As a busy pet owner, you naturally want your furry pal to be entertained while you’re at work all day, and what could be better than a tasty chew toy to keep them busy? While you’re stuffing bones and Kongs full of peanut butter, yogurt, and spray cheese, your four-legged friend is drooling at your feet, eagerly awaiting their treat. But, are the chew toys and treats healthy and safe for your pet? There’s one way to find out—keep reading. 

Let’s play a game to see which of the following chew toys are safe for your pet:

The toy: Tennis balls

The description: Tennis balls are hollow balls covered in a fibrous felt typically made of nylon and wool, and are considered great toys for dogs. But, these popular toys pose multiple threats. While generally safe for the casual chewer or fetcher, tennis balls can become stuck in a pet’s mouth and block their airway, becoming a choking hazard. If your pet is a heavy chewer, the tennis ball felt can be abrasive, especially when wet and covered with dirt. This abrasive action can strip protective enamel from your pet’s teeth, causing dental issues.

Safe or unsafe?: Tennis balls can be safe when your pet is closely supervised, but a ball with holes to provide an airway in case of choking is better. 

The toy: Kong toys

The description: Kong has created a wide variety of toys designed for normal chewers, with heavy duty options for power chewers. The most popular Kong toys are made from rubber, although they also have plush toys. We recommend rubber Kongs with the appropriate durability and sized to fit your pet’s mouth. You can create special treats by stuffing these toys with mixtures of canned food, kibble, treats, yogurt, peanut butter, fruits, and veggies—and you can make them last longer by freezing them overnight. Also, they’re perfect for teething puppies.

Safe or unsafe?: Rubber Kongs make great chew toys for pets because they are durable enough that your pet is unlikely to gnaw off pieces, but not so hard that they harm your pet’s teeth. Plus, they have a hole in the top and bottom to provide an airway if swallowed. Kongs also come in a feline version.

The toy: Antlers, bones, and hooves

The description: Antlers, bones, and hooves are popular chew toys for pets, as they tend to be incredibly long-lasting and durable. But, they are typically more durable than the teeth of your pet, including power chewers. Many bones are covered in a sticky, sweet flavoring that can easily make dogs sick if they eat too much too quickly.

Safe or unsafe?: Antlers, bones, and hooves are best avoided, for the most powerful chewers as well. These items are often responsible for fractured teeth or gastrointestinal obstructions, as the bones can splinter and your pet can swallow the shards. 

The toy: Goughnuts

The description: These unique toys are made of 100% natural rubber, similar to rubber Kongs, and come with a lifetime guarantee. Goughnuts have a hidden safety indicator built into their stick and ring toys, and if your pooch reaches the red indicator below the outer layer, the company will replace the toy.

Safe or unsafe?: Goughnuts make excellent chew toys for pets, since they are designed with safety at the forefront. By keeping an eye out for the red warning indicator, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to replace your furry pal’s toy.

The toy: Rawhide

The description: Rawhide chews are exceedingly popular, and you can find a wide variety stocking pet store shelves. These chews are made from animal hide that has been sterilized with numerous chemicals before being injected with enticing natural or smoke flavors. Rawhide is traditionally soaked in an ash-lye mixture to remove all the hair and fat from the animal hide, and then cleaned with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. If imported overseas, the chews are packed with an extra dose of chemicals to prevent spoilage. These chemicals mean that rawhide chews may cause gastrointestinal (GI) problems for your pet. Occasionally, rawhide comes in bright colors for holiday treats, and the food coloring can cause more GI problems. Also, rawhide becomes soft and flexible when chewed, and can become a choking hazard for your pet if swallowed whole.

Safe or unsafe?: Rawhides are better left on the shelves, because many alternatives are healthier and safer for your pet.

The toy: Nylabones

The description: These popular treats come in a variety of edible and inedible options. Their Healthy Edibles line boasts natural ingredients with no added salt, sugar, or artificial preservatives, while their chew toys made from tough nylon can be used for the most powerful chewers. 

Safe or unsafe?: In general, Nylabones are considered safer than other alternatives, but still exercise caution when you give one to your pet. Your dog may bite a large piece from an edible chew that they cannot easily swallow, while the inedible toys’ durable nylon can pose a threat to their teeth. 

Is your pet prone to gnawing on anything they can fit in their mouth? Unsure if their chew toy is safe? Contact our Southwest Vet team, and we will help you determine the safest toys for your furry pal.