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Healthy Pets

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Pet Gift Hazards to Avoid

Think about play styles and possible risks before giving gifts to your pet.

Dog Gift Watch List continued...

“I think dogs, relatively early in their lives, declare themselves as eaters of stuff or not eaters of stuff,” says Tuft’s Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, a board-certified specialist in emergency/critical care and internal medicine.

Rozanski once treated a Doberman Pinscher famous for eating the family’s socks. Someone gave the dog a child’s sock puppet. He ate the whole thing and required surgery.

“It was something that for most dogs wouldn’t have been a problem,” Rozanski says, “but our big rule of thumb is that if the dog is specifically silly about something like that, then watch out for those kinds of toys. Some dogs will eat and swallow anything, so I don’t think I have anything that I sit here and think it’s specifically an unsafe toy as much as unsafe for a specific dog.”

Keep an eye on toy or pet product size. Often, Rozanski says, dogs get into trouble with items too small for their use, even if just by a little bit. For example, the ER sometimes sees dogs that have gotten marrow bones stuck in their mouths. “That’s not life-threatening,” Rozanski says, “but if the bone is just the right size, it gets stuck behind their canine teeth.”

Cat Gift Watch List

Dogs can have trouble if they eat linear or stringy objects, but cats are famous for it. These long items “have a higher potential to do damage," Rozanski says.

Miller agrees and cautions feline gift-givers to limit strings, ribbons, or nesting material used in wrappings or gift baskets - or cat products themselves.

Cats enjoy toys with dangly parts, but Miller says, “It should be an interactive-type game, not a self-play type of game.”

Kids Toys vs. Pet Toys

People sometimes offer dogs and cats children’s toys. On the surface, it might seem safe, but the two kinds of toys serve different purposes.

“Kids’ toys are often not suitable for pets because pets put toys under different stresses and actions than kids do,” Miller says. “So even though kids’ toys are tested for safety standards, they are meant for child-sized bodies and child strength and physical capabilities, not for predators. Dogs and cats are strong. They have sharp teeth. They can be persistent.”

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