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A cheat sheet for finding the best dog chew toys

Here’s why dog bones aren’t a great option.

Your dog is so cute, so can you blame your friends and family for constantly dropping off new toys at your house? I mean, what's better than seeing that tail wag into a full-body wiggle? But whoever buys these toys may not be thinking about how safe they are for your best friend.

The right chew toys promote healthy teeth and gums, strengthen jaw muscles and help ensure dogs get enough mental stimulation, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, explains. But not every toy on the market is “the right” toy for your pup. Luckily, our cheat sheet on spotting safe dog toys will help you know which ones to toss out.

Good toys for dogs

Pay close attention to the materials used to make your dog's chew toys. Avoid toys made from vinyl or rubber plastics, as they can easily tear apart, making them a risk for choking or gastrointestinal obstruction, Dr. McCullough says. 

Instead of rubber plastics, she recommends looking for chews made from natural rubber. Pro-tip: Most of the safest chew toys earn the label "phthalate-free" (which are chemicals that make plastic more durable and potentially impact a dog's reproductive system), so you'll want to look out for that too. 

Avoid adding toys made from hard plastic to your shopping cart, Dr. McCullough says. This material risks cracking or shattering your dog's teeth (especially if you have a puppy or senior pup). To test if it's too hard, press your fingernail down onto the toy. If your nail doesn't leave an indentation, then it's likely too hard.

Safe dog bones for chewing

“Unfortunately, a safe bone doesn’t exist,” Dr. McCullough explains. “Nylon bones and animal bones can cause choking, intestinal obstruction, broken teeth or other gastrointestinal injuries.”

Easily-digestible rawhides, hooves, pig ears, pizzles and antlers aren’t as bad, but those pose safety concerns, too, including: 

  • The hard material can break a dog’s tooth. 
  • Your dog can choke on the bone.
  • The bone can splinter, which can cause an internal injury for your pup. 
  • Some bones made from animal products have been recalled, so there’s always a risk of contamination.

Before giving your dog a bone, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation about safe alternatives. 

RELATED: Training mouthiness in dogs — expert tips on correcting the common behavior

Best chew toys for puppies

Soft, rubber toys are great options for puppies that are teething or biting, Dr. McCullough says. However, you should always ask your veterinarian first and be sure to monitor your puppy (and older dog) when they’re playing with a toy. 

How can I care for my dog’s toys?

There are safe solutions you can create at home to clean your dog's toys. Chew and soft toys can be hand-washed using a pet-friendly laundry or dish detergent or a solution made of one part water and one part white vinegar, Dr. McCullough recommends. If using the detergent method, rinse thoroughly to ensure the solution is removed from the toy. 

“Pet parents should discard toys that are ripped, have pieces missing or have holes in them right away,” she adds.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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