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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Vetstreet.com delivers advice from veterinarians, trainers and pet experts who are dedicated to giving you the most trusted, authoritative information for keeping pets healthy and happy. Our Find A Vet service connects you with leading veterinarians in your area. Launched in 2011, Vetstreet.com features veterinarian-reviewed medical advice and has quickly become one of the top animal health and lifestyle sites on the web. See more.