Dangers of Dog Chew Toys

Dr. Hillary Segl

Chew Toys Can be Dangerous

This is a cautionary tale for dog owners, involving my own personal pet. Like many dogs, Sal loves to have a good chew. Vets have long known that super-hard items will crack dogs' teeth: these include hooves, bones, antlers, Nylabones, ice cubes, and solid or pressed rawhide “bones”. I thought that the sheet rawhides were pretty safe, especially once they softened up from chewing and saliva. These toys are made from thin (<1/4”thick ) strips of rawhide, either straight or rolled into a tube. Sal did fine with these for almost 3 years....

One weekend I noted she did not finish off the rawhide chew. This wasn't really a problem till I looked in her mouth a few months later and noted one tooth with a lot of tartar on it; the rest of her teeth were pristine. She never showed any signs of pain or unwillingness to eat. When the buildup of tartar was chipped off, I could see a hairline fracture in the tooth. She finally showed pain once we tried to explore the fracture line.

An anesthetized dental exploration came next. The photos clearly show the fracture line, the broken piece of enamel (called a slab fracture), and the exposed pulp cavity and nerve roots of the damaged tooth. This requires extraction of the tooth, which leaves a substantial gap. The post-op healing period was about 2 weeks, and the dog required pain control and soft foods for that time.

This was a painful lesson, for both Sal and myself! No more rawhides, we're sticking to much softer items that cannot damage her teeth. These days it's sweet potato chews, made from dried slices of sweet potato. She loves them and they are a nutritious snack- even if they don't last as long as the rawhides did.