Goodies for your dogs Christmas Stocking

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Chew Toys and Bones Written by Dr. Sherry Weaver
All puppies have an undeniable need to chew, and labs can be among the worst. The key to keeping an intelligent dog like a lab from being destructive is to provide a stimulating environment. A big part of this stimulation should be playing with owners and training. When owners are not available, appropriate toys for both education and chewing are extremely helpful.

The truth is that there are no completely safe chew toys. Any product that is swallowed has the potential to cause an upset stomach. All natural products are preserved with chemicals, and rawhide has been found to have unhealthy chemicals and bacteria. Our biggest worries are toys that cause more serious problems such as blockages or tooth fractures. The key to safe use of any toy is to read labels and watch your dog at play with the toy to determine which is best for him as an individual.

Rawhides have the advantage of being tasty and relatively inexpensive. Most dogs love them. The disadvantage of rawhide is that it can be quickly chewed into small chunks, and dogs have been known to swallow pieces too large and get blocked up. These blockages are extremely rare, especially with single-ply rawhide, but you should watch your dog play with the rawhide and take it away if he is breaking off large chunks to swallow. When the rawhides wear down to a swallow-able sized piece, they should be thrown away. If your dog is a slower chewer and makes a rawhide last for a day or two, then it can be appropriate. When you do buy rawhide, try to get it from a reputable manufacturer, although the recent pet food crisis has made us all aware that even that is not enough to guarantee a lack of harmful chemicals.

Another common natural product available in pet stores is the large beef leg bones. These bones are too hard for most dogs to splinter and swallow (although if they do it has a chance of causing some stomach problems which may require surgery for removal.) The main disadvantage to these bones is that they very commonly cause fractures in the dog’s teeth.

Some people still give dogs poultry bones to chew (especially around the holidays). These bones shatter easily into extremely sharp long shards and can cause a pretty nasty irritation in the stomach and on down the intestines. Although it is rare for a dog to get Salmonella, you should be careful about feeding raw poultry bones. I usually recommend that my patients avoid any bones.

Many dogs seem to enjoy the taste of cow hooves, and they are relatively safe for the teeth. However, they do seem to be easily swallowed. If your dog tends to swallow large pieces, they are not right for you.

I have recently been seeing “bully bones” in the pet stores. This piece of cow anatomy is relatively new to the pet market, but it seems very safe. It can be chewed up relatively quickly, but appears to be pretty digestible. The only disadvantage I have found is that they can be a little expensive and often don’t last very long. But, so far, this is one of the safest chew products that I have found.

Soft rubber squeaky toys are great for small gentle dogs, but usually do not last very long with big dogs. Dogs that chew them up quickly will often swallow the squeaker or big chunks of the rubber. Usually these squeakers are too small to cause a blockage, but you should look at each one compared to the size of your dog. Squeaky toys can be fun, safe, and inexpensive, but not very practical if you go through several a day.

Harder rubber chew toys are often not very exciting to dogs due to lack of flavor. They are unlikely to cause stomach problems, but they can cause tooth fractures. Some of them have a place in the middle to fill with a treat or some peanut butter, so they become more popular with the dogs. The advantage of these is that they last a long time, and they are almost impossible to chew up.

Balls of various sorts are the most common things that I have had to surgically remove from a dogs’ stomach. Again, if your dog chews up balls quickly, it is not an appropriate toy, but if he just carries it around, it is probably safe.

In recent years, it has become easier to find dogs new “educational toys”. These toys are often balls that must be manipulated in a certain way to release treats. They are usually made of break resistant plastic, and since they are round, they are hard to chew up or break teeth on. These toys not only indulge the need to chew, but they stimulate the dog and prevent boredom. These are my absolute favorite toys for puppies and dogs alike. The only challenge I have seen with these is that they can have a bit of a learning curve before the dog realizes that treats come out.

Dr. Weaver

About Dr. Sherry Weaver

Dr. Weaver graduated with honors from the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She founded a state-of-the-art animal hospital, teaches pet care to children, and donates time and resources to rescue organizations.

Note: The opinions and views expressed in the Ask the Vet articles are the result of Dr. Sherry Weaver’s formal education and over 14 years in clinical experiences. Your veterinarian is the best source of information for your pet’s specific needs.

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Lesley Sullivan - Owner of the Pawkeepers A unique Bed & Biscuit Inn, offering numerous opportunities for your dog that are not available in crates, kennels and many other pet boarding establishments

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