If you’re a pet parent, the local pet store is likely among your most visited spots on the block. The temptation to restock your pup with the newest toys and treats is simply too hard to resist. Walking the aisles, you’ll notice that the sheer breadth of options can get overwhelming. But did you know that not all products are safe and healthy for your pet? We chatted with Figo Business Development Coordinator and former vet tech Kelley Giorgianni to get a list of the top ten items to avoid at the pet store.
Disclaimer: We get it – we’re all trying to do our very best for our pets. Sometimes, that may mean grabbing the nearest item on the shelf because your dog simply adores it. No judgment here, but if you’re looking for some extra guidance, we’ve got you covered.
1. Rawhide/bully sticks
While it’s beloved by many dogs, rawhide can pose a particular hazard to their digestive systems. They’re quite easy to break into smaller pieces, which then may get caught in windpipes or your dog’s intestines. Rawhide is usually chemically treated as well, which isn’t good for pups with sensitive stomachs. Bully sticks pose a similar threat to your dog. They can easily get stuck in the trachea and cause choking.
2. Laser pointers
Hours of entertainment in one little toy – what cat owner wouldn’t be drawn to these fun devices? Sadly, they may not be the best choice for your feline friend. Since your pet is ultimately unable to “catch” what they are chasing, it can lead to frustration and annoyance – akin to dangling a treat over your pet’s head without ever rewarding them. There is also the risk of ocular damage if you accidentally shine the pointer in their eyes.
3. Greenies, Dentasticks, etc.
Sadly, while Greenies and Dentasticks do help control tartar and plaque in dogs, they’re particularly rough on doggy digestive systems. The culprit, in this case, is added Glycerin - a sugar alcohol that pulls water into the bowels and functions as a laxative. The result? A potential accident waiting to happen on your nice new rug.
4. "Peek-a-Boo" toys
Cats love hide-and-seek toys. You know the ones – they contain a ball or gadget and tempt your pet to paw at the prize within. While these are great at keeping pets pacified, they can become dangerous when used improperly. Your cat can easily get paws, limbs, and heads stuck in the small spaces in these toys. A better alternative is to simply provide your cat with a ball or mouse toy that they can play with, without having to reach inside something to retrieve it.
No hate to this popular dog chew, but you may want to skip this one on your next shopping trip. Nylabone offers a line of edible and not-so-edible bones – we love a brand with options! The issue, however, is that the classic Nylabone is not meant to be eaten. Since it’s shaped like a bone, many dogs naturally break off pieces that may get caught in their digestive tract or give them an upset stomach.
6. Beggin Strips
We don’t mean to call out this brand specifically, but Beggin Strips fall under the category of low-quality dog treats with lots of unhealthy additives. Keep in mind, we’re all just doing our best as pet parents and no one should be judged when they’re operating under the best intentions. But if you’re able to splurge a little, why not opt for a more natural treat with fewer ingredients? A great alternative is freeze-dried meat treats. Dogs think they’re finger-licking good, and they’re way healthier overall.
7. Animal hoof treats
Cow hoof treats are extremely popular among large dog breeds who enjoy working on a bone that’s a little bit more complex and long-lasting. They contain a meaty mixture, and then, of course, a real hoof at the bottom. These may be difficult for pet parents to stomach, but that’s not their only downside. Hoofs are quite hard – they have to withstand dirt, debris, and support the weight of a giant mammal. Because they are so difficult to break down, it’s easy for dogs to chip and fracture teeth while attempting to chew them. No one likes a surprise dental surgery bill! Next time, use the fingernail test. If the treat or bone in question indents when you apply pressure with your nail, then it’s safe for doggy teeth. If not, you may want to pass in favor of a softer chew.
8. Balls of yarn
Still sold as cat toys in stores around the country today, we don’t think much explanation is needed for why these can be dangerous for pets. Cats are naturally curious, and it’s all too easy for them to become ensnared and possibly choke on any loose yarn. Toys like these also can cause a linear foreign body – that’s when the string gets caught in your cat's intestines, then starts cinching up like an accordion. It usually requires surgery to fix and can be deadly. As if you needed any more of a reason to avoid them, balls of yarn are also just a huge pain to clean up once unraveled. Stick to safer toys that don’t pose such a large hazard.
If you’ve stuck around for the majority of this list, you can probably already imagine why antlers pose a risk to dogs. If they are hard enough to ward off other deer, antlers are much too hard for your dog’s teeth. Additionally, smaller pieces may splinter off and cause internal blockages, wounds, or punctures.
10. Pig ears
Have you ever given your pup a pig’s ear and noticed the greasy residue left on your hands afterward? Pig’s ears are high in fat, which isn’t the best choice for overweight dogs. The high-fat content also means they’re more likely to cause gastrointestinal upset (aka the runs) which may leave a bit of a mess for you to clean up afterward. Another lesser-known issue is that harmful bacteria like salmonella can be found on these seemingly innocuous treats. Next time you head to the store, give them a pass.
So what treats ARE safe to buy at the pet store?
While most pet-related questions are not a one-size-fits-all situation, there are generally some treats that are approved by most vets.
Likely one of the most widely used pet products, Kongs are superior when it comes to both entertainment value and safety. Because they can be customized and filled with whatever treats your pet tolerates best, you can ensure no upset tummies results from playtime. They're great for keeping dogs enriched and stimulated, and can be frozen, hand-washed, or easily cleaned in the dishwasher.
2. Rachel Ray Soup Bones
Soft enough that they pass the fingernail test, these bones may not be long-lasting but they're safe and vet approved! Just make sure you give these to medium-sized dogs and larger only - smaller dogs may have difficulty digesting them due to their size.
3. Paper Bags
Sure, these may not necessarily be on your local pet store shelves per se, but vets consider these to be one of the safest "toy" options for cats. Not only do they provide hours of entertainment, but they have no choking parts and can easily be cleaned/stored away until the next play session.
4. Puzzle Feeders
Whether you're the parent of a cat or dog, puzzle toys and treat dispensers are always a vet favorite. They provide your companions with hours of mental stimulation and training in the process. With dozens of arrangements and options to choose from, you can't go wrong!
Don't forget - even the most careful pet parent can be caught with an emergency vet bill. All it takes is one misplaced chomp on their favorite bone and you may be looking at a sudden dental surgery or obstruction removal. Protect yourself, and your pet, so you can have peace of mind and get back to playtime - get a quote today.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.
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