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Seeing our dogs happily playing with their toys brings us so much joy, but many dog owners don’t realize that there are hidden dangers lying in wait that could turn your dog’s playtime into a rush to save their life.
To prevent this emergency vet visit from happening, you are already making one of the most important steps which are making yourself aware of what to look out for when you are buying dog toys.
You may wonder why toys that are capable of killing your pet are available on the shelves, but the truth is that it is down to the owner to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the dog as the manufacturers usually just want to make money.
However, it is not all a matter of life and death as there are other things you should avoid before getting toys for your dog such as getting one that won’t scare them and one that they will genuinely love to play with.
In this guide, we will talk about what you should avoid for health reasons including the type of toy and the materials it is made from. Then we will move forward with this knowledge and apply it to find the best toy that fits your dog’s personal preferences.
What Makes a Toy Unsafe?
Unfortunately, there are many things that make a dog toy unsafe but there are also a lot of toys that should not pose any threat to your dog, but it is always advised to supervise your dog as they play because one day you may be thankful you were.
Rope toys are so much fun for dogs who love to play tug as well as swing it around like a big lasso. Despite this, if you have a dog that is particularly chewy and loves to ingest things, the rope toy can lead to invasive surgeries or even death.
Dog breeds such as Labradors and golden retrievers, in particular, should not be given rope toys because they are known for swallowing whatever they can and if they ingest parts of this toy there is a high chance that it will block their intestines and cause a host of problems that will require immediate intervention from a vet.
Some signs to look out for if you think your dog may have swallowed some rope is vomiting, lethargy, pain in their abdomen, and not acting like their usual selves. It’s best to take your dog to the vet as soon as you can just to be safe even if they only show one or two of these symptoms.
One other thing to keep in mind when allowing your dog to play with rope toys is their teeth because sometimes the play can get a bit rough and all it takes is for one big tug to damage a tooth or even take it out completely.
Your dog may love the high-pitched squeak that comes from their new favorite toy but for the owner, that noise is not so fun but seeing them enjoy it is worth it, right?
The noise that comes from the squeaker is used to bring the toy to life a bit and make the dog tap into their instincts and imagine they are chewing on a poor rabbit. This makes them chew the toy until the squeaker has been found which sadly, can then be choked on.
If you insist on letting your dog play with a squeaker toy, you must always supervise them – especially if they are a puppy as they are still learning what to eat and what not to eat and are much clumsier than an adult dog.
Rubber Chew Toys
Even if you get a rubber chew toy that states that it is indestructible, it will still wear down over time due to the dog’s saliva and little bits of rubber will break off into your dog’s mouth and be swallowed. This debris can build up and cause blockages in their digestive tract or get stuck in their throat and cause choking. If your rubber toy has started to show signs of eroding, it is time to replace it as soon as you can and take it away from your dog in the meantime.
Toys that are made to look like rabbits and birds are especially loved by hunting dogs but these toys are usually stuffed with a material called Poly-Fil which is that white fluffy stuff that you see being torn out and left in a huge mess on the carpet by your dog.
This material can get stuck in the dog’s throat and if they are eventually able to swallow it, it can get lodged in their digestive tract.
Some dog toys use chemicals in their materials that are toxic to your dog, some of these chemicals can cause health problems in your dog such as cancer and liver damage.
- BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and can be found in things all around us such as water bottles, packaging, and car parts, as well as in the lining of your canned dog food. BPA is known to disrupt a dog’s metabolism which is caused by their endocrine system being affected. Therefore, it is important to check that the dog toys you get do not have BPA in them.
- Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to give PVC dog toys the flexibility that makes them so fun to play with, but phthalates are toxic and if your dog toy smells strongly of vinyl then it is a clear sign that you should avoid it as phthalates are likely present. As your dog chews the PVC dog toy, this group of toxic chemicals seeps into their gums and can cause liver and kidney damage which can be fatal.
- Formaldehyde is another chemical that you should steer clear of as it can cause respiratory and digestive problems and even cancer in your dog. Rawhide chews usually use formaldehyde to preserve them but if your dog is chewing on rawhide for an extended amount of time then there may be consequences.
What Toys Does Your Dog Prefer?
Now that you know what toys are dangerous and the ones that you must supervise your dog with, it’s time to get personal. Knowing what kind of toys your dog likes and doesn’t like will save you money as well as reduce waste and you can find out by simply taking your dog to the pet store and letting them have a trial run of whatever toy they like.
What kind of toys does your dog enjoy playing with? Some dogs prefer tug ropes while others prefer a tennis ball but there are many different toys out there that you can choose from that will keep your dog busy for hours.
It can be very helpful to just sit and observe your dog. Do they like interacting with you as they play or do they prefer to play by themselves? If they like to involve you in their games then you can get them a tug toy or if they prefer to play by themselves then you could get a puzzle toy that will also keep their brain busy.
Also, think about their instincts. For example, Border Collies usually love playing fetch with tennis balls and could do it all day if you let them, whereas a Jack Russell may prefer to shake a soft toy around with their head as they would with a rat.
If you have a rescue dog that is a bit worried about noises for example, then it is best not to get them a toy that will surprise them with any squeaks or bells.
Additionally, some toys can have that uncanny valley effect that makes them look a bit too much like another animal and can cause your dog to stand at a safe distance and bark in confusion.
In conclusion, most dog toys are safe for your dog, but you should supervise them at all times when they are playing even if the toy is generally safe because you will not only save thousands of dollars if something goes wrong but also your dog’s life.
When you can, make sure to check the manufacturing labels of the dog toys that you are looking to buy because if they are being honest as they should be, you will see if there are any chemicals that you should avoid such as BPA, phthalates, and formaldehyde.
There are some other chemicals that have the potential to be harmful to your dog but if you wish to read further into it then there are resources out there that you can turn to that will go into more detail.
It is worth finding what kind of toy works for your dog because it will give them hours of playtime and can have many other benefits as a good toy can make your dog more confident, improve your relationship, and even make them healthier as toys can be used as a positive reinforcement instead of treats which cuts out a lot of extra calories.