— Tennis balls, Frisbees, rawhides and Kongs line the shelves of pet stores. As you face these choices, which toys should or shouldn’t you buy for man’s best friend?
Dog owners first giving toys to their pets should buy a variety of items to see what the animal prefers, said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor and director of general surgery services at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“They are going to have a toy preference the same way that children have toy preferences,” he said. “Once you determine their favorites, you can adjust your selection and your budget accordingly for the toys that entertain your pet.”
Stickney said it’s important to make sure the toy is made of nontoxic material and is the appropriate size for the animal.
A five-pound Yorkie, for example, will not be able to use an extra-large Kong toy made for a Rotweiller. Kong toys, he added, are among his favorite because they keep pets busy by challenging them to get a treat out of a small hole in the toy. Also, they are made of a durable rubber.
As for treats, Stickney said it's important to consider the amount of calories in the snack. Treats should encompass no more than five percent of the animal’s total diet, he said, so the animal will not put on extra weight.
Rawhides are another category of edible toy for dogs. They are great for the animal to chew on because they will not damage the dog's teeth, he said. He advises buying rawhides the animal can chew for a few hours, instead of a few days.
“When rawhides sit around for too long, they grow bacteria and can potentially make your pet sick,” he said.
Ropes are a common toy that pet owners should avoid. A string can get caught in the animal’s intestinal tract as a “linear foreign body," he said, which may act like a saw inside the intestines as the animal continues to pass it.
“This is similar to them getting a rope burn on the inside of their intestines,” he said. “It can kill them. Nothing with string of any sort is good for them.”
After giving a dog toys, Stickney said, it's important to watch the pet for a few hours.
“You need to watch them to make sure they are not going to end up hurting themselves on it by tearing it into pieces, swallowing it, or cutting themselves on it,” he said.
Once you know your pets can’t get into trouble with their new toys, it is fine to leave them alone.
“That is the beauty of having things that enrich their lives,” he said. “This way, they have something to do when the fun people are out of the house for a while. It keeps them busy.”
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.