your pet's mouth or stomach.
  • Puppy teeth are more delicate than adult teeth, so make sure toys are not too hard to prevent painful cracks.
  • If you're unsure about what toy to choose, talk with your vet. He or she will likely have recommendations.
Chew Toy Options
Twisted Rope Toys: Look for heavy rope toys that use only natural vegetable dyes for coloring. If the toy becomes overly frayed or pieces start to come loose, discard the toy to prevent your dog from swallowing any of the strands.

Nylabones: These chew toys are made from nylon and come in different flavors, sizes and chew strengths. Be sure to choose the right size and strength for the size and chewing habits of your dog. Overzealous chewers can damage their teeth, so always supervise your dog while they chew.

Busy Buddy Dog Toys: These nylon and rubber toys are designed to help keep dogs' teeth clean. They also include edible treat rings that can be replaced as they're consumed. Be sure to choose the appropriate size for your dog, from extra-small to large.

KONG Goodie Bone: This rubber bone includes hollow ends that can be stuffed with treats. It is available in regular strength and extreme for powerful chewers. Be sure to choose the right size and strength for your pet.

Edible Chew Options
Natural Marrow Bones. Vets do not agree on whether it's a good idea to give dogs bones to chew. The ones who support the practice recommend only offering raw, meaty bones from reputable providers. (Some pet stores stock frozen bones to ensure freshness.) The vets who caution against bones warn that they can be hard on teeth, cause mouth and gum injuries and cause damage anywhere along the digestive tract.

Rawhide. Most dogs enjoy chewing rawhide, but it can cause stomach upset if consumed in excess. In some cases, gastrointestinal obstruction may be possible if dogs tear off and swallow large chunks. If your dog is an overzealous chewer, this may not be the best option for him. To be safe, always supervise your pet and discard the rawhide when it gets small enough to be a choking hazard.

Pig Ears. Yes, these are actual pig ears and are similar in texture to rawhide. These chews typically contain a lot of fat, though, so don't plan on using them for everyday chewing.

Bully Sticks. This popular chew option has both pros and cons. They are certainly natural since they're made from dried bull penises. However, they can be high in calories and can sometimes be contaminated with bacteria. Make sure to wash your hands after giving them to your pet.

Antlers. These are extremely controversial. Many vets see them as a tooth-chipping risk, but some owners swear by their staying power. Talk to your vet before you make up your mind.

Greenies. These dental chews are specially formulated to help keep dogs' teeth clean. Be sure to read the label to pick the correct the size for your dog. The manufacturer recommends giving your pet no more than one of these chews a day.
5 Most Dangerous Things that Dogs Chew
Don't ever let your pet chew on any of the following common items. They pose serious dangers and there are many much safer alternatives.
  • Cooked Bones. Bones that have been cooked are too soft and likely to splinter, which can puncture your dog's stomach or cause serious damage anywhere along the digestive tract.
  • Sticks. Sticks are extremely likely to splinter and cause damage to the gums and mouth. Even a small splinter can turn into a nasty oral infection that you won't even notice until your pet is in extreme pain.
  • Rocks. These can cause choking if swallowed or, more likely, lead to a broken tooth.
  • Water Bottles. Dogs can cut themselves on the sharp plastic edges if they tear off pieces. They can also choke on the cap if they chew it free from the bottle.
If you're ever in doubt about the safety of a chew toy, natural or otherwise, err on the side of caution and talk to your vet before offering it to your dog. Your pet will happily chew on just about anything so it's up to you to make sure it's the safest option available.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Kristi Snyder, DVM.
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