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Toxic Pet Toys? Earth-Friendly Alternatives
by Jill Breitner
Greetings, pet lovers! As we approach the holidays, I'd like to offer some suggestions on GREEN gifting for your pets this holiday season.
Dogs need to chew -- it's instinctive. And it's our responsibility to provide our dogs with safe toys that match their unique chewing habits. When choosing a toy for your dog, consider the dog's chewing need, the size of the dog, and the durability and contents of the toy.
Choosing toys for our pets seems like a no-brainer, yet dogs in particular are susceptible to the dangers of toxic toys, which can lead to costly trips to the veterinarian, and oftentimes death. We have all been made aware of the lack of oversight of the pet-food and children's toy industry. Now we need to educate ourselves about pet toys. Fortunately, some companies have taken the lead in making nontoxic toys and products for our pets. (See resources below.)
Butchers at local supermarkets have the healthiest and safest chew toys around: real beef marrowbones. Marrowbones are safe and very effective chew toys, and they are not laden with chemicals and additives to prolong shelf life. The only concern one must have when purchasing marrowbones is the size of the bone in relation to the dog. Don't give a German Shepherd a 1-inch-long marrowbone -- she can choke on it. And don't give a Yorkshire Terrier a heavy 3-inch bone that she can barely pick up, let alone chew to the scrumptious and nutritious marrow. Don't cook these bones, as they will splinter and may perforate a dog's intestines. A raw marrowbone provides hours of chew time with no risk or danger. Once your dog has cleaned the bone, it can still offer months or years of good chew time. I have marrowbones in the toy box that are years old, and my dogs still love 'em. Another benefit to marrowbones from the butcher is cost: you can spend $10 on one toxic bone at the pet store, or a couple of dollars on a healthy one at the market.
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Some toys have been known to cause bowel problems and/or get lodged in dogs' intestines. Watch out for these:
We have all heard of the ever-famous Greenies. There are countless reports of severe diarrhea, bowel disorders and even death from Greenies, yet they continue to be sold at pet stores and vets' offices as a great dental cleaner. Greenies are made from processed wheat gluten (wheat protein), glycerin, natural flavor, powdered cellulose fiber, monosodium phosphate, monoglycerides of edible fatty acid, magnesium stearate and chlorophyll. Need I say more?
Rawhide is another toy that can cause many problems, including death, by blocking the intestinal tract. Let's say you have a voracious chewer (a Golden Retriever, Labrador, or Rottweiler). You give him a 6-inch rawhide bone; he goes through it in an hour. His need for chewing hasn't been satisfied, so he goes around the house searching for something to chew on and comes back with your shoe. To save your shoe, you give him another 6-inch rawhide bone. He goes through that one in an hour. Still not satisfied, he goes on another search around the house… get the picture? How many rawhide bones might one give a dog with this kind of chewing habit? Let's be conservative here and say 3 bones a day. That's a lot of rawhide. Rawhide is usually treated with formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and rawhide is not easily digested, so the dog may bloat, get diarrhea, or end up with the bone lodged in his intestinal tract -- all before he ends up with cancer from the formaldehyde.
Nylabones are another very tricky toy. Just a few weeks ago, a client called to tell me her 1-year-old dog was lethargic and throwing up. She found pieces of nylabone in the vomit. It turned out she had given her dog gumabone-style nylabone. The Nylabone Company makes two different kinds of bones: one for puppies that is bendable, soft, semi-flexible and good for teething, and one for adults that is made of a much harder nylon and they can't chew off a piece of it. An adult dog with adult teeth should not be given the puppy bone -- she can chew off a piece big enough to get lodged in her intestines. On the package, it is not clear that a gumabone is just for puppies. (My client's dog made it just fine -- but only after a trip to the vet and more than a week of monitoring vomit and stools.)
Fluffy toys are another potential hazard. Some dogs will never destroy a fluffy toy, instead treating it as a pretend littermate, cuddling with it and sleeping with it. But others kill the squeaker within minutes, tearing up the toy, spreading it all over the place, and oftentimes swallowing it. Another client's dog suffered from a blocked intestine after swallowing the stuffing of a fluffy toy -- $5 000 dollars later, the dog was fine -- and, YUP, all the fluffy toys were removed from her home.
Here are some websites where you can learn about healthy, earth-friendly pet products, from biodegradable poop bags and cat-box liners to hemp collars, leashes and recycled toys.
Jacksonville Pet Boutique in Jacksonville carries earth-friendly toys, leashes, collars, and raw food.
You might also consider one of these alternative gift ideas: donate to your favorite nonprofit pet organization in a beloved pet's name, bring a blanket to the local shelter for a senior dog, give a gift certificate from an eco-friendly pet toy company, or educate fellow animal lovers about the risks of unsafe pet toys by sharing this magazine with them or forwarding this article from our website, greenlivingjournal.com.
Big belly rubs for all our four-legged loved ones, and may the holidays be safe and Green.
Jill Breitner, Shewhisperer, has a degree in Animal Science and has worked as a behavioral specialist/dog whisperer for 30 years. Learn more about Jill at: www.shewhisperer.com
Cats can wreak havoc during the holidays and hurt themselves in the process. Those shiny glass ornaments on a Christmas tree become kitty's boxing partners until they shatter on the floor. Hang your fragile ornaments out of reach of curious paws.
Remember also that young cats like to climb trees, and having a tree inside the house is a dream come true during the cold weather season. Make sure your Christmas tree stand is sturdy and not apt to tip over. If possible, put some guy-wires on your tree and anchor it to a hook in the wall.
Next, beware of toxic holiday plants, such as poinsettias and mistletoe. Many cats like to chew on plants, so place them out of reach.
Finally, keep your kitty well-supplied with plenty of catnip mice, balls, and feathered toys to keep them active and healthy, but make sure to confiscate and replace any that become tattered, even though cats don't usually choke on their toys.
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