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Don’t let dog chew bones or tennis balls

Q: Baxter, my 5-year-old retriever mix, broke a tooth while gnawing on a bone. The veterinarian extracted the fractured tooth and remarked that Baxter’s enamel was badly worn, probably from chewing on tennis balls. Can you suggest some safe chew toys?

A: The nylon fuzz on tennis balls damages enamel in two ways: it’s abrasive even when clean, and it picks up dirt that acts like sandpaper on teeth.

For that reason, I gave our golden retriever ball-hound Sam smooth racquetball balls, but he chewed them to bits and swallowed the pieces. Fortunately, he threw them up, so I didn’t have to surgically remove them. But that was the end of his racquetball fun—and a lesson for us all.

You learned an expensive lesson about rigid chew toys: Anything harder than teeth breaks teeth. The list includes natural and nylon bones, antlers, cow hooves, dried pig ears, hard plastic chew toys and even ice cubes.

Safe chew toys have some “give.” Most dogs can safely chew firm rubber toys, which are available in a variety of shapes. Kong black toys are good for power chewers, but if Baxter destroys one, you’ll need to ask your veterinarian to order the nearly indestructible Kong blue toys.

Make the toy more fun by hiding a treat or some peanut butter or frozen canned dog food inside. In addition, offer Baxter a twisted rope toy and some dental chews. Also, increase Baxter’s physical activity to tire him out before he settles down with his chew toys.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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