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Eight Do’s and Don’ts for Your Dog’s Chew Toys

Chewing is a normal and necessary activity for our canine friends; it provides exercise and stress relief and is a satisfying behavior for most dogs, especially puppies.  It is important, however, to be sure chew toys are safe.

In general, DO:

  • Keep an eye on your dog while he’s chewing to prevent choking or swallowing large chunks of a bone or toy.
  • Provide toys with “give” and some flexibility.  If you can’t bend it slightly or indent with your fingernail, it is too hard for your dog to safely chew.
  • Match your dog’s size and chewing style to the right chew toy. Dogs that chew and consume chew toys or eat raw hides like potato chips are not getting the benefit of chewing. Pieces of bones or toys that are swallowed can lead to internal blockages. Throw away chunks small enough to be swallowed or pose a choking hazard.
  • Provide “tooth-friendly” toys and treats.  Chewing for 10 minutes a day is great for your dog’s teeth, although it doesn’t replace daily brushing to control plaque. See for a list of Veterinary Oral Health Council approved, “tooth-friendly” products.
  • Stimulate your dog’s brain! Kong™ toys stuffed with peanut butter and dry dog food and then frozen, can provide hours of fun, but messy, chewing for your dog.  Some new lines of peanut butter now contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs, so make sure your product is xylitol-free. Chew toys that act as food puzzles can also provide something new and different for your dog to do!

On the other hand, definitely DON’T:

  • Allow your dog to chew on plastic bones such as “nylabones”, real bones, marrow bones, knuckles, antlers, hooves, and rocks.  These are too hard for teeth and can injure or break them. Ouch!
  • Provide Chinese-made chicken jerky treats. Reports of serious illness in dogs from these treats continue to be filed by pet owners, but FDA officials have been unable to uncover a specific contaminant. For now, it’s safest to just say no to chicken jerky treats.
  • Let your dog chew on tennis balls. For a game of fetch, tennis balls are perfectly fine. For dogs that want to continuously chew a tennis ball, however, the ball’s surface is too abrasive and can cause abnormal tooth crown wear and pulp exposure.

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