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Your dog loves toys. Maybe they always have their favorite stuffed animal in their mouth, or they play with their frisbee or tennis ball every day. Toys are essential to your dog’s health and happiness. Playing is fun, engaging, and keeps them active, but unfortunately, your dog’s favorite toys could be dangerous to them.
Common potential dangers to dogs playing with toys include choking, intestinal blockages, and harmful toxins used in plastics. Your dog’s toys are important, but what’s even more critical is choosing a safe toy for them.
Unfortunately, several of the most common and popular dog toys pose hazards to their health. This article will discuss common dangerous dog toys to help you make better decisions when shopping for your pup.
Types of Dangerous Dog Toys
Toys are dog essentials, but there are several toys you should never buy your dog, and unfortunately, these are some of the most common ones. Look around your house or your dog’s toy box to see if you recognize anything on this list. Here are common dog toys to avoid:
Always buy your dog toys that are perfectly sized for them. Most dog toys come in a range of sizes, dependent on the size of the dog. Buying toys that are too small for your dog poses a choking hazard and can cause intestinal blockages. Additionally, pieces of larger toys can break off and become hazards, so it’s always a good idea to monitor your dog while they play.
Consider one of the most popular toys for dogs: the Kong. Kong toys dispense treats and offer mental stimulation, and they’re made out of natural, durable rubber, making them one of the safest toys for your dog.
However, Kong toys for dogs can be dangerous if you purchase the wrong size. For example, purchasing the XS size Kong for a Golden Retriever, considered a large breed, can pose a choking hazard since it’s easy to swallow. However, the XS size will work perfectly for miniature and toy breeds and puppies.
Dogs that love rawhides can spend hours chewing them and never get bored, making them a favorite among pet parents. Additionally, chewing is good for your dog’s overall wellness because it provides them with a mentally stimulating activity that can help clean their teeth.
That said, there are toys safe for your dog to chew and unsafe dog toys to avoid, such as rawhide. Why are rawhides bad for dogs? Rawhides are filled with chemicals and aren’t easily digestible, posing serious choking and intestinal blockage hazards.1 Dogs love rawhides, so luckily, several types are available, including rawhide alternatives, that are safer than others.
In addition to the type of rawhide, your dog’s chewing style may be a factor in how safe it is for them. Some dogs are heavy chewers. As they moisten the rawhide, it becomes easier to rip off and swallow chunks. If your dog rips off a large piece, they may try to swallow it without fully chewing it, which could cause choking. Even if your dog manages to swallow the piece, it could still cause an intestinal blockage because their body won’t be able to break it down.1
On the other hand, moderate or soft chewers are less likely to break off large chunks of rawhide, making their chewing style much safer. In any case, not all rawhides are created equal. Some offer higher digestibility, while others are made from low-quality animal hides in unsafe processing conditions and exposed to various chemicals.
Toys with synthetic stuffing & squeakers
Many dogs love stuffed toys and toys with squeakers because they simulate prey.2 However, while your dog may enjoy stuffed toys, they’re not necessarily safe for them. Again, the safety level of a stuffed toy mostly depends on your dog’s play style. For instance, some dogs gently carry their stuffed animals everywhere, while others are prone to ripping them up.
Synthetic stuffing in stuffed toys isn’t safe for dogs because it can get stuck in their teeth or throat. In addition, many dogs can pass a little bit of stuffing, but it could cause intestinal blockages. The biggest risk of stuffed toys is to dogs that chew them up. If your dog is a destructive chewer, stuffed animals are a dog toy to avoid.
In addition to stuffing, you should consider whether squeaky toys are safe for your particular dog. Again, some dogs are soft chewers who won’t rip open their toys to get to the squeaker. However, others will rip their toys within seconds and rip out the squeaker. Squeaky toys pose several risks to destructive chewers. Since the squeakers are small enough to be swallowed, they can cause choking and intestinal obstructions.
Again, the safety level of these toys depends on your dog’s chewing and play styles. As dogs get older, they may be less interested in chewing but still enjoy having a stuffed animal. In these cases, your dog’s stuffed toys pose no risk to them. However, if your dog is known to rip up the toys you give them, avoid stuffed toys at all costs.
There are several dog toys to avoid because they can break teeth or splinter and cause serious harm. For example, antlers and plastic chew bones are popular for heavy chewers because they’re long-lasting and can withstand strong chewing. Unfortunately, the harder the material, the more dangerous it is to dogs because it can crack their teeth.
However, several plastic bone toys available for heavy chewers are considered safe. These toys are designed to break off in small chunks, which are relatively safe for digestion because of their size. Still, an aggressive chewer can easily break these hard toys and splinter them, making them sharp and unsafe for chewing.
So can dogs eat bones? Yes and no. There are safe and unsafe bones. For example, you should never give your dog cooked bones that are prone to splintering. Synthetic or plastic bones are a much safer option for your dog, but they shouldn’t be so hard they might break a tooth.
If you have an aggressive or heavy chewer, consider softer toys like bully sticks because they won’t break or splinter and are gentler on teeth.
Toys made of toxic materials
Unfortunately, some dog toys are made with toxic materials and chemicals that could cause serious health problems. Common toxins in pet products include:
- PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl, is a common plastic considered harmful to humans and the planet.3 PVC isn’t dangerous as is, but it’s a hard material that’s used to make plastic more flexible and is commonly used in pet products. PVC also contains chlorine and other toxins linked to severe health problems in humans.3 When your dog chews on a PVC toy, those toxins are released into their mouths and carried throughout the rest of their bodies.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are a type of toxic chemical additive used in PVC pet toys. When your dog chews the toy, the toxins can be absorbed into their bloodstream via the skin or gums.
- Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is used to preserve some dog chews like rawhides. In high doses, it may cause respiratory or digestive issues and has been linked to cancer in humans. However, it’s important to note that most rawhides don’t contain any formaldehyde, but it’s always a good idea to check with the manufacturer if you’re ever unsure.
Most US-made dog toys don’t contain known toxins or harmful materials. However, we recommend only purchasing dog toys from brands you know and trust.
Toys with strings
Another dangerous dog toy is a favorite among canines everywhere: the rope toy. Toys with strings, such as rope toys, are particularly dangerous to heavy chewers. Over time it will begin falling apart, and your dog can swallow thin pieces of long string.
If long strands get stuck in your dog’s stomach, they can get caught inside the digestive tract, causing life-threatening issues that can only be corrected with surgery. Even small amounts of string can cause obstructions or choking, so it’s usually best to avoid rope toys altogether. Instead, if your dog loves playing tug of war, you can invest in a safer alternative.
How To Choose Safe Dog Toys
After reading our dangerous dog toys list, you might look at your dog’s toys scattered on the floor and realize you have potential hazards in your home. Unfortunately, many of the most popular dog toys are unsafe and best avoided. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for safe dog toys:
- Your dog’s chewing style: Some dogs are heavy and destructive chewers, while others don’t chew at all. Heavy chewers are at a higher risk of obstructions and choking because they easily break pieces off of their bones, ingest large pieces of rawhide, or tear open stuffed toys. Conversely, dogs that chew gently are less at risk. Many of the items listed in our dangerous dog toys list are considered relatively safe for most dogs except heavy chewers, so consider how aggressively your dog chews before purchasing any toy.
- Their preferences: Of course, you want your dog’s toys to be safe, but you also want them to enjoy the toys enough to give them the mental stimulation they need. Some dogs love rawhides and won’t play with any other type of toy. Luckily, there are several alternatives to many of the dangerous dog toys we discussed. For example, rawhide alternatives aren’t made from animal hide and often contain more digestible ingredients.
- Size: Some of the most dangerous dog toys are only dangerous because of their size. Finding the right-sized toys for your dog is crucial. Most pet product manufacturers list the size on their packaging to help you decide whether it’s the right option for your dog.
Monitor your dog while they play
No matter how safe a manufacturer claims it is, any dog toy can be dangerous to your dog because nothing is indestructible. While there are toys for heavy chewers, they can still get chewed up or break and splinter, which is why it’s so crucial to monitor your dog when they’re playing.
Whether your dog is chewing a rawhide or solving a treat-dispensing puzzle, you should always keep an eye on them to ensure they’re not chewing anything up or swallowing pieces they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, many dogs have undergone surgery for obstructions because of their favorite toys. However, you can help save your pet’s life by watching them while they play and removing any broken pieces, squeakers, and stuffing as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my dog’s toy is toxic?
Some dog toys contain dangerous toxins, so it’s important to be aware of their materials. Luckily, most US-based brands don’t use toxic materials in their products, and you can find more information on their websites. For example, you might see words like “chemical-free” to describe rubber toys, which ensures that your dog’s toy is safe for them.
What toys are choking hazards for dogs?
Any dog toy is a potential choking hazard for dogs, especially heavy chewers. However, the most common choking hazards include small toys, raw hides, and rope toys. Still, even a highly durable toy made from aggressive chewers can become a choking hazard if your dog breaks it or chews pieces off of it, so it’s a good idea to monitor them whenever they’re playing to ensure the toy is sturdy enough for their strong jaws.
What should I look for on a dog toy label to ensure it’s safe for my dog?
You can’t ensure that every toy you purchase for your dog is truly safe for them. Regardless of how it’s marketed, any toy can break and become a choking hazard. However, when shopping for dog toys, look for the following phrases on a label:
- “Natural rubber”
- “Easily digestible”
These words can help you make healthier and safer choices for your pet, but they don’t necessarily mean any toy is safe.
Many pet products in your home are potentially dangerous dog chew toys that pose potential choking and intestinal blockage hazards. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee that any toy is safe for your dog, but some toys, treats, and chews are safer than others.Shopping for pet toys? Help your dog satisfy their urge to chew by talking to a Dutch vet today. We can give you recommendations and advice for finding the best toys for dogs based on their chewing habits and preferences.
Burke, Anna. “Are Rawhide Chews Dangerous for Dogs?” American Kennel Club, 21 May 2020, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/are-rawhide-chews-dangerous-for-dog/.
Long, Breanne. “Why Do Dogs like Squeaky Toys?” American Kennel Club, 12 Nov. 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/why-dogs-prefer-toys-over-others/.