7 Dog Choking Hazards to Avoid

Tennis balls, sticks and steak bones may be some of your dog’s favorite things. But many well-intentioned owners don’t realize that these items — and other things they may typically give their dogs — can be dangerous.  

Vetstreet talked with Dr. Mary Fuller, DVM, to find out what dog owners should avoid to help keep their dog safe. 

Check out the gallery below to learn about common canine choking hazards, then watch this video to learn the potentially lifesaving “ drop it” command, and discover what to do if your dog is choking.

Hidden Dangers for Dogs

black lab with stick



We know your dog might love playing fetch with a stick, and it’s hard to keep her from gnawing on the ones she finds in the yard. But Dr. Fuller says sticks are a big problem. Dogs can choke on them and require surgery to remove the foreign body, and sticks can splinter and get stuck in the roof of the mouth, too.

French Bulldog with a tennis ball


Tennis Balls

The ever-present tennis ball seems harmless, but unless you’re supervising the dog’s play, it has the potential to cause problems. Your pooch can compress the tennis ball with his strong jaws, allowing it to become lodged in his throat and cutting off his air supply. The balls can also be abrasive to the teeth, and dogs can swallow chewed-up pieces, which then have to be surgically removed. To use tennis balls safely, put them away out of reach after you’ve played fetch, and don’t let your pup use one as a chew toy.

steak bone



Even though many dogs drool at the sight of a cooked steak or rib bone, you will be doing them a favor by ignoring the temptation to give it to them. In addition to the potential for choking if your dog tries to swallow it whole or in pieces, broken pieces have sharp edges that can cause cuts in the mouth, esophagus and digestive tract, Dr. Fuller says. Dogs can also choke on marrow bones, hooves and horns.

dog toys


Certain Dog Toys

Dog toys are generally a safer choice — but you have to be sure the ones you choose for your dog aren’t small enough to be inhaled or swallowed or have parts she can break off easily and swallow. If your dog tends to tear apart squeaky toys to get to the source of the squeak, you should only allow her to have those toys when you can watch her play.

Dachshund with rawhide



Rawhides are OK only under supervision, and as long as you only give your dog larger bones that don’t have little pieces that can be easily torn off, Dr. Fuller says. “I lean to the larger rawhide rolls rather than the braided rawhide or pencil-thin ones they can destroy in minutes,” she says. “You really have to watch them and take the bone away if it’s getting smaller or if they start pulling off pieces.”

dog with dental chew


Dental Treats

Dental chews and dental sticks also require supervision, Dr. Fuller says. She recommends looking for chews that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. “They should also be highly digestible so, if they do get stuck at some point, they’re more likely to disintegrate quickly,” she says.

kids playroom toys


Kids' Toys

There are plenty of other items that might be around your house that aren’t meant for dogs and can cause your pet to choke, including children’s toys, cats' toys, socks, underwear or certain food items that might be on your counter. “Really, anything that requires chewing or any toy that’s small enough to get lodged in the esophagus or trachea can be a choking hazard,” Dr. Fuller warns.

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