Chew on This: The Dangers of Common Dog Chew Toys

    There isn’t much that is more heart-warming than seeing your dog give you a cheeky grin. When you come to think about it, your pup uses his teeth for many key aspects of his life. From solving puzzles and shredding toys, to enjoying a healthy meal, dogs’ mouths are a significant part of how they explore the world.

    Since a dog’s mouth is so multi-functional, a damaged tooth can have a significant impact on his health and overall happiness. It can also have a significant impact on your wallet. Dog dentistry can be very expensive. An annual cleaning under sedation costs a few hundred dollars alone. The cost of having to fix a broken tooth is even more.

    It’s not a surprise, then, that what goes into your dog’s mouth should be of the utmost importance. You might be surprised to know that not all toys designed for dogs are safe for chewing. In fact, many chew toys that tote being “natural” can actually cause damage to your dog’s pearly whites.

    In this blog, we’re going to talk about dog chew toys to avoid and toys that are safe for your pup’s teeth.

    Chopper’s Story

    When Chopper was younger, he loves to chew on the antlers. Over time, his teeth became chipped and loose. After consulting with a number of dog dentists, we discovered that he had fractured back teeth that needed to be patched. This year, he even had to have 5 teeth pulled.

    While some dogs are genetically predisposed to tooth decay, far more dogs are prone to damage from chewing on hard toys. At Chopper and Otis, we are passionate about spreading awareness so that less dogs go through what Chopper experienced.

    Too Tough for Teeth

    Contrary to popular belief, very hard dog toys can really damage your dog’s teeth. In fact, natural dog toys like bones, antlers, and hooves are the number one cause of fractures and dental surgery in our furry friends.

    Let’s take a look at some of the most popular, hard chew toys to avoid when it comes to your dog’s oral health.


    Though nursery rhymes and pop culture suggest that you can satisfy a dog by giving him a bone, this common trope couldn’t be more wrong. Cooked bones splinter easily, meaning those little shards can damage a dog’s tongue, teeth, and gums, cause stomach trouble, and even puncture the stomach.

    Some dog brands sell uncooked, natural bones for dogs to chew on as an alternative, but all bones are risky for your dog to chew on. Uncooked bones can and do still splinter. Plus, they’re too hard on dog teeth and can break them.


    Similarly, to bones, animal hooves also can harm your dog. Cow hooves in particular used to be a major fad, but over the years they’ve begun to decrease in popularity. This is probably because hooves, like bones, splinter and are too hard for your dog to safely gnaw. They are so hard, in fact, that your dog can actually fracture his jaw, leading to eating problems and chronic pain.

    Pig Ears

    Pig’s ears are another popular, yet unsafe chew toy for dogs. Puppies love to chew on pig ears to satiate their need to teethe, but pig ears have been known to break off after vigorous chewing. Not only do broken pieces cause choking, but the coating used to preserve the pig ears can irritate the stomach, causing your pup to spit it up. Skip this toy and avoid a potential run to the vet or a surprise mess.


    Chew bones and sticks were once commonly made with rawhide material. Rawhide is leather that is chemically-treated to be shaped and molded into fun-looking shapes for dogs. It often contains harmful toxins such as BHA and BHT, formaldehyde, and even arsenic. Many of these agents have carcinogenic properties that increase your dog’s chances of having cancer or pancreatitis later in life. In addition, pieces of rawhide can break off like many of these other hard toys, causing risk of stomach perforation or blockage if swallowed.


    The stick is one of dog’s oldest play toys, so it makes sense that he can chew on them, right? Unfortunately, sticks are dangerous to dogs for a number of reasons. One, the bark easily comes apart and can choke or upset your dog’s stomach. Two, splinters can get lodged into your dog’s tongue or gums. Three, the stick can puncture the roof of your dog’s mouth, his throat, eyes, and even his chest if it gets too sharp.


    You might be thinking, then, that antlers are the perfect alternative to sticks. While antlers are more durable and more sustainable than a bone or ear, they are too hard for dog teeth. Like many of these outdated and hard play toys, they can both break your dog’s teeth and cause punctures in his gums, cheeks, or tongue.

    What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog has Tooth Damage

    While it’s best to avoid potential dental problems from occurring in the first place, sometimes the damage has already been done, like in the case of Chopper.

    If you suspect your dog has a broken tooth, then it needs to be repaired as soon as possible. Take your pup to a dog dentist who can provide you with the care and services necessary to prevent further damage and mend any teeth that may have been injured from hard toys.

    Finding Safe Alternatives for Hard Dog Toys

    There are many more dog toys on the market that aren’t entirely safe for dogs that we might not have included on the list above. Since it can be a challenge to distinguish safe toys from dangerous toys, we have compiled a checklist of safety features you’ll want to look for when purchasing a quality dog toy so that your dog is never at risk for oral health problems.

    • Hardness- Even though very hard toys are often more durable than softer toys, your dog’s teethers should never be harder than his teeth. One easy way to check the hardness of a dog toy is to press down on it with your thumbnail. It should give a little when you apply pressure. If it doesn’t, then it’s too hard for dog teeth.

    • Softness- On the contrary, a toy that is too soft or flimsy can break into pieces and pose a choking hazard. Stuffed toys that contain Poly-Fil should never be used as chew toys. Instead, look for chew toys that are durable but also soft enough to not cause harm.

    • Size- Your dog’s jaw size and teeth will determine which size toy is safe. Many toys have recommendations for dog sizes in their descriptions, but always keep in mind your dog’s unique size. For smaller dogs, aim for a toy that won’t strain their mouths, and for larger dogs, make sure toys aren’t small enough to choke them.

    • Shape- Some toys have shapes that your pup can accidentally get his tongue stuck inside. Treat dispensing toys in particular can have snack holes inside them that may result in your dog getting his tongue caught while trying to get his tasty treats. Remember to always supervise your dog when giving him a toy that has treat dispensing features.

    • Coating- Toys that are coated in flavors can upset a dog’s stomach. Likewise, avoid vinyl or fabric coatings that may contain toxins or phthalates. Always buy from ethically-sourced companies to ensure that the products you buy aren’t contaminated with toxins or dangerous coatings. It’s better for your dog, and it’s better for the environment.

    Safe Dog Toys for Teeth

    If your dog is just itching to get his teeth on a chewable dog toy, investing in high-quality, pliable chew toys is the safest way to keep his teeth strong and healthy. Fortunately, there are many companies that have worked hard to create durable products that mimic actual bones. Now your dog can receive the benefits of chewing on a safe toy without the risks of damaging his mouth like he would on an actual bone!

    Below is a collection of safe and popular bone alternative chew toys for dogs. Each of the products is non-toxic and made with your dog’s health and safety in mind.

    Honey Dripper Bone Chew Toy

    The Honey Dripper Bone is a durable chew toy that helps your dog feel engaged and calm. Made from a nylon and wood composite, this innovative toy is a safe alternative to a typical bone. Designed for avid chewers, this toy massages and exercises your dog’s gums while also keeping his teeth nice and clean. The Honey Dripper Bone is made in the USA, is FDA compliant, and comes in two different sizes. Plus, it’s easy to clean with warm water and is top-rack dishwasher safe!

    Beco Bone

    The Beco Bone is designed to mimic the appearance of an actual bone. Made from natural rubber and rice husk fibers, this long-lasting toy comes in a variety of assorted colors and three sizes, making it perfect for catering to your pup’s unique personality and size. It also has a natural vanilla scent and is 100% natural and biodegradable.

    Orbee-Tuff Bone

    If you’re looking for an interactive dog toy, then the Orbee-Tuff Bone is a great addition to your dog’s collection. This toy is flexible, bouncy, and floats on water. It is also an interactive puzzle toy, with a hole for hiding treats inside! The bone is BPA-free and FDA-compliant, made in the USA, 100% recyclable, and is infused with natural mint oil for an added bonus. Choose between three difference sizes and colors for dogs of all walks of life.

    Hurley Dog Bone

    The Hurley Dog Bone is a two-in-one dog bone that serves as both a bone and a fetching stick. It floats and is ideal for dogs who love to run and splash. Your power chewer will love gnawing on this durable, USA-made toy. It comes in 4 fun colors and 3 sizes, is FDA-compliant, latex-free, and can be recycled.

    Keep in Mind

    It’s important to note that no dog toy is indestructible, and while pliable toys do not last as long as hard bone toys, they are safer and will not lead to costly dental bills later on, as your pet ages.

    Always supervise your dog when playing with a chew toy to make sure no parts have broken off through continual wear and tear. Replace old toys with new ones if there is any sign of deterioration, and be sure to wash your dog’s toys regularly to keep harmful bacteria and dirt from going into your pup’s mouth.

    For more tips on how to choose the perfect dog chew toy, check out our guide on toys for your dog’s chew strength.


    Until next time--