Vets warn owners to steer clear of retractable leads and other dangerous gifts

As dog owners, we all want the best for our pets. But did you know some of the most popular dog products are potentially unsafe? Our emergency vets have seen dogs become injured or ill as a result of all of these things so, if you’re planning on buying any of them as a festive gift, please think again.

Here, our professional standards director, Laura Playforth, has listed some of the most popular dog accessories that you should probably avoid.

1. Fancy dress outfits

Is buying a fancy dress outfit for your pet on your to-do list? If so, consider this: our vets have been alerted to a hidden danger many pet owners may not be aware of – fancy dress outfits for pets that ignite within seconds of coming into contact with a naked flame. Our own fire safety experiments into the flammability of some of these outfits was alarming, with some going up in flames in seconds.

2. Retractable leads

Retractable leads – thin string that extends as your dog moves away and can be stopped by pushing down on a button on a plastic handle – are often viewed as a good way to give dogs a little freedom while keeping them safe and under control. But, in reality, these leads are potentially dangerous and have been known to cause serious injuries in dogs, including rope burns and deep cuts. On top of that they are so long – up to 30ft – it’s often impossible for owners who use them to guarantee their dog’s safety. They are particularly risky when walking your dog by the road – if the lead is extended more than arm’s length from your body it’s highly likely they could get into the road before you could stop them.

image of retractable lead for Vets Now article on retractable dog lead and other dog gifts to avoid
Retractable leads can extend to 30 metres in length

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3. Dangerous toys

Dog owners need to be vigilant when it comes to toys. Some are terribly made and nowhere near robust enough. Our emergency vets have treated scores of sick dogs who have swallowed badly-made, broken or worn-out toys, with some even requiring surgery to remove the product from their stomach, throat or intestines.

4. Jerky treats

Your dog is likely to snap your hand off for one of these chewy strips of dried meat, but be wary of jerky treats. Some foreign imports have been linked to a horrific condition called Fanconi syndrome, which causes kidney damage and is potentially fatal. If you do feed your dog jerky be on the lookout for any abnormal signs such as extreme tiredness.

5. Bones

Give a dog a bone, or perhaps don’t if you’d rather avoid a trip to one of our pet emergency clinics or hospitals. Bones are a common cause of intestinal obstructions in dogs and chewing on them can result in damaged teeth or injury due to bone splinters puncturing the mouth or digestive tract. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to choke on bones. Cross-breed Molly was left in agony after she swallowed a chicken bone she found on the street on Christmas Day.

Image of puppy eating from a plastic bowl for Vets Now article on dog gifts to avoid
Some plastic bowls may be potentially dangerous to dogs

6. Plastic bowls

Cheap and convenient they may be, but some plastic bowls are nigh-on impossible to keep clean. This is particularly the case if they’ve started to crack, peel or have deep scratches as the damaged area is a haven for bacteria. Some plastic dog bowls have also been known to release dangerous chemicals into food and water, particularly if they get very hot.

7. Choke collars

Choke collars or choke chains are designed to stop dogs from pulling on their lead. However, they do this by inflicting pain and discomfort which in turn can harm your pet both physically and emotionally.

8. Unsafe chews

Chews may be a popular dog gift and while natural chews like antlers and buffalo horns might be considered the healthier option, it’s still important that you consider your dog’s safety.
Chews to avoid include:

  • Anything too hard that could damage dogs’ teeth
  • Anything that could splinter
  • Small chews that could be choking hazard
  • Anything sharp or shaped in a way that could cause injury

Calli the German shepherd’s story shows just how dangerous natural chews can be. She needed emergency surgery to remove a buffalo chew that had gotten stuck around her jaw.