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16 Pet Products Vets Never Buy—and Neither Should You

That chew toy may look like fun, or your dog may think antlers are delicious—but both could be hiding trouble for your pets. Here's what the pros say you should avoid.

Curious Orange Kitten Plays with a Red Dot from a Laser Pointer Seika Chujo/Shutterstock

Laser pointers

A laser pointer and a rambunctious kitty or pup can provide hours of entertainment... for humans. The animal, on the other hand, is likely to just be really annoyed and possibly overwhelmed, says Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinarian on the Pet Life Today advisory board. "Chasing a point of light can be frustrating because they are never able to successfully catch their 'prey'," she explains. "If you must use a laser pointer, toss out a pet-safe stuffed animal at the end of the game that your dog or cat can 'kill.'"

What to buy instead: This indestructible stuffed animal with a pet-safe squeaker for maximum fun

Cute playful beagle puppy running next to its owner and pulling its leash with its teethOlena Kurashova/Shutterstock

Retractable leashes

If you want to be horrified, just Google "retractable leash injuries" (but don't say we didn't warn you). Unfortunately, friction burns and cuts are common with this type of leash, and both pets and humans get hurt by them, Dr. Coates says. "You actually have very little control over a dog at the end of a retractable dog leash," she explains. "So unless your dog responds perfectly to voice commands, opt for a short leash and a trip to the dog park for some off-leash fun." Look out for these warning signs your dog is in pain.

What to buy instead: This short bungee leash, for extra freedom without the danger

A small striped kitten is playing with a blue clue of yarnMVolodymyr/Shutterstock

Balls of yarn

Cats and balls of yarn are a match made in cute heaven. But allowing your kitty to play with string, yarn, thread, floss, rope or other similar items is a major health hazard, warns Dr. Coates. "Cats may swallow thread-like toys when playing with them and if it becomes looped around the base of the tongue, their intestines can bunch up around the string, which may cut through the intestinal wall," she says. Yikes! When shopping for your pet at Aldi, be sure to avoid these products.

What to buy instead: These felted wool cat toy balls, for a similar feel without the choking hazard

Dog with boneschubbel/Shutterstock

Cow hooves

Pet owners looking for an all-natural chew toy that's not made of plastic may turn to nature's "chewies", like animal hooves. Unfortunately, these can cause their own set of problems, says Bucky Bearden, DVM, a veterinarian in Apopka, Florida. "When it comes to my own pet, I completely avoid treats that are too hard, like hooves, because they can fracture the large carnassial teeth," he explains.

What to buy instead: These wood-based chewies, for a softer chew toy that won't splinter

Dog Eating Delicious Snackkpakook/Shutterstock

Chicken jerky

Every pup loves dried, raw meat, but you won't love the germs that can come with it, Dr. Bearden says. Contrary to popular belief, the process of turning meat into jerky doesn't kill bugs like salmonella. Any pet owner who's had the extreme displeasure of dealing with that awful intestinal illness (in themselves or their furry friends) knows the vomiting and diarrhea is not worth the risk. So unless the packaging specifically says the meat has been heat-treated, avoid it.  Find out the 10 silent signs your “healthy” dog is actually sick.

What to buy instead: These chicken strips that are cooked and rated as safe for humans to eat as well as pups

Golden retriever dog puppy playing with toy while lying on denPhotology1971/Shutterstock

Toys from China

Pet products made in China may be a good deal price-wise, but you should be aware that there are very few—if any—safety regulations or government oversight for pet food, toys, and treats made there, warns Dr. Bearden. There have been reports of pet items contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins, as well as toys having choking hazards. These are the best dog food brands that vets recommend. 

What to buy instead: These ultra-strong balls your dog will love that are made in the USA

A senior female german shorthaired pointer shows her giant boneStudioPortoSabbia/Shutterstock

Giant dog bones

Giving your dog or cat a cooked bone is a recipe for cracked teeth and bleeding gums, says Gary Richter, MS, DVM, a veterinary health expert with Rover.com. "These are the bones that you often see in the pet store that are sitting out in a bin or on a shelf and they are very hard," he says. "Rather, get an appropriately sized raw bone. These can be very helpful in keeping teeth clean and they are able to chew through them and digest them." How do you know if a bone is cooked or raw? Raw bones must be kept refrigerated or frozen, so if it's not cold, skip it, he says.

What to buy instead: Raw bones from your local butcher; butchers are often willing to give them away or sell them very cheaply.

picture of a great dane puppy who is chewing at a pig's earChristian Mueller/Shutterstock

Pig ears

Do you love junk food? Well, so does your dog—and pig ears are the junk food of the dog world, Dr. Richter says. "This 'treat' is super high in fat and calories and yet they have almost no nutritional value," he explains. Just like you shouldn't give yourself a package of Oreos before dinner, you shouldn't let your dog fill up on pigs ears. Here are 8 more things vets want you to know about your dog's diet.

What to buy instead: A chicken-based, fully digestible bone

Dog Labrador retriever chew rawhide boneMaxShutter/Shutterstock

Rawhide bones

Rawhide bones and dog toys have been staples in many households for decades, but they are definitely falling out of favor with vets, Dr. Richter says. "The occasional small piece of rawhide can be fine for dogs, but the large rawhide 'bones' and sticks are nothing but empty calories," he says. Plus, compressed rawhide products are very hard and difficult to digest, giving many animals an upset tummy, he adds.

What to buy instead: These rawhide-free "bones" made with sweet potato

English Bulldog with Tennis BallStephen Bures/Shutterstock

Tennis balls

Playing fetch with a bright, fuzzy ball may be one of you and your dog's favorite pastimes. That's great, but make sure to take the toy away once the game is over, Dr. Richter says. "Dogs love to chew on a good ball, but the fuzz on tennis balls acts like sandpaper on their teeth over time," he says. "An exuberant ball chewer can literally rub their teeth down to the gums on a tennis ball." These are the 19 things your dog actually wants from you.

What to buy instead: This fur-free silicone ball

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