Toys and Treats: Your Pets Deserve the Best

Posted by Safeco June 6, 2016
Pet Treat Safety

Keep Your Furry Friends Entertained – and Safe

Keeping your beloved pet safe and healthy can be a challenge. These days even such simple pleasures as toys and treats can pose a threat. You've heard the sad stories: Dogs and cats choking on toys or sickened, sometimes fatally, by tainted treats. With little to go by other than advertising and advice from friends and neighbors, it can be hard to shop for your furry friends with any confidence. Here are some thoughts from the Humane Society of the United States and other experts to help you make wise choices.

Dog Toy Safety

  • Balls are the most basic part of any dog's toy box, but be sure they're big enough to avoid a choking hazard. One handy rule of thumb: Watch your dog's yawn, when his throat is opened wide, and opt for a ball (or any other toy) at least 10 percent larger. Also, if you have an energetic chomper, tennis balls may not last long. Keep a close eye on their condition to help ensure small pieces are not swallowed.
  • Take note of any toy with a squeaker. Many dogs make it their mission to search out and destroy the source of the squeaking, which could lead to it being swallowed. Supervise your dog's play with squeaky toys.
  • Examine any toy closely before buying. Avoid toys with strong noxious smells and bright colors that can indicate toxic chemicals and dyes, as well as those with dangerous fillings such as polystyrene beads. Select more durable toys for strong chewers.

Cat Toy Safety

  • Cat toys are easy: Grab a wadded-up paper ball, a paper bag (with any handles removed) or a tube from a toilet paper roll, and you're in business. Another perennial favorite is the "fishing pole" style toy, a short rod with a length of cord attached and a lure at the end. Just be sure to put it away when you're finished playing so cats don’t get entangled.
  • There's a difference of opinion on laser toys. Obviously, cats love to chase them, and they get a great workout doing it. There's a school of thought, however, that contends it's frustrating for the cat to never be able to catch the darned thing. So if you use one, reward your pet at the end of your play session with a toy it can grab and bite.
  • Some items to keep out of reach: String, yarn, ribbon and dental floss; paper clips, pins and needles; rubber bands; plastic bags. Also, with any toys you buy, be sure to remove ribbons, feathers, strings, tinsel, eyes or other small decorations that can be chewed off and swallowed.

Pet Treat Safety

  • Picking out treats for your pet is much like picking out a snack for yourself. Take a look at the ingredients and avoid anything with a lot of artificial preservatives and colors, as well as fillers like wheat flour. The higher up an ingredient is listed, the more of it the treat contains so pay attention to the order of ingredients. If you really want the best, choose organic treats with minimal ingredients. Or, make pet treats yourself. There are plenty of recipes online, and you’ll know exactly what and how much of each ingredient is in them.
  • You can skip the boxed and bagged treats altogether, if you like, and instead give your pets actual whole foods as a treat. You may want to check with your vet first, and be sure to avoid toxic foods such as chocolate, avocado, grapes, citrus, nuts and any junk foods. Start small and monitor how your pet does with new foods, such as blueberries and broccoli, or with any treat. You can also talk to your butcher about purchasing leftover bones that would be safe to give to your dogs.
  • Think twice before giving your dog rawhides. As your dog happily chews away, the chews can rapidly become small enough to pose a choking hazard. Consider opting for a hard plastic toy instead, and regularly monitor it for wear and tear.
  • Don't forget good old catnip for your feline friends. Nearly all cats find it stimulating, and a little bit sprinkled into a bag or stuffed into a toy can really liven up their play. Be careful not to overdo it, though; too much excitement can lead to bites or scratches.

Whatever you choose, moderation and supervision are key. Treats should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet's total calorie consumption, and all toys should be checked regularly for safety.

Of course you want your furry friends to enjoy themselves. And, when they’re occupied, they’re oftentimes less likely to turn their attention and teeth (or claws) to your couch or floorboards. Just be sure to keep an eye on them during playtime and treat time. If you believe your pet has ingested something it shouldn’t have, seek medical attention immediately.


More Pet Care Tips

You never know when some advanced planning might come in handy, so check out these tips on emergency planning for pets and putting together a pet first-aid kit. Plus, learn about alternative pet therapies and traveling with pets.

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