What Type of Holiday Gifts and Treats are Best for my Dog?

For those who view their furry friends as part of the family, who wouldn’t think about including a special toy, bone, or treat for their pet for the holiday?  You may be wondering what type of gift is the best fit for your pet.  While there are many choices, here are some suggestions to consider:

Recommended Play Toys:
•    KONGs -  KONGs are made up of 100% natural rubber that is puncture-resistant, non-toxic, and comes in different shapes and sizes which includes a hollow center.  You can stuff these hollow centers with soft food, like cheese or peanut butter, and leave the stuffed KONG in a freezer over night for an ice-cream treat which will keep your dog busy for longer periods of time.  KONGs come in different colors to indicate which is appropriate for different types of chewers.   They are easy to clean, and are considered a good toy to give to a dog when crated.
•    Buster Cubes – These are interactive toys that dispense treats when pushed along the ground.  They are great for helping reduce behavioral issues by increasing mental stimulation.  These toys should not be given to aggressive chewers since they could chew or swallow pieces of the plastic.
•    Stuffed Toys – Most stuffed toys are made of fabric or lamb’s wool and stuffed with Polyfil and a squeaky toy inside.  These are great for light chewers or puppies. They can be easily washed.  To help prevent ingestion, make sure the stuffed toy doesn’t completely fit in the dog’s mouth.  Monitor the playtime with stuffed toys, because dogs can get the squeaky toy out and potential ingest it or choke on it.
•    Soft Frisbees – Soft Frisbees come in different sizes and textures.  These are great for exercise and entertainment (if their human counterpart is willing to throw it).  When choosing a Frisbee, it is recommended that you choose a size that is large enough for the dog to handle, but that doesn’t completely fit into the dog’s mouth.  Most Frisbees aren’t appropriate for aggressive chewers since they could chew it and ingest part of it.

Non-Recommended Play Toys:
•    Tennis Balls and Rubber Balls – Although it’s acceptable to play fetch with tennis balls, do not leave the dog unattended with the balls, because the balls can be too abrasive on the dog’s teeth, and can be ripped apart and eaten leading to choking or serious stomach issues.  Always choose a size that can’t completely fit into the dog’s mouth.
•    Any toy that resemble things in the house – Fuzzy toys can resemble carpets to dogs.  Rope toys can resemble tassels on furniture or shoes.  Some dog toys, especially rubber or squeaker toys, can resemble children’s toys.

Recommended Chew Toys/Bones:
•    Nylabone and Gummabone -  These chews are made from pure nylon and are great for average-to-aggressive chewers.  Since these are usually flavorless, you can soak them in chicken or beef broth for 15-20 minutes or a light coat of peanut butter for extra flavor.  Nylabones are durable, long-lasting, and safe.  However, make sure you pick a size that can’t fit completely in the dog’s mouth.
•    Booda Velvet Bones or Carrot Bones – These are corn starch edible chews.  They are non-toxic, odorless, non-staining, and come in enjoyable textures.  They also help clean the dog’s teeth and gums.  On the downside, they don’t last as long as other chews.
•    Sterilized Hollow Bones - These are good for non-aggressive chewers.  They can be filled with cheese, liver, or peanut butter.  Make sure you pick a size large enough to be safe for your dog to chew.  
•    Compressed Rawhide – Compressed rawhide is great for non-aggressive chewers since it can’t be easily chewed in large chunks or cause possible choking hazards.  Be sure to check that whatever type of rawhide you buy is free of formaldehyde or bleached with titanium oxide.
•    Cow Hooves (only for non-aggressive chewers) – You can use these strictly as a chew or stuff the hollow area with peanut butter or other soft, sticky food to keep your dog busy for hours.  These are popular and relatively inexpensive chews.  However, always monitor the dog when they chew on a cow hoof, because it could cause broken teeth or other type of mouth injury when it is chewed in a patter that creates sharp edges.  Also, a dog’s stomach could become upset if too much is consumed.  Lastly, any remnants of the stuffing could get on furniture which could cause the dog to chew the furniture, as well.
•    Cow Ears and Pig Ears – Cow ears and pig ears are great for light-to-average chewers.  They are made from fat and cartilage, and can be consumed quickly.  Because they can be consumed quickly, the dog doesn’t get all the dental benefits as they would with other chews.  Since there is fat in cow and pig ears, the fat can cause grease stains on fabric.  You will want to wash your hands after handling cow and pig ears, as they could still contain salmonella.  When a cow or pig ear is wet, it can have an unpleasant smell for some people.

Non-Recommended Chew Toys/Bones:
•    “Aggressive” chewers like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers should not be given any type of rawhide since it can crack or abscess their teeth.  Instead, consider knucklebones since they are softer.  Note, still supervise your dog when chewing on a knucklebone because you don’t want the dog to chew the dense part of the bone or swallow large pieces of bone.
•    Avoid buying rawhides that have added flavorings since they can stain carpets, fabric, and other types of flooring.
•    Flexible Nylabones should never be given to an aggressive or average chewer because large pieces could be bitten off and become lodged in the dog’s intestinal tract.

Recommended Food Treats:
•    Hard Cookie Treats – Most are flour or wheat-based, so check to see if your dog has any allergies such as corn, wheat, sugars, or artificial flavorings.  Many hard cookie treats contain only natural ingredients, and are typically lower in fat than processed cookie treats.
•    Soft Dog Treats – Soft dog treats are easier to eat, and usually have a strong aroma which is great for picky eaters.  Since soft dog treats are highly valued, they are useful to use as a training aid when teaching a dog.  Most soft dog treats are non-greasy, so you don’t have to worry about clothing be stained.  However, dogs can gain weight when given too many soft dog treats.  Lastly, check to see if your dog has any allergies before giving them the treat.
•    Freeze-Dried Treats – These treats have their water removed while leaving the basic structures and composition intact.  By removing the water, it helps keep the food from spoiling for a longer time.  Other benefits include:  Refrigeration is not needed, it won’t stain clothing, and it has a strong aroma which lures dogs.  However, these treats can be expensive considered to other alternatives.

Non-Recommended Food Treats:
•    Grapes - Grapes can cause kidney failure in your dog.  If your dog eats a grape, it is best to keep an eye on them and watch for abnormal behavior and sickness like constant vomiting.   If this is occurring, have your veterinarian check out your dog’s health.
•    Chocolate - Theobromine is the ingredient in chocolate that you want to keep your dog away from.  If consumed, your dog could begin to vomit or produce  diarrhea.  Keep the chocolate away from your dog, and you will keep them healthy and your floors clean.
•    Raw Eggs - Most people read this and think, “why would I ever let my dog eat a raw egg?”   You should not give raw eggs to dogs because it can cause serious health problems due to Salmonella.  However, cooked eggs should be fine.
•    Avocado - The key ingredient in avocado that is bad for your dog is called persin. This can be found in all parts of the tree, leaves, and seeds in an avocado.  Keep your dog away from avocados because too much persin is toxic for dogs and could put their health in danger.
•    Coffee - The main issue with coffee is the caffeine.  Caffeine is bad for dogs and you should not let them have any.  If consumed in large enough quantities, it can be fatal.  Try to keep all types of caffeine away from your pet.  If they do get into a bag of grinds, call your poison center hotline and seek medical attention.
•    Milk - Unlike humans, dogs cannot consume dairy products.  A dog’s digestive system is unable to break down dairy, and it typically causes upset stomach and diarrhea.  
•    Alcohol – Alcohol has the same effects on dogs as it does to humans.  The issue is that dogs are much smaller and even a little bit can cause them severe sickness.  
•    Onions - Onions are bad for your dog’s red blood cells.  By eating onions, dogs can become anemic and develop other health issues.  
•    Candy - Xylitol is the key ingredient that you want to keep your dog away from.  This ingredient will throw dog’s insulin levels into a spin which leads to liver failure.  It is important to keep an eye on all the candy in your house, and make sure it is stowed away properly.  
•    Mushrooms - Mushrooms don’t have a specific set of health issues.  Rather, they sometimes contain toxins which are generally bad for your dog’s health.  
•    Fish - Thiamine deficiency is a result of your dog eating too much fish.  This can result in a handful of different health issues including loss of appetite and seizures.  If your dog eats a little bit, they should be fine.  But, if they consume a lot, or on a consistent basis, you could begin to see health issues in your pet.
•    Yeast Dough - If your dog eats dough before it is cooked, it will rise in their stomach and cause serious abdomen issues.