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The text arrived in late October from our friend Jenn, Zip’s grandma. Jenn had given Zip a deer antler to chew on, which unfortunately, had became lodged in his throat. “I am so upset that I almost killed Zip!”, she wrote. “I had no idea that deer antlers were dangerous!” The result was an expensive trip to the doggie ER and that horrible burden of guilt. Zip survived, only to have another harrowing experience involving plastic and a battery. Which, thankfully, he survived.
When our girls were young, we always checked the “age appropriate” and warning information on toy packaging before purchasing anything. Pet toys do not come with the same helpful information. Responsible pet owners must be diligent in choosing safe, and appropriate, toys for our beloved furry family members.
So, what has your kitty or pup told Santa they would like for Christmas? A new collar? A tennis ball? Catnip or maybe new yarn? Without play, dogs and cats become restless and bored. Who wants a shredded sofa cushion or the contents of a trash can strewn throughout the house? For dogs and cats, toys are not a luxury. Pet toys are a necessity.
Keena has a cool Kong toy. Kibbles are placed inside the Kong and then she has to figure out how to get the food out. Impressed with the way it kept her busy (and thinking) I headed to the pet store to find one for Maggie. So many pet toys! Bright purple toys. Toys to relieve stress. Toys to provide comfort. Toys to provide companionship. Squeaky toys. Rope toys. Battery operated toys. Outdoor toys. Indoor toys. Too. Many. Choices.
What is a pet parent to do?
DO NOT PURCHASE THESE PET TOYS:
- Pet toys that are vinyl. Dioxins are a byproduct of vinyl and cause cancer. Vinyl is difficult to recycle. Vinyl also contains a number of additives which are highly toxic. Eventually vinyl hardens and becomes brittle, causing a choking hazard (right, Zip?). More information about the dangers of vinyl (including how it affects human reproduction) can be found at http://www.whole-dog-journal.com
- Pet toys with a single air hole. A single air hole can act as a deadly suction cup.
- Rope toys. Dogs can pull of pieces and swallow them. Shards can block your pups intestines and those will need to be surgically removed.
- Pig’s ears, deer antlers, rib bones, cow and beef hooves, and bone marrow . These can cause your dog to choke (right, Zip?), give your pup an upset stomach, or fracture their teeth.
- Squeaky toys and toys with batteries are choking hazards and require supervision. Your pup will chew the toy, wanting to get to the squeaker. Once that victory has been scored, attempting to chew the squeaker will be the natural choice. (Again, right Zip?)
- Anything a cat can rip into pieces.
- Balls that are too small.
- Toys that have ribbon, yarn, strings, eyes, or other small items that can be chewed off.
- Plain old yarn, string, or ribbon. Cats can be strangled by these items or swallow these items, resulting in a blocked intestine
SAFE PET TOYS:
- Laser toys (don’t point a laser directly in your pet’s eyes). See a fun laser toy at http://www.petsafe.net/toys
- Tennis balls. There is some controversy regarding the safety of tennis balls. Dr. Marty Becker (http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/are-tennis-balls-a-dangerous-toy-for-dogs) writes that dog owners don’t have to forbid tennis balls as pet toys. Dogs have strong jaws that can compress a tennis ball. The compressed ball can pop into the dog’s throat cutting off the air supply. While playing fetch, insist that your pup releases the ball immediately. After fetch, put the ball away. Never let your pup to use a tennis ball as a chew toy.
- Very hard rubber toys. http://www.kongcompany.com and http://www.nylabone.com sell a variety of toys that will engage your pup for hours.
If you would not give a toy to a child to play with, do not give it to your furry child. ALWAYS inspect pet toys for safety and discard those that could be hazardous. Just as you would with a child, supervise your pet’s play.