With the holidays rapidly approaching, we wanted to share some considerations when giving or receiving toys for your pets.

Choking Hazards
Choking occurs when a pet ingests an item that blocks an airway or induces uncontrollable coughing. Choking can be caused by small, large, soft or sharp items that fall off, are chewed off or are pulled off from the exterior of a toy — or originate from within the toy as it is used.

When selecting a toy, pull hard to ensure it does not have any components that can be chewed off, removed or swallowed — such as:

  • Glued-on buttons or plastic eyes
  • Loosely attached legs or tails
  • Any internal bells or squeakers
  • Product tags
  • Open seams providing access to the interior of the toy

As a general rule, the toy’s width should be at least twice the size of your pet’s jaw-width to reduce the risk of choking — which means tennis balls, lacrosse balls and other common toys are often too small for most pets.  We also recommend toys that do not easily fit into the back of your pets mouth where they can chew with their molars.

Pet owners should avoid single air hole toys (generally balls or items on rope pull toys) as they can produce suction and prevent your pet from being able to drop the toy if the hole is covered by their tongue.

It is also vital that any rawhide chew toys and bones are large and are only used when under “parental” supervision.

Also, be sure to remove all packaging — including any clear or white plastic zip ties that often hold toys to a cardboard backing.

Pet Toys
Swallowing and Digestive Hazards
Swallowing toys or chewed-up components can lead to severe digestive issues that require immediate attention — and even surgery. Intestinal obstructions can prevent food, fluids and gas from moving through the intestines and can cause parts of the intestine to die leading to serious and life-threatening situations.

Swallowed cotton or polyester fill from stuffed toys can compact within your pet’s digestive system — often creating an immovable blockage. Creating a similar urgent situation are remnants from rope pull toys as many pets lick and swallow the shredded remainders.

Especially dangerous to cats are feathers, ribbon, string, yarn or rubber bands from toy mice and birds as these components can also become entangled and compacted within their digestive system.

It is best to examine the exterior of all toys and to read what composes the interior to determine if the toy presents potential digestive hazards before it is given to your pet.

Poisoning Hazards
The material from which a toy is composed is just as important as how well it is made.

Brightly colored fabric, rubber and soft material often use paint and dyes which are easily broken down by your pet’s chewing activities, saliva, heat and repeated play. Some paints and dyes are easily removed from a toy’s exterior while others may contain harmful contaminates — both of which should be avoided.

Some toys also smell of manufacturing oil or lubricants, or worse, like vinyl. Toys that smell like vinyl often contain phthalates which are chemicals that keep plastic soft and flexible. Unfortunately, phthalates can be very harmful to your pet as they are known to produce kidney and liver damage — among other ailments. So, if a toy smells “funny” to you or your pet sniffs and turns away, it’s probably a toy best left on the shelf, returned or discarded.

Regrettably, some toys from overseas contain dangerous levels of heavy metals including lead, cadmium or chromium. While these are known health hazards and U.S. manufacturers are held to strict limits, the same rules do not always apply to overseas manufacturers. To the extent possible, we recommend purchasing toys made in the United States and those certified as pet-safe or child-safe. You may have to pass up bargain toys, but your pet will appreciate your diligence.

Pet Treats
Calorie and Treat Hazards
Some lucky pets will receive treats in lieu of toys this holiday season. To help ensure your pets do not indulge too much, consider giving low calorie treats. If low calorie treats are difficult to locate or your pet does not enjoy them, breaking treats into smaller portions may help accomplish the same objective — offering a greater number of tasty rewards for the same number of calories.

And if your pet receives a new brand or flavor over the holidays, start with just a few treats to ensure there are no adverse reactions — such as coughing or diarrhea. Don’t “mix-and-match” snacks as a combination is more likely to upset your pet’s stomach and make it difficult to understand which treats, if any, might produce discomfort for your pet.

Vigilance is Essential
To help your pets safely enjoy their toys, we recommend that you:

  • Read the label and see where the toy is made — and of which materials.
  • Firmly pull on all parts of a toy prior to purchasing — passing on any that have components that come off or could be removed by your pet.
  • Search for and purchase pet-safe or child-safe toys.
  • Avoid complicated toys with glued/sewn-on components, sharp parts or corners.
  • Use the “smell test” to avoid any toy that smells like vinyl, oil or that result in a negative first reaction from your pet.
  • Always be present when your pet is playing with their toys.
  • Regularly review your pet’s toy box to ensure their toys are safe. Fix or discard any broken toys or those “coming apart at the seams” and discard any that are too small for growing pets.

Happy Holidays
 

Happy Holidays!
Everyone at Kirkwood Animal Hospital wishes you, your pets and your extended family a wonderful holiday season!