Toy Safety for Adult Dogs

  • Toys thrown to dogs to catch should not be hard or heavy, as they can fracture the front teeth.
  • Do not use rocks as toys.
  • Tug toys are fine for most dogs but should be avoided with dogs who have neck or back problems, especially those with herniated disks.
  • Avoid playing games that encourage dogs to jump and twist simultaneously. Such maneuvers can cause leg and back injuries such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture or herniated vertebral disks.
  • If your dog always pulls the stuffing out of toys, especially if he eats it, gut the toy for him and let him play with the skin. Many dogs enjoy them more this way.
  • Do not get a rubber toy that has a small hole in only one end. Some dogs have gotten their tongues into the hole, creating a vacuum so that the tongue became stuck. If you have such a ball, drill a hole in the other end so a vacuum can't form.
  • The ever-popular tennis ball can even be a bad choice, not only because some dogs are large enough for the ball to become lodged in their trachea, but also because the fuzz on the ball's surface is abrasive to teeth. Tennis ball addicts may develop worn teeth from catching and chewing on tennis balls; at normal levels of play, however, the balls should not be damaging.

Unfortunately, dog toys are not regulated for pet safety by any government agency. That means that much of the responsibility for choosing a toy safe for your particular dog is up to you. Some toys are made from toxic materials, or may contain unsafe levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, formaldehyde or BPA (a hormone disruptor). Even if you buy products made in America, that is no guarantee that the components are nontoxic. Also, avoid strong chemical smells and study label instructions when available.
And don't worry so much that you forget to have fun! Most toys, with a little thought and supervision, are fine! When in doubt, ask your vet's advice.

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