Are Rope Toys for Dogs Dangerous?

Toys are one of those “must have” accessories for dogs. It’s essential to play time. As you walk through the aisles of pet toys in stores, you are going to notice several options. This includes the rope toy. 

Are rope toys dangerous for dogs? Rope toys can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Rope is made of multiple strands of fabric all woven together.  Once these strands are broken and ingested by your dog, they can damage your dog’s digestive tract and intestine, causing great harm to your dog.

As you take time to read this article, it is my hope that you walk away with newfound knowledge about rope toys and how to best protect your furry friend. I am going to highlight the reasons these toys can be so dangerous as well as what you need to do if your pet happens to ingest rope from their toy.

Why Should You Trust Me?

When I choose toys, food, bedding, or anything for that matter for my dog, I scrutinize it to the nth degree.  You see, my dog, Max is my best friend, (aside from my husband). He is a member of our family and only receives the best of everything.  

To non-dog owners, this sounds absurd, but a dog is truly a part of your family, just as my Max is.  When I started writing this article, I had flashbacks to Max as a puppy with his own personal rope toy. Yep, you read that correctly, my dog had a rope toy.

Max is a Poodle cross and LOVES to chew anything he can get his mouth on. I thought rope toys were quite durable. That’s an important criteria for me when selecting dog toys.  

But then Max he got his mouth on his very first rope toy.  I remember I was so meticulous about choosing his “baby” toys. They had to be the correct size, shape, material. You understand what I am saying. He only had the best.

Knowing that dogs and puppies especially shouldn’t be left alone with their toys, I watched him like a hawk with his toys and made sure he didn’t have them in his crate at night.  One evening as I turned my back, he snuck his rope toy into his crate and must have hidden it under his bedding. In the morning, I woke up to a rainbow of chewed rope fibers and one happy looking puppy.

Now that may seem adorable, and to be honest, he was cute with the rope pieces surrounding him, but it could have been deadly to him. Yes, you read that correctly.  It could have been deadly, but thankfully I walked in before that happened.

Are Rope Toys for Dogs Dangerous?

Rope toys appear quite unassuming when you see them on the shelf at the store. 

They grab your attention, coming in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

They even come in a variety of chew levels.  There are ropes for gentle chewers and aggressive chewers.

There are even ropes with a comfortable handle so you can play tug with your pup. 

All of these features, make you feel like rope toys are the ultimate entertaining and fun toy option for your furry friend.

Although appearance would say the rope toy is a good choice for your dog, science says otherwise.  Whenever your dog is chewing on their toys or bones, small particles are being chewed off and quite possibly ingested into the stomach of your dogs

This means that as your playful pup is gnawing on his or her rope toy, small fibers of rope are being swallowed.  Initially, the dog will only swallow fibers, which may not seem like a big deal, but over time those fibers will turn into strands, which can cause a significant issue for your dog.

How Are Rope Toys Dangerous?

Linear Foreign Bodies

So the fibers and strands of ropes are being swallowed by your dog.  Most of the time, when a dog swallows something, it can easily move through the digestive tract without issue or cause for concern.

When a dog begins swallowing rope fibers or strands, there is reason to be very concerned.  Vets refer to the rope strands as linear foreign bodies, which are the single most dangerous objects that can be swallowed by a dog.

What makes Linear Foreign Bodies dangerous?

A linear foreign body is simply a long thin object, such as string or yarn, that is moving through the digestive tract. The danger comes when the string is trying to pass through the digestive tract.  On occasion, the rope will be in two spaces at one time which is extremely dangerous.

When one part of the rope stays in the stomach while the other begins to stretch to the intestines, the dog is unable to pass the string through.  As the digestive tract is trying to push the string through, it acts as a drawstring and begins to tighten around the intestines and cut into it. This can be extremely painful and eventually fatal to the dog.

Sam the Jack Russell’s operation

Here’s an example.

Sam the Jack Russel ate pieces of carpet. Carpet unravels like a long piece of string. Sam had to undergo surgery to have these pieces of string removed from both his stomach and intestine. If you have a weak stomach, don’t take a look at the surgery poor Sam had to have done to remove his linear foreign bodies from his body.

Is There a Such Thing as a Safe Rope Toy?

Personally, I would use great caution when giving my dog a rope toy, but if it is necessary, I would make sure it is put out of the dog’s reach when it can’t be supervised.  This will help avoid an accident.

If you want to give your dog a rope toy, here are some steps to keep your dog safe.

Supervise rope toy playtime

Rope toys are notoriously dangerous for dogs, but under proper supervision, your pup can still enjoy a rope toy occasionally.  You must remember that even under supervised chewing, the dog is still going to be able to swallow fibers and potentially strings from the rope.

Suitable chew strength

If you MUST give your dog a rope toy, make sure it is for the proper chew strength, and you monitor it very closely.

Invest in a quality rope toy

I would also invest in a quality rope toy.  A rope toy from a discount store is likely not going to cut it for an aggressive chewer.

All rope toys are made with a braided string of some sort, but some string is stronger than others. Buy a rope toy with strong and tightly woven fibers.

Renew the rope toy when it begins to fray

If you see the rope beginning to fray or weaken, it’s time to find a new toy for your pup. 

How Do I Know The Chew Strength For My Dog?

Once you have determined the type of chewer you have, it is up to you, as a responsible pet parent to choose the proper toy for their needs.

The Preventive Pet website does a fantastic job of classifying the various types of chewers.  They offer three classifications, one of which your pup will certainly fall into.

  1. Inhalers
  2. Destroyers
  3. Nibblers

Inhaler

An inhaler is just as it sounds.  This type of dog will absolutely destroy toys by chewing off large chunks and swallowing them quickly. They most certainly need to be supervised with all toys and will find a way to destroy most toys you give to them.

Inhalers are also known as very aggressive chewers.

Preventative Pets also describes this dog as a “gulper”: so they destroy fast and swallow chunks of toys.

Destroyer

This defines my Max to a T.  A destroyer is just that. They can and will destroy any toy that is given to them.  When the dog destroys the toys, they may or may not choose to swallow the toy parts. They are aggressive chewers.

Personally, my destroyer doesn’t swallow what has been shredded, but this isn’t the case for all destroyers.

The key difference between an Inhaler vs. Destroyer is that Inhaler destroys toys faster.

Nibblers

These are the dogs that can have a basket full of toys that seem to last forever.  They don’t find joy in obliterating any toy they are given. They are typically slow and methodical when chewing their toys and are careful with them.

What Makes a Rope Toy Safer?

Does the rope material matter?

The material of the rope doesn’t necessarily make the rope safer for the dog, however, the durability of the rope may be increased slightly.  

Does the number of knots help?

The number of knots in a rope chew toy may or may not be significant.  At the end of the day, the rope will still wear and tear the same after continuous chewing. 

Most ropes that have knots with loose strings hanging out would be considered more dangerous.

Your dog will likely be attracted to chewing the frayed portion of the rope. This is because it’s easier to chew. In this situation, your dog will be ingesting particles and strings much more quickly than if the rope were tied in a solid knot without frayed edges.

Do different sized knots matter?

Again, when looking at rope toys and the knots used to secure the ends, the size will only really matter when you determine the chew strength of your dog.  Most ropes for aggressive chewers will naturally have a larger knot, simply because the rope is thicker and warrants a larger knot

Just as ropes for Nibblers will likely have a smaller knot because the rope will be smaller in size.  The knot size does not determine the safety rating.


The Importance of Supervision

Would I give my dog a rope toy when supervised?

1. I control when Max has a rope toy

I am all about honesty when writing, so I need to be transparent.  Knowing all that I do about rope toys and their dangers, Max has his own rope toy. It is for a super aggressive chewer, and he doesn’t have access to it without me. And that’s my disclaimer.

2. Max doesn’t use a rope toy to chew (self-entertainment)

And there are more “conditions of use” when I use a rope toy during play time.

Max doesn’t sit and chew the rope.  We use the rope for tug of war and fetch.  Sure, he pulls at the rope and shakes it around, but he doesn’t have the opportunity to just chew it

3. Inspect the rope toy after each play session

After we are done playing with the rope, I also take time to inspect it. I know, crazy dog mom, but he depends on me to keep him safe.

4. Rope toys can be fun

So, although I wouldn’t just throw a rope toy into the room for him to have a field day with, I truly believe it can be a fun supervised toy that promotes exercise and bonding

I enjoy playing tug of war and watching him “work” to carry the rope back to me after he’s chased it through the yard. It is a super heavy-duty rope, so it provides quite the workout to him carrying it around.

5. Use your judgment

I feel you need to use your own judgment with this, and you need to know yourself and your dog well. What do I mean?

If you know that your dog will sneak away with the rope and just have a chew fest, then perhaps a rope toy isn’t a great idea.

If you know that you will forget to take it away when playtime is over, choose a different toy.

As for me, I am meticulous with my dog’s toys, so I feel it is safe to use it with direct supervision

When we aren’t playing with the toy, it gets put on a shelf in the garage. It is in a location that he can’t access and sneak it from. 

Would I give my dog a rope toy unsupervised?

Absolutely not!  I would not give my dog a rope toy without direct supervision.  Because I know what an aggressive chewer my dog is, I know it wouldn’t be safe for Max to have a rope toy by himself.  Remember the incident I shared from when he was months old? If that same scenario played out now, we would land at the vet preparing for surgery just like Sam the Jack Terrier did!

Just like children, you must know your dog and their ability or drive to destroy things.  When you fail to recognize these characteristics, accidents happen. 

Doing the Best for My Dog

If you are reading this, you are likely a dog owner that is just trying to do what’s best for your furry friend.  Like many of the millions of dog owners, we want our pets to be happy and know they are loved. We accomplish this by showering them with affection, treating them like one of our children and spoiling them with the best toys and treats we can find.  

Even though we research like crazy and read reviews of everything under the sun, and maybe even cook a balanced meal for them with fresh meat (don’t judge), there are still a lot of factors involved in the decisions we make. 

Along with these factors come a lot of questions.  Some questions may be more easily answered than others. It is hard to imagine that so many dangers can come from objects that were created to be fun for your pet.

Let’s face it, manufacturers don’t set out to create dangerous toys. They design something that a pet will like.  This is great until something tragic happens. Because of this, dog owners need to be diligent and focused on their pet’s needs and play behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a best type of rope for dog toys?

There is no one best rope toy for dogs. If you do a quick online search with this question, you will find multiple lists appear that rank dog toys.  

The best answer to this question is to know your dog and determine what the best type of rope toy is best for them.  It may mean a super thick rope made of nylon or a medium-thick rope of cotton. The chew strength and characteristics of that rope toy will help you determine your dog’s personal best material.

What type of rope is used for dog toys?

In the past, most rope toys were made with nylon or cotton blend ropes, both of which are durable and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

Today, rope toys are made from a variety of materials, including the natural alternative hemp.  Again, the material is not so much the concern as much as the strength and weight of the rope.

Are rope toys dangerous for dogs?

Rope toys can be very dangerous for dogs. However with direct and focused supervision a rope toy can provide hours of fun for both you and your pet.  The key words are direct and focused. If you aren’t going to be able to pay close attention to your dog with the rope toy, choose something else to play with for the time being.

Dogs move very quickly, especially when they are doing something they shouldn’t be!  In a split second, your dog could ingest parts of the rope toy.

What are the dangers of rope toys for dogs?

The main danger in rope toys for dogs is the build-up of rope fibers and rope strings in their digestive tract.  Over time, rope fibers can cause blockages in your dog’s digestive system. They can cut into your dog’s intestine. Again, this would take quite a bit of dedicated chewing on the rope and very limited supervision on the owner’s part, but it could easily happen. 

The greatest danger is having the dog swallow a larger portion of the string or rope.  If a portion of the rope remains in the stomach while the other part is traveling through the intestines it could cause a drawstring effect to occur in the dog’s body.

This is extremely painful and needs to be relieved by surgery or it will be fatal to the dog. Remember what happened the Sam the Jack Russell ingesting pieces of carpet?

Have there been any reported rope toy dog deaths?

I can’t find an exact number of deaths that have been caused by rope toys, but a quick Google search will bring up countless stories from owners that lost dogs due to rope toys.  Like most dog owners, they probably thought they were doing the best thing for their dog by providing a heavyweight toy that could be chewed for long periods of time.

Little did they know the rope could kill their beloved pet if they were left to independently play with the toy.

Are climbing ropes safe for dogs?

There are many schools of thought when it comes to climbing ropes for dog toys.  Climbing rope is engineered much differently than rope toys. Climbing rope has an inner core with heavy-duty string woven around it, which provides extreme durability.

Some people argue that climbing rope provides a safe option for dogs because it is made to withstand friction on rocks and other environmental elements. The argument is that the dog won’t be able to chew through the rope, no matter how hard they try.

I will say, my dog’s leash is made of climbing rope and he has yet to chew through it, but he is also not given the opportunity to just sit and chew his leash. I believe that although climbing rope is super durable, there is still an opportunity for it to fray over time.

Again, like any rope you allow your dog to chew on, it needs to be done with close supervision and a periodic inspection of the rope is necessary to ensure safe play is happening.

My dog swallowed the entire rope toy, what should I do?

If your dog swallows a rope toy in its entirety, they need medical attention right away

The knots in the rope, as well as the rope itself, may cause severe issues when the digestive process starts. If you get to the vet early there is a better chance to treat your pet proactively.

Can puppies have rope toys?

Puppies have very sharp teeth and love to chew everything. 

A puppy should never be left unsupervised to play with a rope toy.  Sharp puppy teeth can shred a rope in seconds. While the puppy may not be in danger of swallowing a giant rope toy or chewing the knot off the end, they are much more likely to ingest fibers from the rope.

When my dog Max was a puppy, his teeth were like razor blades and could destroy even the strongest of materials.  Therefore, his escapade with the hidden rope toy was so dangerous. Think about it, he had access to the rope toy that was brand new, for less than 8 hours. In that time, he destroyed the rope, including the knots in the ends.

If he would have been supervised with the rope, he would not have had the opportunity to completely chew it apart. 

So yes, puppies can have rope toys, but they MUST be supervised, and the rope needs to be inspected after playtime is over.

My dog ate some rope toy, is that OK?

It is not okay for a dog to ingest rope. 

When a dog ingests even a small amount of rope toy, it can set them up for future health problems.  If the dog has access to the rope toy frequently and is eating small shreds daily, there is a chance it is forming a clog within your dog’s digestive system.

While it may not seem like a big deal for your pup to swallow small particles of rope, over time the particles add up and will cause a problem that may only be able to be solved by invasive surgery.

If your dog has eaten some rope toy, first determine how much has been consumed. Let’s say your dog hasn’t ingested much of the rope, I wouldn’t raise alarm, as it will likely be fine. But if there’s more than a little piece of rope missing, you need to contact your vet for further directions.

If the rope toy has been destroyed with a large amount of rope missing you need to contact the vet right away.  Likely they will do x-rays to determine the magnitude of the situation before offering treatment options.

Am I a Bad Pet Parent for Letting My Dog Have a Rope Toy?

I know some of you are beating yourselves up now because your dog has always played with a rope or you have always bought rope toys for your dog.  Stop It!

You are far from a bad pet parent.

I know this because if you were truly a “bad” pet parent, you wouldn’t be taking time to stop and read about the dangers associated with rope toys.

As a pet parent, you have a lot of choices to make to keep your pet safe.  If you chose to provide a rope toy to your pet, please do so responsibly

  1. Monitor your dog’s play with the rope.  
  2. Make sure it is the correct durability for their little or big jaws.  
  3. Inspect the toy often for fraying.
  4. Play with your pet with the toy so you know how much chewing is happening.
  5. Use the rope toy playtime (tug and fetch) and don’t let him use it for chew time.
  6. Take the toy away after playtime put it a place your dog can’t access it.

Taking the toy away may seem mean, but there are a couple of ways to look at it. First, your dog will look forward to playing with the rope toy because it isn’t available all the time.  Second, you won’t have an astronomical vet bill because you forgot to take the rope away and it was destroyed and ingested. 

Having pets is a job that cannot be taken lightly.  They look to you for safety and protection, so you need to ensure you are keeping them as safe as possible each day.  I hope this article helped strengthen your understanding of rope toys, the good, the bad and the ugly. Now go play with your pup!









Michelle

Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Lucy loves playing fetch with her ball and frisbee. Max loves swimming and could walk forever. Latte's life is simple: follow Lucy and Max and fun will happen. Michelle and her 3 dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp and swim.

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