“Don’t eat that,” said every dog parent ever. The truth is, dogs love to put things in their mouths. From food to furniture, if your canine companion can reach and wrap his chompers around it then he may consider it fair game. Especially if we’re talking about un-trained puppies. But, while your pooch may love exploring the world with his mouth, it’s important to know that dogs can and do choke on things. Really, any small object that Fido can fit inside his mouth is a potential choking hazard. But the 10 things on this list are considered the most common choking hazards to our canine companions.
Tennis, rubber, plastic, or fabric balls are all potential choking hazards. The more a pooch chews on a ball, the greater the risk. Pieces can break off and become lodged in their throat, balls can compress in size and get stuck in their throat, or fibers can break off and wad up. All of these scenarios can cause choking, total airway obstruction, or intestinal obstructions. Trust me, this can and does happen. Talk Show Host Oprah Winfrey had to live through this horror several years ago when her 2-year-old Golden Retriever Gracie innocently found a small plastic ball, which belonged to one of her other dogs, on the lawn. Sadly, Gracie choked on it and died.
If your dog loves to play ball, like my little guys do, there are very safe ways for him to do so. Make sure that any ball your pooch is playing with cannot fit beyond his front teeth. Also, make sure to supervise your pooch during play time. Balls are great for playing fetch and keeping your pooch engaged while he bats it around the house or yard. But when the play session is over, put the ball away.
2. Rawhide Bones
Rawhide bones are very popular. If you ever walk through the aisles of your local pet store then you’ll see shelves lined with them. The problem? These bones are linked to choking, airway obstruction, esophageal, and intestinal blockages (among other things). Aggressive chewers have been known to break off large chunks of rawhide and swallow it whole.
3. Cooked Bones
Cooked steak bones, chicken bones, turkey bones, etc. should never be given to your dog. Cooked bones tend to be brittle. Fragments and pieces can easily break off, causing choking, airway obstruction, cuts in the mouth, perforations and/or obstruction of the esophagus and intestines. The U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA) actually sent out a warning about bones a few months back – check it out here.
4. Raw Bones
Although certain raw bones can be a good alternative for Fido to chew on, it’s important to know they can pose some of the same choking hazards as the other items on this list. If you do want to give raw bones to your pooch, talk to your vet first and see what he/she advises. Once your vet gives the go-ahead for raw bones then be sure to consider size. According to Dr. Karen Becker, no bone is too big!
Watch Dr. Becker’s 2-part YouTube videos to find out all about bones. I highly encourage pet parents to watch both videos from start to finish because they’re jam-packed with useful information!
5. Bully Sticks
Although bully sticks are known to be easily digested, you still need to supervise your pup when they are chewing. If your dog is known to be a food guarder, be careful that he doesn’t try to scoff it down too quickly. Just like with any other bone or object, when the stick gets too small (like outlined in the videos above) then throw it away to prevent choking.
It’s the subject of numerous scenes — going outside to toss your pooch a stick. I’m talking about a plain old stick that you would find in your yard or on a hiking trail. Perhaps you, or someone you know, likes to play fetch this way. But Mother Nature’s wooden sticks can be hazardous to your pup. They’ve been known to splinter in a dog’s mouth causing cuts, obstructions, esophageal and intestinal perforations.
Sticks and stones won’t break your bones, but they can do major damage. For some reason, a lot of dogs have an obsession with stones and small rocks. They like to play with and eat them. Puppies are particularly fond of stones and anything else they can get into their mouths. If a stone becomes lodged in the throat, it can cause a total obstruction. And if your pooch actually eats a stone, it can cause an intestinal blockage, requiring surgery.
8. Plastic Wrap
What could be more tempting than a piece of plastic wrap that smells just like the juicy steak it was just keeping fresh? Plastic wrap can be deadly if your dog eats it. It can wad up in his throat, causing an obstructed airway. Always keep plastic wrap far out of reach, especially if you just took it off of stored food.
9. Kid’s Toys
You can view your pooch as having another toddler in the house. He thinks like a toddler, research shows his vocabulary is similar to a toddler’s, and he’ll put everything in his mouth (just like a toddler). Kid’s toys can have lots of small pieces and sometimes they are hard to keep track of. Keep an eye on the little legos, puzzle pieces, little figures, and other tiny toys so your pooch won’t be tempted.
Did you ever have a piece of gristle in your meat (that tough, chewy piece that you just can’t seem to chew or break down)? Well, your pooch can’t break it down either, making it a very easy thing for him to choke on. Do Fido a favor and keep the gristle on your plate and toss it in the garbage when you’re done.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking
Anything stuck in a dog’s throat is a medical emergency and can quickly escalate to breathlessness and death. If your dog is choking, it’s imperative that the object is removed. Here is a link to my article: What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking. The time to learn is before you ever have an emergency, not in the middle of one. I highly suggest you have an idea of what to do in case and hope you are never in the situation. If you can’t get it out you must get to a vet ASAP.
Whether your dog is highly trained or doesn’t know any commands, please take the time to teach your dog Drop It. Then in case you see him with something potentially harmful in his mouth, at least he’ll understand what you want him to do when you say it! Drop It can be a life-saver.