by Dr. Martin Goldstein, South Salem, New York

A  good chew toy can keep your dog entertained, relaxed, AND prevent them from gnawing on things like pillows or shoes.

The problem is... not all chew toys are created equal.

In fact, many store-bought toys can pose serious threats to your dog’s health.

So the next time you’re shopping for a surprise for your pup or going through their toys at home, ask yourself these questions to help figure out if the chew toy is safe for your dog:

Question #1: Does it “give”?

Even though you want the chew toy to be tough enough to last — it needs to have a little “give” to make sure it won’t hurt your dog’s teeth or gums when they gnaw on it.

To test this, simply press your thumbnail into the surface of the toy. If it “gives” a little bit, then it’s good to go for your little chomper.

Question #2: Is it durable enough?

If your dog can rip the toy apart, they might be able to swallow the shards or the stuffing inside…

So if your dog likes to “thrash” or pull at their toys, it’s best to avoid toys with flimsy seams or toys made of materials that can easily splinter — and stick to toys with double-seams and tough-but-soft covers.

Also be on the lookout for plush toys with plastic eyes or other “bells and whistles” your dog can potentially rip off and swallow.

These toys might look fun, but it’s best to avoid them. Instead, stick to chew toys that have durable outsides, but fun insides, like an inner rattle or squeaker.

Just make sure to toss the toy if you see the “insides” start to show.

Question #3: What’s it made of?

Many store-bought toys are made of materials that contain potentially toxic chemicals.

So always check the label or tag on the toy to make sure it’s lead-, PVC-, phthalates-, and BPA-free.

That way, your dog can nibble the toy to their heart’s content — without you having to worry about them ingesting dangerous chemicals.

Question #4: Is it the right size?

The size of the toy should fit the size of your dog, meaning, it should be big enough for their mouths so they don’t potentially choke or swallow it whole.

To avoid accidents, choose toys that are small enough for your dog to carry — but not SO small that they can simply gulp it down.

(NOTE: This is especially important to note with ball toys, as these shapes can be swallowed more easily.)

Question #5: Is it washable?

Make sure you can clean and disinfect your dog’s chew toys every once in a while.

After all, your dog spends so much time gnawing, licking, and chomping their toy — you definitely want to keep it germ-free.

Choose soft toys that are machine-washable, and hard toys you can pop in the dishwasher.

That way, you can properly kill off any bacteria and wash away dirt, grime, and slobber.

(NOTE: Regularly cleaning your dog’s toys will also give you the chance to inspect them more closely. If the toy is too tattered or chomped-on to seem safe, it’s time to toss it.)

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