Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perilous Playthings: Think Safety in Picking Pet Toys

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perilous Playthings: Think Safety in Picking Pet Toys

Article excerpt

IF YOU'RE WONDERING what happened to that superball you gave your dog for Christmas, it may be lurking in his stomach.

Small balls are among the seemingly harmless playthings that can pose a serious hazard to pets.

"We have X-rays in our Veterinary Medical Center of a golden retriever who had swallowed up to 14 racquetballs," said Katherine McGowan, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Missouri. The balls had to be surgically removed. While toys made for children must meet strict federal safety standards to be marketed, pet toys face no such requirements. "I've been in the field for 25 years, and I've never seen any lawsuits or attempts to regulate pet toys," said Geri Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington. When it comes to picking a plaything for your pet, you're on your own, kid. But these tips from some animal-care professionals may help: First, make sure the toy is too big to be swallowed. Pet toys most often cause problems when they are swallowed whole or if large chunks are bitten off, says Dr. Gary Atkinson, director of County Animal Hospital in west St. Louis County. Swallowed parts "can cause an obstruction or irritation or vomiting, but sometimes a week or two will pass before it cau ses any problem," he said. The Humane Society says that, as a general rule, balls should be larger than tennis balls, and solid balls are safer than hollow ones. Be wary of toys that have parts that can break off or splinter. This can include real bones and rawhide chew toys. The Humane Society does not recommend either. But there is some disagreement among professionals on rawhide chew toys. According to one study reported in the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association, dogs fed rawhide strips three times daily had no choking or intestinal problems. They also had cleaner teeth. But pieces of rawhide sometimes get caught in the back of a dog's mouth and cause vomiting, so if you would like to give your dog a rawhide chew toy, take it away when it gets small enough to fit entirely in the dog's mouth. Do not give cats lengths of string and yarn, warns Dr. Michael Fox, author of a column on pets and "The New Animal Doctor's Answer Book. …

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