Like it or not, chewing comes naturally to your furry friend. Unfortunately, they're not always good at picking the safest items to chew. There's a multitude of reasons that something might be unsafe for your dog to gnaw on - they may be too hard for dog teeth, can splinter in the throat, or cause a choking hazard.
We looked at the top most popular items that dogs like to chew on and outlined which can hurt your dog and result in a large vet bill.
Note - always consult your vet before giving your dog a new toy or bone that you're unsure of. They can advise for your specific dog. And don't feel guilty if you've given them any of the items on this list before - we're here to help you make the best decisions moving forward!
10 dangerous dog chews every dog owner needs to look out for
The following items may seem innocent at first glance but may end up harming your dog.
1. Ice cubes
Many people give their dogs ice cubes to chew on when the weather is hot. Unfortunately, large cubes can pose a choking hazard to dogs, particularly if your friend has damaged or missing teeth and can't break them down before swallowing.
Cubes that are too hard may break teeth, and chewing on any hard substance over time may weaken the enamel. To combat this issue, if you would like to feed your dog ice cubes when the temperatures start rising, focus on small cubes or shaved ice. Your wallet (and pup) will thank you!
Dogs and sticks are a love story promoted throughout history. Sadly, the reality is that unless watched closely during play, sticks can pose a threat to your beloved pet. Sticks can puncture a dog's eyes, throat, or abdomen if they splinter. And any item that has the ability to splinter can become a choking hazard before you can intervene.
To best protect your dog's safety, never use a stick for fetch or as a chew toy, and opt for pet-safe toys instead.
This one is going to be controversial. Some pet lovers enthusiastically recommend bones, claiming that they're a safe outlet for a dog's natural chewing instinct. Other experts say that is only true if you ignore the following facts:
Whether cooked or uncooked, bones are still hard enough to break teeth.
Bone fragments can pass through the small intestine, accumulate in the colon, and cause constipation.
When a piece of bone breaks off, it can get stuck in the esophagus and pierce the throat or esophagus. Once lodged, the area can swell, making breathing difficult.
We know, we know, this might sound a little like fear-mongering. But vets do agree that a large portion of dogs they see for emergencies involve seemingly innocuous bones. And at Figo, we want you to have as much information as possible to be the best pet parent you can be (and hopefully never have to use your insurance for an emergency situation). Stay tuned for some pet-friendly chewing suggestions at the end of this article!
This may seem obvious, but keep your eye on your pup if you're out hiking in a particularly rocky area. Dogs may try to swallow rocks that have food particles on them because they believe them to be edible. Rocks can pose a major choking hazard to your dog and result in an intestinal blockage that requires surgery to fix.
If your dog tries to compulsively eat rocks, they may be suffering from a condition called Pica. This illness causes pets to crave non-food items like woodchips, dirt, or stones. It's more common than pet parents may think! If you suspect your dog may be suffering from this, we recommend visiting the vet asap to talk over management options before your pet ends up ill or at the emergency vet.
5. Yak cheese dog chews
A favorite among many dog owners, unfortunately, Yak cheese treats can be too hard for regular chewing and can lead to broken teeth. When given the vet-recommended "fingernail test", it sadly does not pass.
Some brands of Yak chews soften if you warm them in the microwave, so if you're still interested in these treats, it may be best to look for that feature.
If your pup can't give up the Yak, just make sure you observe closely while they chew and never leave them unattended.
Rawhide is another pet parent favorite that sadly may not be safe for your best friend. They can get lodged in a dog's throat, stomach, or intestines and cause choking or digestive obstruction.
Additionally, rawhide can be hard to digest, so they especially should not be given to dogs with a history of pancreatitis or gastrointestinal issues.
Cow hooves, like bones and other hard chew toys, pose the risk of breaking your dog's teeth or splintering, which could result in a puncture wound in their mouth or digestive tract.
Think about it: hooves have to be hard and solid enough so that the animal they support (horses, cows, etc.) can tackle even the toughest trekking terrain. This means they're absolutely too hard for easily-chipped dog teeth. We recommend you give this treat a pass.
8. Tennis balls
This entry may break a lot of active pet parent hearts. Here's the scoop: tennis balls contain chemicals and dyes that can be bad for your dog's health. And if your dog is a strong chewer with destructive jaws, they can easily break them into pieces and swallow the bits, creating a choking hazard and potential intestinal blockages.
Even the lime green fuzz can pose a risk and when consumed, may lead to digestive issues and blocks. The AKC recommends that tennis balls are reserved only for games of fetch, and otherwise not left out unattended around your dog.
9. Plastic water bottles
Some dogs enjoy chewing on plastic water bottles before their mom or dad tosses them in the recycling. If you allow your dog to indulge in an Evian bottle or two, beware that if the cap comes off, they can swallow it. This poses a choking hazard, particularly for smaller dogs and puppies. There's also the possibility that they may tear off pieces of plastic and try to ingest these sharp pieces, which may lead to intestinal blockage and internal punctures.
10. Hard objects
There are many hard items that your dog might discover and chew on, leading to serious problems. If you notice your dog gnawing on something very hard, it's best to take the object away to protect your pet.
As mentioned earlier, the fingernail test - where you press a nail into the item in question and observe whether it leaves an indent - is the best way to tell if a treat or toy is too hard for your pup. If it indents, congrats! That item is likely dog-teeth safe.
Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog is hurt or injured by one of these dangerous dog chews. And don't forget that having pet insurance can help with any accidents or injuries that result from a play sesh!
So what items are safe for my dog to chew?
According to PetsRadar, the following checklist can be used to determine an ideal dog chew:
Tough and long-lasting
Available in a range of sizes to suit each dog
Completely and quickly digestible, in case of swallowing
Not harder than dental enamel
Contains no harmful chemicals
Attractive to dogs (tastes/smells good, right texture)
Doesn’t splinter into sharp pieces
Unfortunately, virtually no dog toys or chews fit perfectly into all of these categories. However, some are better than others.
1. Rubber Kong toys
Most vets will stand behind the beloved Kong toy. Not only are they durable and good for rough chewers, when you put treats inside, it provides important mental stimulation for your dog and can give them hours of entertainment.
2. Digestible cartilage
These can be found in the form of turkey necks, tendon bones, and beef tracheas (among others). Soft enough that they can break down in the digestive tract if swallowed and malleable enough to not chip dog teeth, while these may not satisfy a hardcore chewer, calmer pups may enjoy this hard bone alternative.
3. Rope toys
Even the most destructive of pups may find shredding a rope toy to be a difficult task. These toys provide a satisfying resistance to hearty chewers but are soft enough to leave teeth undamaged. Plus, you can also take up a game of tug-o-war with your dog for even more fun!
Want more pet-safe treat recommendations? Check out 10 Healthy-ish Treats Your Dog Won’t Hate.
Hanh Duong is a dynamic pet writer and owner of Petchao.com - a popular resource for all matters relating to the Akita. You can reach her via email at email@example.com.