Rope chews pose danger to your dog
By SUZANNE HIVELY
PLAIN DEALER PETS COLUMNIST
Feeling like a Scrooge, I pitched Maricela's favorite
rope chew toy into the trash.
It had been such fun to watch her. The toy was
almost as big as the Chinese crested pup, and she let
the momentum from its weight spin her in
succeedingly faster circles.
Only a few days earlier, Dr. Leslie Cook of Hunting
Ridge Animal Hospital in Sharon Township and two
veterinarian technicians in her office also tossed away
their dogs' favorite rope toys.
The rope toys were trashed after Cook performed
surgery on Sharon Hunstiger's 5-year-old golden
retriever, Zeke. He had swallowed a piece of his
rope toy and it unraveled in his intestines.
Hunstiger, who lives in Clinton in Summit County,
didn't realize that Zeke had ingested part of the toy,
but when he began showing signs of illness, she
rushed him to Cook.
"We found that the rope section he had eaten had
extended from his stomach through the length of the
small intestine," Cook said. The damage was so
severe that Zeke did not survive.
Hunstiger was devastated. "Rope chews are ticking
time bombs in dog lovers' homes," she said. "The
rope chew that killed Zeke was around the house for
several months and he had never shown an inclination
to bite chunks out of it."
Since Zeke's death in November, Hunstiger has
begun investigating rope toys and writing to
manufacturers and retailers about their potential
Unlike children's toys, no testing is required for pets' toys.
Robert Kirch, president of Aspen Pet Products in
Aspen, Colo., said employees volunteer their own
pets to test products for appeal and durability.
Tom McLaughlin, sales manager of Lazy Pet
Products in Brea, Calif., said pets at the county
shelter test its products. It makes beds for pets and
more toys for cats than for dogs.
Petsmart's consumer relations coordinator, Deborah
Asch, sent a letter to Hunstiger, saying, ". . . We
recognize that pets differ greatly in their needs and
their nature. Dogs, especially, vary in activity,
disposition and chewing habits. . . . Not all toys are
appropriate for all dogs."
Hunstiger said, "Nowhere on any label of the rope
chew toys I looked at is there wording advising one
to take a pet to the vet as a precautionary measure, if
you have reason to believe a portion of the toy has
"On some, there is a reference to "removing' the rope
chew, if you have observed that your pet has taken
chunks out of it."
Commonly ingested items
Rope chews and other toys are not the only items
that can cause problems for pets. Cook has
performed surgery five times on a pooch with a
penchant for pantyhose.
"Pantyhose, dishcloths and rocks are commonly
ingested," Cook said.
"We see dogs that ingest bones, and some dogs will
get a bone from a round steak stuck over their lower
"We've also had problems at Easter with dogs trying
to demolish an entire ham bone. That really tears up
the intestinal tract."
Often, by the time the owner realizes that something
is wrong, it is too late to save the dog, Cook said.
Toy dogs have a problem with biting the tips off cow
hoof chews and ingesting them. Other items that
frequently pose problems include pacifiers,
baby-bottle ***s and corn cobs.
Cats sometimes bite electrical cords, Cook said.
"Other things we commonly find [ingested- are tinsel
and garlands from Christmas trees, and Easter
basket grass," she said.
Large breeds of dogs can get balls used for tennis
and racquetball stuck in their throats.
What to watch for
Potentially, any toy or object could be a problem.
"The best thing is to use common sense," Cook said.
"If there is something that has possibly been ingested,
notify a veterinarian as soon as possible."
The dog may act depressed or try unsuccessfully to
vomit or have a bowel movement.
It is also advisable to know your dog's chewing
habits. Some will play with the same toy for years.
Others will demolish it in minutes.
Examine toys before buying to see if they seem
sturdy enough for the pet's play habits. If a toy shows
wear, provide a new one.
Don't leave any toy with a dog unless the animal is
being supervised. And forget about toys used for
tugging. In addition to the possibility of damage to a
puppy's teeth, when the dog grows to ***hood, it
may not distinguish the rag it played with from the leg
of your best trousers.