Many toys are designed to clean your dog’s teeth – but not all of them are safe. Here’s what to look for and what to avoid when choosing dental toys.
Does your dog run the other way when he sees his toothbrush? Why not make your dog’s oral care more fun by incorporating it into his playtime? Start by seeking safe, quality dental toys that do what they’re supposed to, and making sure your dog uses them.
Quality comes first
Good quality is an important consideration for all dog toys – especially dental products. While other playthings are designed to be fetched, snuggled and tugged, dental toys are meant to be chewed for extended periods of time. In other words, if you buy a poor quality toy, your dog will be more at risk of choking, chipping a tooth, or ingesting toxic materials. It makes sense, then, to do your research before making a purchase.
Sure, it’s easy and cost-effective to pick up a dog toy at your local dollar store. But this isn’t the safest place to shop. In 2015, HealthyStuff researchers tested 164 products from Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and 99 Cents Only. Results revealed toxic chemicals – including arsenic, bromine, chlorine and lead – in 81% of the tested products. When your dog chews a toy, he exposes it to pressure, liquid and warmth, creating the perfect conditions for these toxins to enter his system.
When seeking a dental toy for your dog, avoid products containing harmful dyes, BPA, and other chemical components. As a general rule of thumb, if a toy smells like chemicals, it probably contains them. When ingredients aren’t listed on the label, contact the company for more information. Better safe than sorry!
Toys designed for teeth
So what type of toy should you look for? These days, many companies design doggie playthings specifically for dental health. MultiPet’s Canine Clean toy line, for instance, is available in an assortment of designs and two flavors – spearmint and peppermint – to entice dogs to interact, and freshen breath. Their toys also incorporate bumps, holes, grooves and woven cotton rope that acts as a floss. The different textures and grip areas make it easy for dogs to hold a toy in their paws, encouraging them to play longer.
Nooks and crannies in dental toys also double as vessels for low-calorie dental treats and canine toothpaste or gel that help engage your pup and deliver extra cleaning action. Remember – the longer your dog chews, the more plaque and tartar he’ll scrape away.
The material used to make your dog’s toy is important. Use your dog’s size, breed, age and playstyle as a guide when choosing the right material. Is he an aggressive chewer or a casual chewer? Does he still have sensitive puppy teeth? High quality cotton or hemp ropes, or toys made from all-natural rubber are always a safe bet. These materials are durable, yet gentle on teeth and gums. Remember – if your dog chomps down hard on an object that’s harder than his teeth, he’s bound to chip a tooth.
Just as they do with balls and ropes, many canines delight in hiding, tossing and gnawing on deer and elk antlers. This option is typically fine for casual chewers. Compared to alternatives like processed rawhides and leather chews, antlers are a natural source of essential vitamins and minerals. “The outer ring of the antler is made up of natural calcium,” says Joan Lovett, owner of Antler Guys. “When the dog chews on the antler, they scrape off the calcium which naturally helps clean the plaque and tartar.” Again, just be honest about your dog’s playstyle. If giving him an antler doesn’t feel right – or his integrative vet advises against it – go another route. If you do decide to buy an antler for your dog, try to find one with a thinner calcium ring (see image at left). Even better – look for a split antler with the marrow exposed.
Other safety considerations
- Avoid tennis balls! Though these fuzzy toys might seem like a great way to scrub your dog’s pearly whites, the outer surface wears down his tooth enamel over time.
- To avoid choking, cut gums and chipped teeth, Leslie recommends monitoring your dog during chew sessions, or engaging him in play whenever possible. “Make sure to periodically inspect the toy for damage and discard it if it’s worn or torn,” she says.
- Ensure toys are the appropriate size for your dog. Giving a small breed a toy that doesn’t fit into his mouth won’t benefit his dental health, while tiny toys are a choking hazard for large breeds.
- Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate dog toys, which means it’s up to you to ensure a product is safe before tossing it to your pooch.
Along with a healthy diet, regular teeth brushing and an annual oral exam, chew toys are a great way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Just be sure to find a quality toy your dog loves!
Antler Guyz, antlerguyz.ca
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.