All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Safe Pet Toys

Dear Marie,
I've been receiving some mass-circulated e-mails about pet toys that have caused injuries and I am very concerned. Does anyone regulate pet toys to make sure they are safe? I had planned on getting my pets little holiday presents – and now, after reading some of these horror stories, I’m not so sure this is a good idea. I know this sounds like a knee-jerk reaction – but my pets are just too important to me.

Dear Michelle,
I've received many of the same type of e-mails so I appreciate your concern. Some of the emails are chain-letters – however, when I check the subject matter out, the content is confirmed. But I have also received some very heart-wrenching personal letters from pet owners detailing some very tragic accidents involving toys.

In one letter, a woman recounted how after leaving her young cat unattended with a cat toy on a bungee that was affixed to a cat tree, she returned home from work to find her beloved pet strangled by the cord. Needless to say, she was horrified. The toy seemed so harmless and fun and she thought it would provide her cat with some interactive play while she was away.

Another letter detailed the tragedy of a dog choking to death on a piece of a rawhide toy. His owners tried desperately to dislodge the piece of rawhide that was obstructing the dog’s breathing, to no avail. And in moments, their dog was dead.

A recent “chain-email” I received described in great detail the trauma one dog suffered as a result of his tongue being suctioned into a hard rubber ball that he had been chewing on. His owner couldn't get the ball off and the poor dog’s tongue had swollen to a great degree. He had to be taken to a veterinarian to have the ball removed; but in the end, his tongue has suffered too much damage and had to be amputated.

There are no safety protocols in effect for pet toys. Some even contain lead which has long been banned from children’s toys. Pet’s can become sickened due to lead poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, difficulty walking, abdominal pain, tremors, blindness and even coma.

Some toys have small parts, rope or strings that can be swallowed by pets, but not passed in the stool. This can lead to intestinal blockages. Some of these pieces can actually perforate the intestines or the stomach, or leech toxic chemicals.

If you have a bird, you need to be especially careful. There are a lot of plastic bird toys in stores.These are easily broken up by any sized bird and the sharp pieces can be swallowed. Avoid bird toys with bells as some of these are coated with zinc and can cause zinc poisoning.

So, you are not overreacting to this issue. There just aren't the same safety measures taken for pets that there are for people. A good rule of thumb is this: Supervise your pet when you give him a toy. Make sure the toy is size and species appropriate. Avoid rawhide toys. Purchase products that come from trusted manufacturers and appear to be high quality. Balls should have a number of air holes so that suction will not be created when a dog chews on them. If there are not multiple holes in a ball, make a few yourself. Cat toys on strings/springs/elastic bungees should only be used when a cat is being supervised.

When in doubt, talk with your veterinarian. Most veterinarians have seen accidents that are toy-related and can give you some good tips on what to avoid and what might make a safe plaything.

The holiday season is just getting into full swing – if you don't yet have a little something for your pet
under the Christmas tree this year, hit the “After Christmas Sales.” Your pets don’t care when they get a toy. And, if you do your research online, you’ll be able to find quite a few fun and safe toys to give to your special little buddies. Combine that with good, common sense, and you should have a very Happy and Safe Post Holiday Season.

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