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Safety considerations when buying toys for dogs and cats

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Wiffle Meets Wee Westie / Randy Son of Robert on Flickr

Wiffle Meets Wee Westie

Randy Son of Robert on Flickr
While it may be tempting for some to get that gigantic chew bone or the brightly colored squeaky toy, some caution is advised before shopping for pets.

Know your pet recipient
As with a gift for a human, realize that each pet has their preferences (chewer, ball player, etc.) and some may have health conditions that warrant special attention when deciding on a gift.

Food allergies are common in pets, so tuna treats are not the gift for the fish-allergic feline. Some pets have special dietary needs. Fatty or sugary treats are not appropriate for the diabetic or overweight pet.

Whenever buying food or treat gifts for animals that are on a special diet or allergic to certain foods, remember to check the labels carefully - even when labeled as "beef" or "chicken" there are often other fillers, such as corn or fish, that may cause problems for sensitive pets.

Toys to Avoid

  • Toys that resemble common items
    Caution is advised when purchasing toys that are stuffed animals or resemble "regular" items such as shoes. Pets may not differentiate between their toys and human toys (or shoes). This is especially important in a house with small children - stuffed animals abound and the shoes are about the same size as the 'toy' ones.
  • Dyes and preservatives
    Pets don't care what color it is, the colors added to treats and chews are for the people. (Think of the stuff dogs eat in the yard.) In addition to not being healthful, dyes may stain bedding and carpet where your pet is consuming the treat.
  • Flimsy construction and dangerous materials
    Thin rubber squeak toys and Mylar ribbon cat toys are colorful and fun, but left unsupervised, a pet may chew and consume parts of these toys, with potentially very serious consequences.

String Alert
Given the chance, many cats will continue to consume a ribbon or string (tree tinsel, gift wrap, or cat 'fishing pole' type toys). Once consumed, the ribbon will bunch up in the intestines and can be fatal. This condition is referred to as a linear foreign body, and veterinary attention is required immediately. These toys are OK with supervision, but after playing, the ribbon toy should be placed in closed area, such as a closet.

Ingestible Toys Not Always Digestible
Rubber balls and chew toys can also have serious consequences when consumed. If large enough pieces are swallowed, they can cause a intestinal foreign body obstruction, also potentially life-threatening. Smooth objects (balls, coins, marbles) and hard rubber toys may be a cause of intestinal obstruction and often necessitate surgical removal.

I have removed a rubber rat head from a cat's intestine, so cats can be victims of dietary indiscretion as well as dogs. (When the owner saw the toy rat head, chewed off of the toy rat body, she exclaimed that it had been kitty's favorite toy.)

Favorite Pet Gifts

Dogs
I love the Kong Dog Toy. They offer a wide variety of sizes, shapes and "chewing strengths" - be sure to purchase a toy that is appropriate for the dog. Kong also makes cat toys now too, that are favorites of my cats.

A new favorite this year is a the Kibble Nibble Treat Ball (my review | shop).

Cats
My felines love a good catnip treat. It is important to note that not all cats enjoy catnip - approximately 30% of them do not have the necessary receptors to 'experience' the catnip, so some cats could care less about this as a gift. Catnip toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes. My cats love them!

Another good choice for cats during the cold winter months is a nice pet snuggler bed.

Related Reading:
Gift Ideas for Pet Lovers and Pets
Holiday Pets 101

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM. All rights reserved.
Photo: Westie under the Christmas tree © "Randy Son Of Robert" on Flickr

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