The text arrived in late October from our friend Jenn, Zip's human grandma. Jenn had given Zip a deer antler to chew on. The antler became lodged in his throat. "I am so upset that I almost killed Zip!", she wrote. "I had no idea that deer antlers were dangerous!" The result was pain for Zip, an expensive trip to the doggie ER, and that horrible burden of guilt.

A trip to Petco or Petsmart is overwhelming. So many pet toys! Bright purple toys. Toys to relieve stress. Toys to provide comfort. Toys to provide companionship. Squeaky toys. Rope toys. Battery-operated toys. Outdoor toys. Indoor toys. Too. Many. Choices. What is a pet parent to do?


  • Toys that are vinyl. Dioxins are a byproduct of vinyl and can cause cancer. Vinyl is difficult to recycle and also contains a number of additives that are highly toxic. Eventually, vinyl hardens and becomes brittle, which can lead to choking.
  • Toys with a single air hole. A single air hole can act as a deadly suction cup.
  • Rope toys. Dogs can pull off pieces and swallow them. Shards can block your pup’s intestines and those will need to be surgically removed.
  • Pig ears, deer antlers, rib bones, cow and beef hooves, and bone marrow. These can cause your dog to choke, give your pup an upset stomach, or fracture their teeth.
  • Squeaky toys and toys with batteries are choking hazards and require supervision. Your pup will chew the toy, wanting to get to the squeaker. Once that victory has been scored, attempting to chew the squeaker will be a natural choice.
  • Anything a cat can rip into pieces.
  • Balls that are too small.
  • Toys that have ribbon, yarn, strings, eyes, or other small items that can be chewed
  • Plain old yarn, string, or ribbon. Cats can be strangled by these items or swallow these items, resulting in a blocked intestine


  • Catnip
  • SlingSock is one of our favorite pet items because it has many uses. Tug-A-War, fetch, or your pup can sling it around for alone playtime. We bought ours at Home Goods for $5. It is available in a variety of sizes.
  • Our grand-kitties love CatDancer, which can be found on Amazon for $1.99. It is interactive, affordable, and durable
  • Dog Treat Puzzles provide enrichment—working the nose and cognitive thinking. A variety is available on Amazon The important thing to remember is that you will need to slowly introduce the puzzle to your pup.