What is your dog’s favorite toy?

Is it a tug toy? A stuffed animal with a squeaker inside? Maybe just a trusty, old tennis ball?

As pet owners, we all love to spoil our pups with toys. It’s not only good for their development but also helps us bond with our best friend. And don’t you just love giving them a new toy? Their joyful gratitude is priceless!

If your dog is anything like mine, when I come home from the store with any kind of bag his nose is immediately inside of it looking to see if I brought him a tasty treat or a new toy to destroy. My first dog, Sergei, would think it was a game for how fast he could rip out the squeaker from inside; I think four seconds was his record time.

After the exhausting fun of a good tug-o-war or catch session is over, who would give thought that these same wonderful toys could cause any potential harm? As the founder of The Sergei Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to help sick and injured pets receive critical veterinary care, I have seen my fair share of emergency medical cases involving toys and bones.

I certainly don’t want to scare you – just inform – to foster prevention for these types of mishaps and avoid what could become a life-threatening situation for your dog.

The toys themselves are not innately harmful, but rather it’s when we leave our pets unsupervised with them. Why? Dogs love to entertain themselves when they get bored. Especially when left alone. For example, the rope toy that you tug with becomes a chew toy to bide his time while waiting for you to come home from work. That tightly braided rope toy can become more like a mop, and the strands can then be swallowed.

There was one case in which The Sergei Foundation helped a boxer named Jethro who did just that. He ingested the rope and emergency surgery was needed. It had wrapped throughout his intestines causing the tissue to become necrotic from lack of blood flow. Jethro survived! But it was after the veterinarian had performed life-saving surgery to cut away three areas of the affected intestines and sew the remaining back together.

(Above: Jethro after surgery)

Another case was for a husky named Niko. He swallowed the plastic squeaker from a stuffed toy. What seemed to be a successful surgery at fist ended up with complications, and Niko’s story ultimately did not end as well.

It’s not just rope toys. Dogs can tear up many kinds of toys. (It’s not limited to just toys… baby socks have been the culprit of many a surgical procedure!) That’s why I taught my dog to “spit it” when something gets into his mouth that I don’t want him to swallow. This comes in handy for those squeakers, pieces of plastic from Frisbees, and other items he destroyed that could become a gastrointestinal nightmare. Even raw hide bones can have very sharp edges after chewing that could cause damage when swallowed. The “leave it” command is also great to teach your dog to keep other items such as rocks, twigs, and small children’s toys out of his mouth altogether.

(Above: Sergei, the legacy for The Sergei Foundation, with his stuffed toys.)

What happens if you notice a toy destroyed or partially chewed? It depends. How much was chewed? Is the evidence on the floor or did it disappear? The main thing is to watch how your dog is acting. If he doesn’t want to eat or is vomiting, then definitely visit your veterinarian right away.

I know we can’t watch our dogs 24/7, and if we become over-protective it can take the joy out of pet ownership. However, becoming more aware of these dangers can help in setting you up for prevention. For example, when leaving your dog home alone pick up the toys that can easily be chewed – especially for puppies and young dogs under a couple years of age. Instead of those toys, leave a hard rubber toy down such as a Kong™ ball or leave the TV on for some noise and entertainment. Crating is also advisable to protect your dog from these and other dangers when left unsupervised.

Of course, as your dog ages and grows out of those stages he may just be content to be a couch potato. That is, until you get home and he springs up to greet you with tail wags and kisses, bringing you his favorite toy to play a game of catch or tug-o-war!


Karen Fullerton is the founder and CEO of The Sergei Foundation, a nonprofit organization helping to save sick and injured companion pets’ lives for lower-income families who cannot afford veterinary care.

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Karen is also the author of Sergei’s Eyes: Reflections of Soul Lessons, and proceeds 100% benefit this cause. On a more personal note, Karen has more than 20 years as a Reiki Master Teacher and utilizes these skills for pet healing and communication. She and her husband live in Oak Island, North Carolina with her dog, Sydney, and two cats, Samantha and Jude. 

 Web: KarenFullerton.com and SergeiFoundation.org

Amazon Author Page: https://smile.amazon.com/Karen-Fullerton/e/B01N918QR1/