5 Safe (and Not Safe) Chew Toys For Dogs Who Like to Eat Everything

This post first published on Care2.com.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Finding the perfect chew toy is a constant struggle for those of us living with extreme chewers. Our last dog Lucy, a Rottweiler mix, posed the biggest challenge for us. She managed to get pieces off of even the most durable toys.

These are some safe chew toys for dogs – and some to avoid – if you have a chewer in your life, like Lucy.


1. The Kong Classic 

The Kong  Classic has been a favorite with dog owners for more than 40 years. This toy is made of durable rubber that’s extra bouncy and has a hollow center for holding treats inside.

The Kong is popular at animal shelters where toys are a big part of the enrichment program for dogs and also offer a great way to keep dogs happy when home alone. At Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter, NJ Ellen Ribitzki said the Kong is a big hit. Shelter workers stuff them with peanut butter and kibble and freeze them overnight to provide even more chewing pleasure for the dogs.

2. The Chompion Dog Bone

This dog bone made by the JW Pet Company, Inc. is a dumbbell shape with textured nubs to help keep teeth clean, stimulate gums and promote oral health.

This company has been recognized at the Global Pet Expo for focusing on intelligent designs that help make their toys dog proof. The Chompion dog bone chew toy is made of durable, tough natural rubber that the company says is designed to withstand even the most powerful chewers. Sixty-one percent of dog owners gave this toy five stars on Chewy.com.

3. The Qwizl

This dog chew toy from West Paw won Best in Show for dogs at the Global Pet Expo in 2017. The Qwizl is a pliable durable treat-dispensing toy made from the company’s exclusive Zogoflex material. This toy is non-toxic and latex free.

Sixty-nine percent of dog owners gave the Qwizl a five-star review on Chewy.com. Many of the reviewers reported that this is the only chew toy that has stood up to their aggressive chewers.

4. The Nylabone 3-Prong Chew Toy with Peanut Butter

The 3-Prong Chew Toy is just one of the many chew bones promoted for extreme chewers by the Nylabone company. This bone has a multi-textured surface that helps to clean a dog’s teeth while keeping him or her busy for long periods of time.

The Nylabone company has been making dog chew toys since 1955 and offers an impressive selection of bones designed especially for aggressive chewers.

5. The Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Squeak Ball

This one topped the review list of “Super Durable Dog Balls for Fetching and Beyond” published in the August 2017 issue of The Whole Dog Journal. The ball is made from eco-friendly materials and is free from chemicals like BPA and phthalates.

A small amount of peppermint oil has been added to the material to give it a minty scent.


Veterinary experts say it’s important to supervise how your dog is playing with his or her toys. Many chew toys are safe for some dogs but not others. Rope toys, if ingested, can cause life-threatening intestinal obstruction. Hard plastic toys in a power chewer’s mouth can splinter and cause intestinal damage.

Experts at the Humane Society of the United States recommend seeking the advice of a veterinarian before giving your dog a rawhide bone. These chews should only be given when you can supervise your dog as they may pose a choking hazard.

It’s a good practice to go through the dog toy basket periodically and get rid of toys that are starting to break into pieces or are torn. For extreme chewers, also avoid the toys below, which can be dangerous.

1. Tennis Balls

While tennis balls are fun for dogs to fetch, they are not safe as chew toys.

According to experts at the American Veterinary Dental Association, these balls are abrasive like scouring pads. If dogs chew on these balls every day for years it can cause significant wear to their teeth.

Tennis balls also pose a choking hazard. Aggressive chewers can easily swallow pieces of the material they rip from these balls.

2. Some Latex Toys

Latex toys with bells or squeaks inside are fine for tossing around but if left alone with these toys, your power chewer will use those teeth to get to the squeaker or bell. These parts are small and can easily be swallowed.

3. Toys with Single Air Holes

The danger with these toys, writes Veterinarian Virginia Sinnott on the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center website, is that the single hole can create a strong suction causing the toy to get stuck on the dog’s tongue.

Sinnott writes that “…if the suction is stronger than the dog’s ability to remove the toy with his or her paws, life-threatening problems can occur. These include obstruction of breathing due to the toy in the mouth and massive swelling of the tongue.”

4. Toxic Toys (various)

There are no federal regulations in place to ensure the standards of pet toys. Instead, it’s left up to manufacturers to establish standards and to test and issue recalls if necessary for their own products.

Dog owners need to be diligent in reading labels and researching companies to make sure they care about pet safety. Experts at Preventivevet.com recommend being especially cautious about purchasing dog toys and chews that are manufactured overseas if you can’t verify what’s in them. The same holds true for cheap dog toys made in the U.S.

5. Sticks and Twigs

Every chance she got, our dog, Lucy, was chewing on sticks and twigs in the yard. The problem is that wood splinters easily, and pieces can get stuck in a dog’s mouth causing an infection. It’s also really easy for dogs to swallow pieces of wood and this can cause an intestinal blockage.

In addition, according to an article in the July 2016 issue of Animal Wellness magazinecertain trees such as black walnut, black cherry, yew or red maple can be toxic to dogs.


How Sleepovers Help Shelter Dogs (…and also benefit volunteers)

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Like so many shelter dogs, Alaska didn’t show well when visitors walked past her run at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, NY. So when a volunteer returned the shepherd mix after a sleepover at her house, staff were thrilled to hear that everything went really well.


“She was an entirely different dog in a home environment,” said Robin Markovits, a certified dog trainer who works at the sanctuary. “She was calm and relaxed, and the volunteer brought back a wealth of information for us to share with potential adopters.”

Pets Alive pipes calming music into kennels to help dogs relax, and staff and volunteers work hard on in-kennel enrichment programs. Still, Markovits said there’s no substitute for giving the dogs a break from the shelter environment via short-term fostering.

“No matter how much enrichment you provide there’s always going to be a certain amount of stress in a shelter,” Markovits said. “Dogs need to get away from this environment and do what dogs are supposed to do—sniff and smell, bond with people and have fun.”

Pets Alive encourages volunteers to take dogs out for a hike and keep them for overnight or weekend sleepovers. Some volunteers who can’t foster the dogs in their own homes opt to spend an overnight with them at a local pet-friendly hotel.


Pets Alive is not the only shelter to see the benefits of short-term fostering or overnight sleepovers. A little over a year ago, Maddie’s Fund gave a grant to Carroll College, MT to test the theory that shelter dogs benefit from sleepovers.

This year the study was expanded to Arizona State’s Science Collaboratory working with dogs at four U.S. shelters.

According to Maddie’s Fund, there was initial disagreement within the animal sheltering community about the effect of short-term fostering on the dogs. Some loved the idea of providing dogs with a break from the shelter while others felt these brief sleepovers would cause more stress to the dogs, especially when returned to the shelter.

Markovits said she likens overnight or weekend sleepovers for shelter dogs to how humans feel after a weekend getaway.

“Think about how refreshed and calm you feel even after a short getaway?” the trainer said. “That same sense of calm and relaxation is what we see in all of our shelter dogs who get away for overnight or weekend sleepovers.”

Alaska, enjoyed a sleepover at a volunteer’s house when she was living at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, NY.

The objective of the Maddie’s Fund study was to understand how overnight or short-term sleepovers with a foster caregiver affected shelter dogs’ cortisol levels, which can be an indicator of stress.

The researchers also wanted to see how behavioral observations in foster care relate to what adopters see immediately upon adoption and six months after the pets have settled into their new homes.

“To measure the dogs’ cortisol levels in the pilot study, we collected urine from the dogs the morning before the sleepover, the morning before being returned, and the next morning back at the shelter.” Lisa Gunter, a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, explained. “For the behavioral component, we used questions from James Serpell’s C-BARQ questionnaire, a validated dog research questionnaire that asks owners to describe the dog’s behavior in a variety of everyday situations. We collected these questionnaires from shelter staff, the foster home and the new adopters.”


Study results showed dogs do indeed benefit from sleepovers. Here’s how.

1. Dogs were able to relax.

The dogs’ cortisol levels significantly dropped with just one overnight in a foster home.

Families in the study reported that the dogs would often sleep once they settled into their foster home. While the dogs’ cortisol levels did go back to previous levels when returned to the shelter they didn’t go any higher than that.

2. Volunteers became advocates.

Volunteers who took dogs on sleepovers became advocates for their foster dogs. They took the dogs to social events and promoted the dog on social media while they were fostering.

3. Feedback helped overcome myths about shelter dogs.

The perception of shelter dogs as being “unknown” often prevents them from finding new homes.

Overnight and short-term sleepovers help to combat this stigma as volunteers share information on the dog’s temperament and behavior in a home environment.

4. The human-animal bond extended past the sleepover.

Volunteers who took dogs on sleepovers didn’t forget about the dog once he or she was back at the shelter.

Many volunteers in the study continued to actively work on behalf of “their” dog, checking on his or her adoption status, continuing to share the dog on social media, taking the dog to adoption events, and, in several cases, even continuing to foster the dog after the research component was over.

Pets Alive is always looking for new volunteers  including people who are willing to take dogs on overnight or weekend sleepovers.

A Maddie’s Fund manual on Short-Term Foster Care provides more information on why sleepovers are good for shelter dogs while also providing a great volunteer opportunity for people who can’t commit to long hours of volunteer work at a shelter.


How to Build A Pet First Aid Kit

This post first published on Care2.com

April is American Red Cross Pet First Aid Awareness Month and a perfect time of the year to learn how to build a pet first aid kit at home.

When our foxhound Bella lay on the couch beside me last night with her paw resting in my hand I realized that it was time for a nail-cutting session. That also meant pulling out the first aid kit to grab styptic powder just in case I cut too close to the quick. I’m careful to avoid this, but accidents do happen. It’s important to be prepared.

The American Red Cross Dog and Cat First Aid online offer courses teaching owners what to do in the case of an emergency until veterinary care is available. That includes having easy access to a pet first aid kit.

While pet first aid kits can be purchased through the American Red Cross or at many local pet stores you can also build a pet first aid kit at home.

Continue reading “How to Build A Pet First Aid Kit”

Is Your Pet’s Animal Hospital AAHA Accredited? Here’s Why it Matters

This post first published on Care2.com

Our dog, Jason, shakes all over while in the waiting room at our animal hospital. It doesn’t take long, though, for our veterinarian to help him relax. She gets down on the floor beside him, talks in a soothing voice and offers him a treat. Jason can never resist treats, and before long his tail starts to wag.

While our veterinarian’s bedside manner is extremely important to us, it’s not the only thing we take into account when choosing an animal hospital. We also look to make sure that the hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Not all animal hospitals are accredited. According to the AAHA, nearly 60 percent  of pet owners think their pet’s veterinary hospital is accredited when it is not. In fact, only about 3,700 (12-15 percent) of animal hospitals in the United States and Canada are accredited.

Here’s why choosing an AAHA accredited animal hospital is important.


Unlike human hospitals, animal hospitals are not required to be accredited. According to ConsumerAdvocate.org, lack of accreditation doesn’t mean that a veterinary practice is providing sub-par health care. However, it does mean that the practice hasn’t been measured against the AAHA’s approximately 900 standards to achieve accreditation. The article states:

“The process of accreditation is challenging and rigorous. It is also voluntary and not guaranteed. When a veterinary facility steps up to become accredited, they’re making a proclamation that they’re committed to excellence. “

According to the AAHA, its Standards of Accreditation are continuously reviewed and updated to keep practices on the cutting edge of veterinary excellence. To maintain accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years.

“Veterinary medicine is always evolving and improving,” said Heather Loenser, AAHA’s senior veterinary officer, who was quoted in the consumeradvocaty.org article, “And as such, AAHA has to remain flexible, ready to challenge previous protocols and upgrade them to the latest recommendations.”

The AAHA has been accrediting veterinary practices since 1933. This accreditation serves two purposes:

  • It recognizes and objectively certifies great veterinary practices, which is valuable to pet parents as they search for the best care for their pets.
  • It helps good veterinary hospitals to become great ones by coaching their personnel and helping the practice to live up to its potential.

After applying to become accredited, a veterinary practice usually spends several weeks or months examining and fine-tuning its systems, processes and procedures to be sure every aspect meets AAHA’s standards of quality.

Continue reading “Is Your Pet’s Animal Hospital AAHA Accredited? Here’s Why it Matters”

10 Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Happy When Home Alone

This post first published on Care2.com.

Watching bird feeders help keep cats entertained when home alone

It isn’t easy leaving our pets alone for hours, but there are things we can do to help them. Try these 10 ways to keep your dog or cat happy when home alone.


1. Break Up the Day with Exercise

Some dogs left home alone can suffer from cabin fever leading to stress and anxiety. According to experts at the Animal Behavior College, access to the backyard is no substitute for a nice long walk. These outings will benefit your dog physically while also providing mental stimulation.

If you work close to home, consider spending your lunchtime walking your dog. When that’s not possible, having a professional dog walker or trusted neighbor take your dog for a mid-day walk helps break up the day.

2. Leave a Treat-Dispensing Toy

Interactive toys that require dogs to work for their treats can help relieve boredom when they’re home alone.

Our favorite is the Classic Kong. We stuff the cavity in the middle with a combination of kibble and peanut butter and freeze it overnight to make it last longer.

The WholeDog Journal offers a helpful evaluation of treat-dispensing toys based on such traits as sturdiness, safety, entertainment value and affordability.

3. Turn on the TV or Radio

Many dog owners leave the TV or radio on to keep their dogs company when home alone. Veterinarian Jeff Werber, founder of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, said in a blog post that some dogs with separation anxiety may respond well to radio music or TV when trained to have a positive association to the sound.

Another entertainment option is DOGTV, which provides audio-visual therapy for dogs to help treat loneliness, anxiety and separation in dogs.

Continue reading “10 Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Happy When Home Alone”

How to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween + Top Ten Pet Costumes

This article first published on Care2.com

One of my favorite Halloween memories is when my friend Joy and I entered our dogs in a fundraising costume contest at our local animal shelter. Lucy, a Rottweiler mix, and Ricky, an English springer spaniel, were dressed as a bride and groom while surrounded by dogs dressed in a wide variety of costumes including a hot dog, a lion, a tiger, Superman, a witch and the devil. While not all dogs enjoy dressing up, these contestants really seemed to enjoy the festivities.

According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending this year will reach a record 9.1 billion. When asked about Halloween shopping plans, 16 percent of the 7,013 surveyed said they would be buying a costume for their pets. The respondents were also asked what costumes their pets would be wearing this season. Here are the top ten choices:

  1. Pumpkin
  2. Hotdog
  3. Dog, (cats dressed as dogs), Lion and Pirate
  4. Bumblebee
  5. Devil
  6. Batman Character
  7. Ghost
  8. Cat (dogs dressed as cats)
  9. Witch
  10. Star Wars character


Image credit: Thinkstock

Continue reading “How to Keep Pets Safe on Halloween + Top Ten Pet Costumes”

Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Walk Your Dog for Weight Loss

This article first published on Care2.com

I’m embarrassed to say that our collie mix, Jason, is overweight. The pounds crept on as I accepted more freelance and volunteer work leaving less time for daily dog walks.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is Oct 11 and we are determined to get Jason back into shape. When it comes to dealing with pet weight issues our family has plenty of company. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.9 percent of dogs are overweight or obese and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue.

“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats,” said APOP Founder and Veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”

Among all diseases that affect pets, obesity has the greatest negative impact according to APOP. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. There are many things that families can do to help a dog get back into shape. For some pets, feeding a special diet or substituting vegetables for commercial treats can help. Any new play or exercise routine should be introduced gradually with owners watching for signs of fatigue or injury. The APOP website offers a chart on the daily caloric needs of dogs that can be paired with an exercise program to help your dog safely lose weight.

Continue reading “Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Walk Your Dog for Weight Loss”

6 Common Myths About Shelter Dogs (and the Truth About Them)

Adopting a dog doesn’t mean you’re inheriting someone else’s problem. Learn the truth and some common myths about shelter animals.

It’s a sad fact that each year approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in animal shelters across the United States. It happens because too many dogs enter the shelter and too few people consider adoption when it comes to getting a new pet. Many buy into one of the most common myths that when you adopt a dog from a shelter you are inheriting someone else’s problem.

The truth is that shelters and rescues are brimming with happy, healthy pets just waiting for someone to take them home. Most shelter pets are surrendered because of a human problem like a move or a divorce, not because the animals did anything wrong. Many are already housetrained and used to living with families.

“When you adopt a shelter dog you are most likely bringing home a dog who has good manners, is leash trained and knows some commands,” said Ellen Ribitzki, kennel manager for the Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (B.A.S.S.) in New Jersey.  “In addition, shelter dogs are temperament tested so adopters will have an idea of a pet’s personality―whether he/she gets along with other dogs or with cats and young children.”

Continue reading “6 Common Myths About Shelter Dogs (and the Truth About Them)”

From Shelter to Service: Search Dogs Help Save Lives


This post first appeared on Care2.com

While hundreds of pets were being removed from flood zones in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, search dogs were entering those very same areas to find people who might have opted to stay behind and were now trapped by rising flood waters. The search dogs also quickly combed debris piles that were washed downstream to be sure no one was buried beneath them.

September is National Service Dog Month and a great time to honor the wonderful dogs trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF). The nonprofit organization located in Santa Paula, CA recruits and trains shelter dogs and partners them with firefighters and other first responders to find people trapped or buried alive in the wreckage of disasters. Most recently twelve SDF-trained search teams were deployed to help in the wake of the earthquake in Mexico City and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

What types of dogs excel in the SDF Program?

“Our trainers look for extremely driven, toy-obsessed dogs that don’t just want the toy, they need to possess the toy,” said Denise Sanders, SDF Communications and Development Officer. “This drive is what carries them through the process of learning to bark when they smell the scent of a live human—that toy is their reward and they will do anything to get it!”

Continue reading “From Shelter to Service: Search Dogs Help Save Lives”

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Sorry for Deaf Dogs

This post first appeared on Care2.com

When members of the Deaf Dogs Network were asked what they would like the general public to know about their dogs, the most common response was: “Please don’t feel sorry for my deaf dog.” Deaf dogs don’t know they are deaf or different and with the proper training and care, they are as happy and content as hearing dogs. Just take a look at the dogs in the main image playing together in the Deaf Dogs Rock dog park in Salem, VA if you need proof that these terrific dogs can live happy and healthy lives.

Feeling sorry for deaf dogs doesn’t help them, says Christina Lee, founder of Deaf Dogs Rock, a nonprofit that promotes the care and well being of deaf dogs and assists in finding homes for deaf dogs surrendered to shelters and rescues. In fact, owners who feel sorry for their deaf dogs and deprive them of their independence can unintentionally cause the dogs to develop severe separation anxiety.

Continue reading “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Sorry for Deaf Dogs”