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Pet parents spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year on their canine companions. They buy dog beds, chew toys, leashes, collars, and lots of other necessary and unusual pet products to spoil their dogs. These pet products make life more comfortable for the dog and a little easier for the owner, but they aren’t always safe.

Veterinarians see countless dogs every year that have been injured by commercial dog products. Often it is because the owners are not using the product the way it was intended, or the product that they purchased was not suitable for their dog’s size, weight, or breed.

It’s imperative that pet owners select dog products with care. You should research any product before you buy it and read reviews from other consumers. It may only take a few minutes of research to figure out that a product will be harmful to your dog.

What Dog Product Related Issues Do Vets See most Often
Photo: Geoff Stearns

For example, some quick research on a popular dog toy may show that aggressive chewers are able to break pieces off and swallow them.

It is also important to read dog products’ guidelines and use them only as directed by the manufacturer. If not, you may end up like one of the other innumerable pet owners who need to rush their dog to the vet because he’s had a bad experience with a commercial product. Different types of dog products pose different threats, so it’s important to know the risks involved in using a product before you purchase it.

What Dog Products Related Issues Do Vets Encounter Most Often?

Any dog product that is not used responsibly can injure a dog, but as long as you supervise your pet and make wise purchases, most products are very safe. So which dog products cause the most issues, and what problems do they typically cause? My years in the veterinary field have given me some insight into this topic.

Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. This article should not be considered as professional pet health or training advice. Please talk to your veterinarian before using any new methods or dog products with your pet.

Retractable dog leashes

What Dog Product Related Issues Do Vets See most Often
Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

Retractable leashes may seem like a godsend to owners that want their dog to have a little more freedom while out for a walk, but they have a dark side. Most dogs on retractable leashes are poorly trained in obedience, which can become an issue when using the leash properly.

At full extension, some of these leashes can put your dog up to 20 feet away from you. This prevents adequate control of the dog and can lead to devastating circumstances. One very common issue seen by vets is dogs that have been attacked by another dog while on a retractable leash.

RELATED: How to teach a dog to walk on a leash

I have also seen several dogs that have been hit by cars while on a retractable leash. In both circumstances the owners could not adequately control their pet’s movement and the dogs bolted toward another dog or out into traffic. The “braking” mechanism on the leash malfunctioned in one of these cases, so when the dog bolted, the brake did not stop the leash and the dog was struck by a car.

The thin lead that is standard on retractable leashes can also be a hazard to human and canine skin if wrapped around a finger, hand, leg or paw. These leads are also known to cut off circulation and damage the limb entirely. It is crucial that you do not give your dog too much slack while using a retractable leash.

If you do choose to use a retractable leash, make sure to get a quality one such as Flexi Explore Retractable Belt and then work on your pet’s obedience skills, such as ‘come when called’ to help prevent any potential problems.  It’s a good idea to start with a standard leash and once your dog is trained well, move him up to a retractable leash. Also, inspect and test your leash often and replace it if the braking mechanism seems to be faulty or if the leash does not retract properly.

What Dog Product Related Issues Do Vets See Most Often

Flea and tick shampoos and preventatives

Flea and tick shampoos contain harsh chemicals that can be very hard on canine skin. This vet has seen countless dogs present for skin irritation after using flea and tick shampoos.  Sadly, many of these dogs had a skin infection secondary to the fleas and it took longer for them to heal.

While these pet shampoos are less expensive than many veterinary-recommended once-monthly topical, such as Vet’s Best Natural Flea Shampoo, or oral flea and tick preventatives – your dog is much more likely to have a negative reaction to them. In this case, spending a little extra on a quality pet product now could save you hundreds of dollars in unnecessary vet bills later.

RELATED: Best Dog Flea Treatment – Top 10 Solutions

Over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives also have a long history of causing adverse effects in dogs. The most common problems are seen with “grocery store”-brand dog products that contain pyrethrins, such as those made by Hartz and Sargeants. Skin irritation, hair loss, neurologic problems (muscle tremors, twitching) and vomiting are common side effects for these products.

If overdosed, which is easily done in puppies, neurologic symptoms like seizures can occur. Other types, such as flea collars, simply don’t seem to work for very long but do not typically cause direct harm.

While many veterinary-recommended products (such as the oral Comfortis and topical Frontline Plus (Merial)) can cause side-effects, they have a much higher margin of safety. The bottom-line is that this veterinarian recommends that owners use reputable pet products recommended by veterinarians.

Today, this is easier than ever and also affordable; safer dog products like Frontline Plus, Advantage and Advantix have gone “generic” and are available at “big-box” pet stores and other retailers.

Always consult with your veterinarian before using any type of treatment on your pet to be sure that it is a safe option.

Bully Sticks and Rawhide Chews

What Dog Product Related Issues Do Vets See Most OftenThe two most popular treats for dogs are the most common culprits for oral irritation, choking, and digestive issues.  The shape and hard texture can be problems for certain dogs, especially over-enthusiastic eaters that try to “gulp” everything down without chewing.

Rawhides chews and bully sticks are not bad by themselves – not at all – as they can satisfy a dog’s need to chew and can help remove tartar from the teeth. But these treats are not safe for every dog. If your dog is a patient chewer and takes his time chewing these apart – they are not likely to pose a choking hazard. However, you should always supervise your pet while they are chewing these types of products.

RELATED: Sunday’s Recap – Are Raw Bones Good for Dogs?

Digestive issues are a little harder to predict. If too large of a piece of treat is ingested, sometimes it is not fully digested and can cause an intestinal blockage. Blockage can actually occur in the stomach or intestines; it is known as Gastrointestinal obstruction and is a fairly common condition.

If your dog develops diarrhea or vomiting (especially after eating) shortly after chewing on a bully stick or rawhide seek veterinary attention. These are the two biggest signs of Gastrointestinal obstruction. The treatment usually consists of surgery to remove the blockage which can get very expensive.

Choose your dog products wisely

As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and choosing your dog products is no exception. When selecting any product for your dog, do your research and ask your veterinarian for advice. Not all products are right for all dogs and we are here to help keep your canine companion as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

You can also consult consumer reviews. They are usually accurate because the consumer isn’t getting paid to write positive things about the manufacturer. Chances are if you find numerous consumer reviews stating that a certain product is hazardous, there’s a good chance that your dog would have issues with it as well.