When you leave your furry pal for the day, you want to ensure they’re entertained and content while they are alone, so you likely toss your pet a chew toy before walking out the door. Chew toys can provide hours of fun, but some are dangerous, especially for pets who are unsupervised. To help you choose the best chew toys for your four-legged friend, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team provides a run-down on various popular options. 

To make the best—and safest—toy choice for your pet, first determine their chewing type. Before purchasing an item, ask yourself the following questions:  

  • Does my pet try to eat their toys, rather than gnaw on them for hours?
  • Does my pet nibble daintily at chews, or try to devour them whole?
  • Would my pet prefer an interactive toy to a plain chew?
  • How old is my pet?
  • Is the chew designed for small, medium, or large pets?

After categorizing your pet, it’s time to head out shopping. Following are some of our favorite pet chew toys, while some are best left on the store shelf.

The pet toy: Rope toys

Product description: Your canine companion loves a good game of tug-of-war, and rope toys are perfect for keeping your fingers safe from an inadvertent chomp. As an added benefit, the rope strands can help floss your pet’s teeth.

Safe or unsafe?: While rope toys can be safe when used under supervision, they’re best put away when you can’t watch your dog. Some dogs will chew apart and swallow the strands, which typically requires surgical removal. So, use rope toys when you’re playing with your pet, but keep them out of reach when you’re not home. Also, toss them out as soon as they become mangled and raggedy. 

The pet toy: Kong toys

Product description: Some of the most popular Kong toys are their rubber chew toys, which include feline-friendly options, and come in a range of sizes and strengths. Best of all—in your pet’s opinion—the rubber toys are hollow and can be stuffed with snacks. Fill the Kong toy with peanut butter, spray cheese, canned food, yogurt, tuna, and fresh fruits and veggies, and then freeze overnight for a long-lasting treat.  

Safe or unsafe?: Rubber Kong toys are safer than most rubber balls, since they have two holes that greatly reduce the potential for choking. To further reduce your pet’s risk, always choose an appropriate-sized toy that’s impossible to swallow. Kong toys of the correct size and durability make great chew toys.

The pet toy: Stuffed toys

Product description: Stuffed animals, which are made in a wide range of fabrics, from soft and plush to rugged, are hugely popular with pets, especially when they contain a hidden squeaker. These toys can be greatly entertaining for pets, until they’re inevitably shredded.

Safe or unsafe?: In general, stuffed toys are not the best option for most pets. Although some stuffed toys claim that they’re designed for powerful chewers, they rarely last long, and your pet may ingest the stuffing or squeaker inside if they destroy the toy when they’re home alone. If you want your pet to enjoy pouncing on their prey, always use stuffed toys under direct supervision, and remove the stuffing immediately to prevent a gastrointestinal obstruction.

The pet toy: Rawhides

Product description: Rawhides are another popular chew, with numerous varieties in multiple sizes and flavors lining pet store shelves. A rawhide seems like the ideal chew, but beware.

Safe or unsafe?: Although generally long-lasting, rawhides can lead to gastrointestinal upset and obstructions. These chews are made from bleached, processed animal hide, and then flavored with artificial ingredients, so they contain a ton of chemicals. Additionally, a rawhide typically turns into a soggy mess once your pet starts chewing, and can become a choking hazard if swallowed. You may be watching your pet gnawing away, but accidents can happen quickly, so rawhide items are best avoided.

The pet toy: Bones, hooves, and antlers

Product description: These rock-solid chews may seem the perfect match for power chewers, but they’re often harder than your pet’s teeth.

Safe or unsafe?: Bones, hooves, and antlers can provide months of entertainment, but they can also easily fracture your pet’s teeth. Sharp tips and splinters can also be ingested and puncture the gastrointestinal tract. These toys can be long-lasting, but they are also hazardous to your pet’s health.

The pet toy: Greenies

Product description: Greenies are chews and treats with proven dental health benefits, so your pet not only gets a tasty treat, but also a healthier mouth. 

Safe or unsafe?: Greenies are a great option for pets, especially since they are Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved. Products awarded the VOHC seal of approval have demonstrated their ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, making Greenies a safe, multi-purpose chew.

If your furry pal gets their paws—and jaws—on an inappropriate chew toy and suffers a fractured tooth or gastrointestinal obstruction, don’t delay. Contact our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team for after-hours care if your family veterinarian is closed for the day.