The holiday season is upon us and if you’re like many pet owners, that means giving gifts to your pets, too! We all want our pets to join in on the holiday festivities, but we also want them to be safe while doing so. Believe it or not, there are holiday treats and toys that just aren’t safe for your pet’s teeth. We’ll break down the best and worst holiday toys for your pet so you can choose a gift that your pet will love this holiday season.

Bones and Antlers

Have you ever seen those giant holiday bones wrapped in bright red and green ribbon? They look like something out of a dog’s dreams, but they’re a no-go for your pet’s teeth. That’s because bones and antlers are too hard for your dog’s teeth and may cause fractures. A fractured tooth is more than just a cosmetic problem – it also causes exposure of the pulp cavity, which can lead to pain and infection. Fractured teeth need to be treated, either with surgical removal (extraction) or root canal therapy. These can be costly and involve putting your pet under general anesthesia. It is much easier to prevent a fractured tooth than to treat one.

Try these alternatives instead: The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approves 28 different edible chew treats for dogs that are proven to prevent plaque and tartar formation. These treats are not only safe for your pet’s teeth – they actually clean the teeth while your dog is chewing them.

Tennis Balls

Some dogs just can’t resist a good game of fetch, and a shiny new sleeve of tennis balls may seem like the perfect gift. But did you know that tennis balls can be bad for your dog’s teeth? That bright yellow fuzz is highly abrasive and collects dirt and small rocks, making it even more so. All that dirt and grit rubbing against your dog’s teeth gradually wears down the enamel, making the teeth more sensitive and causing pain. Loss of enamel also allows bacteria to penetrate the underlying dentin, causing infection and inflammation, which can eventually lead to the death of the affected teeth. Enamel defects must be treated to preserve the dentin and restore the tooth.

Try these alternatives instead: Your ball-loving pooch doesn’t need to do without. Try ditching the fuzz and get some rubber balls instead. They’ll be safer for your pet’s teeth, and you’ll still get to play your favorite game.

Nylon Chews and Toys

Many pet chews and toys are made of nylon, a tough plastic material that’s hard and durable. Plastic bones and toys for “super chewers” are often made of nylon because it’s tough to break through. Unfortunately, that also means it’s tough on your dog’s teeth. Even though it’s often touted as a safe alternative to regular bones, this hard plastic is hard enough to cause tooth fractures. When looking for toys for your dog, an excellent way to check if the toy is safe for your dog’s teeth is by using your thumbnail. If you can’t make an indentation in the toy with your nail, it’s too hard for your dog’s teeth and could cause a fracture. Nylon is too hard to indent with your nail, and that means it’s too hard for your dog’s teeth and could cause a fracture.

Try these alternatives instead: The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approves three different rawhide chews for dogs that are proven to prevent plaque and tartar. They are Purina Busy HeartyHide Chew Treats, Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diets Dental Chewz Dog Treats, and Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews for Dogs. Try one of these options as a longer-lasting chew for your dog that’s both safe and healthy for your dog’s teeth. If that’s not enough to keep your dog busy, consider looking for a rubber chew toy, which is durable but softer than nylon and less likely to cause fractured teeth.

The Gift of Oral Health

To summarize, when choosing gifts for your pet this holiday season, make sure to keep your pet’s oral health in mind. Avoid hard bones and toys that could cause teeth to fracture, and look instead for softer options that will allow your dog to exercise his natural urge to chew without posing a risk to his teeth. In addition, consider products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval. The Veterinary Oral Health Council awards this seal to products that meet standards of plaque and tartar prevention according to its testing protocols. Using an approved product for your pet regularly keeps their mouth healthier while they enjoy a tasty treat or chew.

Lastly, in addition to the precautions to take in choosing the safest toys, consider giving your pet the gift of better oral health care this holiday season. A toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste may not sound like very exciting gifts, but they are the best ones you can give your pet for better oral health. Daily brushing is the best way to keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy and disease-free. It’s never too late to start a brushing routine with your pet!

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