Chewing on things is Dog Behavior 101. Domesticated pups do it, wolves do it—all dogs chew. Dogs are also resourceful and will chow down on the first thing they see that piques their interest, whether it’s a leather wallet or a tennis ball. It’s easy to toss what seems like a harmless chew toy at your dog to keep him occupied, but this can backfire if said toy is something your dog shouldn’t chew (even if we’ve been taught it’s OK). Here, six surprising things your pup probably shouldn’t be chewing on.
Why do dogs chew so much?
The ASPCA says gnawing on whatever is available serves many purposes, like relief from boredom or anxiety. Puppies need to chomp down on something tough to ease the pain they feel when their adult teeth start coming in. Adult and senior dogs will chew instinctively to keep their jaw joints mobile. Dogs of all ages actually clean their teeth when they chew, making routine chew sessions part of healthy dental hygiene.
Basically, a dog’s mouth is a huge part of his ability to explore the world and interpret feelings. It’s our jobs, as their caretakers, to ensure they do this in the safest way possible. Be sure to choose chew toys for your dog that are vet-approved and cater to your dog’s age, size and level of dedication he has to destroying whatever he comes in contact with.
We reached out to Dr. Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian at WHIMZEES, an all-natural chew treat brand, for what to avoid giving your dog to chew.
6 Things Dogs Shouldn’t Chew
1. Ice Cubes
We know! We thought tossing ice cubes to our dog on a hot day was okay, too. But ice cubes (and pieces of ice in wintertime) can wreak havoc on your dog’s teeth and gums. Small breeds especially are at risk for cracking or loosening teeth while chomping on ice. Instead, make sure your dog has plenty of cold water on hot days. You could also try semi-frozen berries as a nice alternative treat.
2. Tennis Balls
Dr. Bernal says excessive chewing on tennis balls can destroy the enamel on your dog’s teeth. WellPets Animal Dental Care & Oral Surgery adds that big dogs with strong jaws can crush tennis balls, turning their smaller parts into major choking hazards. That yellow fuzz covering a tennis ball? An intestinal nightmare if swallowed. Playing fetch with a tennis ball is totally fine—just avoid letting your dog wind down by gnawing on it afterward. Better yet, find a ball designed for dogs, not for the Williams sisters.
3. Cooked Bones
Wolves chew bones, but your domesticated dog shouldn’t be left alone with a cooked bone post-BBQ. These are major hazards because they split and splinter into sharp shards. Not only could these shards pierce the gums, tongue or cheeks, they could get lodged mid-swallow and destroy your dog’s throat. Dr. Robin Downing, DVM, of VCA Hospitals, also notes certain bones can get stuck on or around your dog’s jawbone, requiring surgery to remove them.
Rawhide is tricky because it can be safe, but isn’t always safe. The Humane Society advises talking to your vet before buying any rawhide products. Unfortunately, for big dogs with strong jaws, rawhide is a good option because it lasts a long time and gives them something rough to chew, but a poor option because these dogs are so strong that they may break the rawhide and accidentally swallow dangerous pieces. If your vet gives you the go ahead, be sure to supervise your dog as he gnaws his rawhide treat. Finally, some rawhide products are also made with questionable ingredients, like leftover scraps from the leather and fur industries. If ingested in large quantities, this can block up the digestive system and cause stomach or bowel problems for your dog.
We’ve all seen adorable videos of dogs carrying their favorite sticks along on walks. Carrying is great, chewing is not. Sticks and wood splinter easily, which means your dog could find himself with a mouthful of little cuts. Swallowing sharp shards of wood is not good for your dog’s insides, either. (Eating grass, however, is something else completely.)
Rocks are like ice cubes, but worse. Why? They don’t melt or crack as easily. Letting your dog chow down on a rock is like giving him a one-way ticket to Broken Teeth City. Many rocks are also perfectly sized to get stuck in your dog’s throat, blocking air. If your dog is obsessed with chewing on very tough things, try something from Kong’s Extreme Dog Toy product line. Again, these are designed with dogs in mind and they won’t jeopardize his health.