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How do you buy toys and chews for your dog that keep them happy and safe?

If you want to know which chew toys are good for dog amusement and training, ask a dog trainer, behaviourist or a good pet accessories stockist. However if you want to know which dog chews, dog balls and dog toys are dangerous, just ask a vet.

We vets see what happens when things go wrong. Here’s our guide to what not to let your dog chew and what dog chew toys we recommend for dogs.

What are the dangerous things dogs should not chew?

  • Sticks
    Splinters get lodged in the mouth and throat. Throwing a stick is even more dangerous when dogs either run onto it or attempt to catch it.
  • Bones when Too Small, Brittle, Cooked or Smoked
    Most people know that cooked or cured bone becomes brittle and breaks into sharp splinters. Dog owners need to also know the dangers of feeding undersize raw bones (we recommend no smaller than your dog’s head) or bones able to be broken into fragments.
  • Antlers
    I have seen antlers keep teeth as clean as raw bones do, but I have also seen nasty tooth fractures. They are just too hard.
  • Rawhide
    Hide chews seem fun at first, and look good, but very quickly they get gooey and soft. At this point many dogs will get the rawhide stuck in the oesophagus or stomach. Then there’s the problem of not knowing how they are made and preserved. The picture gives some people’s opinion.
  • Tennis Balls
    Tennis balls are abrasive and permanently wear down dogs’ teeth. They break up into pieces which block the intestine. Their cover can be stripped off and swallowed. They choke large breeds. All this is a problem because your dog can find tennis balls everywhere.

Of course, dogs can chew up and swallow anything, especially when puppies. In the past 20 years I’ve surgically removed all of the following from dogs.

  • cheap dog toys, parts of rubber balls
  • some cheap dog squeaky toy
  • rocks and fruit stones
  • bedding and blankets
  • random pet toys
  • underwear and sanitary products
  • corn cobs, satay sticks
  • children’s toys and plastic ware
  • and of course the items mentioned earlier.

Dog chew toys need to be tailored to:

  • The size of the dog
    Small toys & balls are a choking or obstruction hazard if given to big dogs.
  • Their chewing style
    Powerful and destructive dogs may demolish even the toughest toy or bone.
  • Whether you leave them unsupervised
    Some dogs can’t be left unsupervised with chewable objects at all. Others can be once you know they have a predictable and safe chewing style. Regardless, it’s necessary to always supervise a dog with a new tough toy.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia.