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Are Rope Toys Dangerous For Your Dog?

Yes. Dogs can tear them apart and swallow the threads, which can result in an obstruction and costly surgery. By John Strassburger - Published: July 17, 2023

Overall, rope toys are not safe for your dog, especially if he’s an aggressive chewer who likes to consume what he pulls from the toy.

If you notice – or even think, based on missing pieces of the toy – that your dog ate some of his rope toy, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

If you see part of the string, like it is stuck to a tooth or wrapped around his tongue, but you don’t see the other end, do NOT pull on the string. Just pulling on it could cause it to become entrapped in the digestive tract or severely worsen the problem.

When you take your dog to the vet, he or she may make the dog vomit or may recommend adding canned pumpkin to the dog’s diet to help him pass the string safely. Even then, however, if the string becomes entangled, you’re looking at surgery.

Supervise All Toys

It’s not just string, though. Chewing and swallowing part of any toy can quickly become a veterinary emergency. No dog should be unsupervised when chewing on any type of toy or chew toy.

A study from The Journal of Small Animal Practice looked at 499 cases where dogs had swallowed either a linear foreign body (in other words, string-like objects) or a non-linear foreign body (like anything else). They found that dogs with a linear foreign body had more severe clinical signs and an increased duration of hospitalization and cost of the procedure. Interestingly, however, the study found survival rates in both types of obstructions to be similar. Swallowing anything but food is a bad idea.

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My Dog Doesn’t Swallow String

OK, whether your dog chews off some of the rope or not might depend a little on your dog’s personality. Some dogs chew more aggressively than others. And size matters. A little Shih Tzu or Pomeranian probably will take a lot longer to destroy a rope toy than a big Doberman Pinscher or a Rottweiler. Dogs are individual, creative chewers, and they all need to be supervised.

That’s why most veterinarians and dog trainers recommend something other than rope toys for dogs. If your dog loves to chew or play tug of war, Wendy Beatty, co-founder of Playology, a company that invents and makes dog toys, recommends malleable and bendable, hard rubber toys like a Kong, which also is highly rated by Whole Dog Journal to combat boredom and allow safer chewing.

What If My Dog Likes to Play Tug Of War?

Tug is fun for dogs! Don’t discourage him, says animal behaviorist and dog trainer Jody Epstein, because it’s good exercise for him when done right – and for you, too.

Whole Dog Journal Training Editor Pat Miller agrees: “Not all dogs enjoy tugging, but if your dog does, go for it!” She says the old belief that tugging will make your dog dominant is not true, but you do need to play safe.

For years, people have used a knotted rope or a rope toy to play tug with their dogs. Fleece tugs are the modern alternative to rope tugs, but with any tug you run the risk of material being swallowed if it is bitten off. Keep all tugs in good shape, replacing them if they become weak or shredding. An alternative to soft tugs is a hard rubber toy in the shape of rings that will suffice as a tug.

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Note:  If your dog isn’t a fan of tug, that’s OK, too. There are plenty of other games to play, like fetch a ball or a disk. Use the proper sized ball or disk, however, so your dog doesn’t accidentally swallow it and begin choking.

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