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Safe Toys and Chews

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Original post Vet Recommended Safe Dog and Cat Toys and Chews by Greg Magnusson on Leo's Pet Care

I get asked by my clients all the time which toys and chews I recommend, that are safe, inexpensive, and keep their pets happy. The following is a list of my personal favorites.

RULE #1: A toy must be soft enough that you can indent it with your thumbnail.

This is your dog’s tooth. This is your dog’s tooth on bones. Any questions?

Actual animal bones, or super hard plastic bones, are often hard enough that an actively chewing dog could break off a tooth. And it never fails, the tooth they break off is the giant premolar in the back of the mouth called the carnassial tooth, which has three roots, costs hundreds of dollars to remove, and it makes your dog sad to not have it.

RULE #2: A toy must be hard enough that your dog can’t chew off bits of it and swallow them. Disemboweling squeaker toys and eating the squeaker is an extra no-no.

I’ll start scrubbing for surgery.

Intestinal foreign body obstruction is a pretty common surgery for bigger dogs, who swallow chunks of things they can’t digest. Have I mentioned you should get Trupanion pet insurance?

RULE #3: If the entire thing fits in your dog’s mouth, it’s too small.

How could a dog possibly choke on a tennis ball, you ask? Observe.

RULE #4: Avoid buying anything with Salmonella on it.

Now we’re getting into debatable territory. Rawhides, for instance, are usually recommended against by groups like the Humane Society of the United States because “many rawhides are byproducts of the cruel, international fur trade.” (didn’t know that, did ya?)

From a veterinary standpoint, though, my opinion is that anything that comes off an animal is at risk for Salmonella or E. coli contamination.

We see pets all day long that present with diarrhea after having a pig ear or a knuckle or a raw hide or what not.

Yes, they’re rawhides. But they’re decontaminated rawhides with extra plaque fighting ingredients embedded, so they rule.

Now, there is one exception to this rule – most veterinarians will allow the use of CET Chews (pictured above), since we believe the company that makes them at least makes an effort to decontaminate them. Obviously, if your dog likes to chew off parts of the CET chew and choke on it, don’t give them to your dog. And buy the size that makes sense – see RULE #3 above.

Thanks Dr. Magnusson, now we know what NOT to buy! So which ones are OK?


Cue angels singing. “Koooooooooong!”


Nylabone makes real bones obsolete. If your dog starts chewing bits off of this though, take it away.


Once pooh-poohed by the veterinary community for causing intestinal obstruction, Greenies have been reformulated to be more digestible and are way safer now.


If your dog is food motivated, trying to get food out of a puzzle toy like this can keep her occupied for hours!


Some vets don’t like rope toys, but the Humane Society and I do.

PLUSH TOYS (for dogs that don’t eat their toys only)

Skinneeez are plush toys with no stuffing – smart!!

Wait!! What about cats?

Skinneeez for cats: plush + catnip – stuffing = genius.

Make a house out of a box

This is what to do with those boxes from all your Christmas presents. (click on photo to go to an ENTIRE GALLERY of ideas from Martha Stewart)

Sock Fish Cat Toy

All you need is a sock and catnip. Genius!

There you have it! Dr. Magnusson’s recommended gift list for every dog and cat in your life!


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