Your furry pal is often left home alone for hours at a time while you are at work, running errands, or enjoying time with friends and family. Left to their own devices, your pooch may get into mischief, finding inappropriate things to chew on, such as shoes and furniture. So, you turn to commercial options, like rope toys, rubber Kongs, and tennis balls. But, which of these are safe chewing options for your pup, and which may cause harm? You might think everything sold in a pet store should be pet-safe, but that is not always the case. In fact, many toys, chews, and bones marketed for dogs can lead to serious medical problems, including fractured teeth, a pierced gastrointestinal tract, an intestinal blockage, stomach upset, or pancreatitis. Before filling up your cart with all manner of dog chews, check out our tips for choosing chews wisely.

#1: Check the hardness of your pet’s chew

Dogs are known for chewing on things they shouldn’t, from rocks and sticks, to the wires of their crate. These hard substances take a toll on their oral health, and can cause an intestinal blockage if swallowed. Although dogs love to chew on sticks, especially when playing fetch, try to prevent that as much as possible. When purchasing chews, or letting them chew on natural items, first check the hardness. A good rule to follow is that the chew is too hard if you whack it against your knee and it hurts. Excellent alternatives to antlers, bones, and hooves are softer rubber chews.

#2: Choose the appropriate size chew for your pet

We get it—big dogs come with big bills, and their chews are certainly pricier than a toy Yorkie’s. But, if you purchase chews that are too small for your Great Dane, disaster can happen. Some chews are not meant to be swallowed, and too-small chews can travel down your pet’s throat and cause a blockage that requires surgical removal. Always choose the correct size chew for your pet, and watch carefully as they gnaw on their prize so you can immediately remove small pieces.  

#3: Read the ingredient label of your pet’s chew

While chew toys are generally safe in terms of ingredients, some chew treats are not. Edible chews can be packed with ingredients that may cause stomach upset in your dog. Food coloring, artificial preservatives, and high fat or sugar levels can wreak havoc on your furry pal’s gastrointestinal tract. Stick to natural chews that are free from bright colors and artificial ingredients, as well as low in fat, sugar, and calories.

Veterinary approved chews for your pet

While the above tips are general guidelines to help you choose your pet’s chews, you may still be overwhelmed with options. When shopping for your pooch’s treats and toys, try the following safe chews:

  • Chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) — The VOHC is an organization that grants their seal of approval to products that have demonstrated the ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, and are considered safe for pets when used appropriately. So, a chew for your dog from the approved product list will benefit them two ways—dental care and a fun, safe chew. 
  • Rubber toys — Two popular safe rubber toy options are Kongs and Goughnuts. You can leave Kongs empty, or stuff them with a variety of tasty treats for your furry pal. Goughnuts have a lifetime warranty, with a red indicator that warns you that the toy has been chewed too much and needs to be thrown out.
  • Nylabones — Nylabones come in edible and inedible varieties, and you must exercise care with inedible chews. If your pet likes to chew their toys until they are small enough to eat, an edible Nylabone makes a great choice.

When in doubt about the safety of your pet’s chew, contact our team.

Pet chews to avoid

When replenishing your pet’s chews, you should avoid those that may be too hard, contain bacteria or harmful ingredients, or can damage your pet’s teeth or gastrointestinal tract. Prevent your dog from chewing on the following:

  • Bones
  • Antlers
  • Hooves
  • Sticks
  • Rocks
  • Wire crates
  • Chain leashes
  • Tennis balls

You may think that everything on this list makes sense except for tennis balls. After all, weren’t tennis balls really designed as a dog toy? But, while playing the occasional game of fetch is fine, the ball’s fabric is highly abrasive, especially when full of dirt. If your dog constantly chews on tennis balls, they’re damaging their teeth and wearing down the enamel.

Unsure if your dog’s chew is safe for play? Contact our Loving Family Animal Hospital team for advice, and we’ll share tips on how to pick out chews for your pet’s specific needs.