Choking Hazards for dogs and puppies

There are so many toys and treats out there for our four-legged friends that it’s sometimes easy to purchase such things based on appearance and ratings. The problem is, not all toys are suitable for all dogs. Not all treats are advisable, and let’s not forget all of the choking hazards you may happen upon on your favourite walks or around your house.

Here are some of the top choking hazards that you should consider when caring for your dog or puppy.

Dog food

Some dogs eat beautifully but others gulp their food down like they haven’t been fed in days (and we know that’s not the case). Dogs who have a tendency to gulp their food are more likely not to chew their food properly and are therefore at a higher risk of choking during mealtimes. If you have a ravenous gulper at home, a ‘slow bowl or a ‘puzzle feeder’ is a great way to slow down their eating. You might also want to add water to their food to soften the food and help prevent larger morsels being inhaled.

Treats

In this instance we are referring to the many dog treats that can be found on the market, from training treats to reward biscuits to those used as a little snack. Treats come in a variety of types and sizes so it’s important to choose treats that are the appropriate size and shape for your dog, and always closely supervise your dog whilst they are enjoying their treat. If you are unsure if a treat or chew is suitable for your dog, consult the packaging, the manufacturer or your vet.

Chew toys

While dog chew toys need to be safe so it’s important to know what type of toy is right for your dog. If your dog isn’t a big chewer, this could be less of an issue, but for those who have dogs that like to chew aggressively on things, chew toys can be a real choking hazard. For heavy chewers, look for a toy that is tough and made of rubber, with no pieces that can easily be ripped off. Be sure to observe any dog with their toys to see how they’re chewing on their toys before allowing them to play with it unsupervised.

Remember to always read the product’s label carefully and only buy from reputable retailers and manufacturers.

Dog and puppy toys

Choosing the right toy for your dog is all about finding the perfect match. You need to consider your dog’s size and mouth type when purchasing toys to reduce the risk of them swallowing large pieces and choking. Don’t forget that toys bought for your puppy may not be suitable as your dog gets older and these toys become smaller and easier to get stuck in their throats. Toys also age, and with age they can become more fragile and likely to break up. Be sure to regularly check your dog’s toys to ensure they are still safe enough for them to play with.

Balls

A firm favourite among many dogs, balls are frequently played with and taken out on walks. As a result, balls can rip, tear, or simply deteriorate over time (or a couple of very good walks). Regularly check balls for signs of wear and tear and replace regularly to avoid them becoming a choking hazard.

It is also important to note that as with toys, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all, and smaller balls can get lodged in the throat of a larger dog. If you are unsure what size to use, check with your local pet store or refer to the packaging or manufacturer for advice.

Sticks

Dogs generally love playing fetch with sticks and it’s common to see at least one dog proudly walking with their prized stick on any walk, but this is something vets recommend you avoid. Sticks can and will easily splinter in your dog’s mouth, which could lead to choking and serious intestinal problems. Sticks can also cause puncture wounds, scratches to the eye, cuts to the mouth – they are generally quite problematic. If your dog enjoys his sticks, try stick-shaped dog toys instead.

Bones

Although some dogs see these as the ultimate treat, bones are also one of the most common choking hazards for dogs.

If you decide to give your dog raw bones, then smaller, softer bones are considered easiest to eat and digest. That being said, small bones can also get lodged in your dog’s throat. Larger, denser bones can be more difficult to eat and therefore only given to experienced dogs. Bones of all sizes are able to splinter and in addition to these splinters being a choking hazard, they can cause some serious intestinal problems for your dog.

Always supervise your dog when they are eating a bone.

Gristle

This popular scrap may be a big treat for many dogs, but it can be difficult for them to chew which could cause problems with dogs who like to gulp things down. If you give gristle to your dog, make sure to cut it up into very small pieces first.

Other choking hazards

In addition to the more common choking hazards listed above, there are many other hazards that can be found around your home. These include sweets, batteries, cling film, poo bags and children’s toys.

It may be hard to ensure all of these things are kept away from dogs, especially if you do have young children in the home. Just try to keep any choking hazards in cupboards or stored up high where you can and supervise your children when the Lego is out or when they are eating some sweets to ensure nothing is left lying around for your dog to find.
 

In summary

With all chews, treats and toys there is always the potential for large pieces to be swallowed whole, causing trauma or choking. You should therefore always supervise your dog with toys, chews, treats and food to ensure they don’t choke. Check your dog’s toys regularly for wear and tear and to replace any outgrown toys with more appropriate toys for your dog’s size and mouth shape – you should also always pay close attention to your dog when they are playing with a new toy for the first time. 

You may wish to refer to this handy first aid guide from the PDSA to ensure you are prepared in the event of your dog choking https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/pet-health-hub/other-veterinary-advice/first-aid-for-choking.

If your pet does indeed choke, they may require emergency treatment. Please contact your vet immediately in this instance.