A gray Wheaton cat looking up.

Although modern dogs and cats look pretty different from their wild cousins, many of the instincts remain the same. For many pets, the need to chew, hunt and stalk prey, or just get their excess energy out can be relieved with a good toy. Providing them with safe outlets for these deeply-rooted needs seems like a reasonable way to protect your furniture, shoes, and other belongings – but there are more to pet toys than meets the eye.

Every year thousands of pets need medical treatment for injuries related to dangerous pet toys. That’s why it’s up to us to figure out which toys are safe, and which should be avoided.

Dangerous Pet Toys to Watch Out For

Any pet toy can be dangerous in the wrong hands (or paws), but the following items pose a higher-than-average risk to pets:

Pig ears – In 2019, pig ears from several different manufacturers were responsible for a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people and pets. The CDC and FDA have recommended that pet owners not purchase pig ears for their pets.

Rawhides – Although some rawhide chews are safe for dogs (look for those manufactured in the U.S.), those made in foreign countries may contain toxic chemicals used during the processing step. Rawhides can also be ripped into large chunks and swallowed, which can result in a dangerous intestinal obstruction.

Rope toys – With rope toys there is always the risk your dog could chew off pieces of rope and swallow them. Besides posing a choking risk, thin strands of string or rope can become entangled in the intestine, requiring emergency surgery to fix.

Toys with only one hole – Any rubber toy with a hole at only one end, such as a ball, can cause serious injury to a pet’s tongue. Without a hole on the other end, the tongue can become stuck, swell, and require surgery or even amputation to remove.

Finding Safe Pet Toys

Your pet’s size, activity level, and personal preference should all come into play when selecting safe toys for them.

  • Buy the toys of appropriate size for your pet – toys that are too small can be swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s throat.
  • Discard toys as soon as they are torn or start to break into pieces. 
  • Supervise your pet any time they’re playing with or chewing on a toy.

Please contact the veterinarians at Wheaton Animal Hospital with your questions and concerns regarding dangerous pet toys.