Are Nylabones safe for dogs? We asked a vet everything you need to know

Dog chewing bone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re wondering, ‘Are Nylabones safe for dogs?’, you’re not alone. These plastic-flavored toys can cause a bit of confusion so we’ve called in an expert to clear some things up.

Many doggie parents have wandered round the pet store with opposing opinions on whether or not they’re safe for dogs to get their teeth on. After causing a bit of mystery as to what exactly they are on the face of it, Nylabones seem a brilliant idea. A great chewing toy that looks like a bone, tastes great, is more hardy and tougher than some other toys, and is likely to be enjoyed just as much as the longest lasting dog chews.

However, despite appearing as a no-brainer and being relatively popular, why are some people sitting on the fence about them or not considering offering these to their dogs at all? 

The confusion over whether they are a real bone or not and the associated dangers of feeding dogs real bones is one cause an explanation. Many people mistakenly think Nylabones are to be ingested, which they are not. They are meant for chewing not swallowing. If you're looking for treats that are safe and fully edible on the other hand try some of the best dog treats

On the positive side, Nylabones are a tasty toy and chew for your dog to devour gnawing on and will last a decent amount of time. For most dogs, a Nylabone will keep them occupied and happy but as they are made from plastic there is a risk of part of the plastic bone fracturing off. This rogue piece of plastic could then splinter your dog's internal tissues should they swallow the said part, which, although it may not happen often, can occur. 

We did some further digging to establish a better answer to your question ‘are Nylabones safe?’ or should you opt for an alternative chew or distraction method? With help from an experienced vet, you’ll find everything you need to know about Nylabones in our informative article below.

What is a Nylabone?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that a Nylabone is an edible bone. After all, the word 'bone' is baked right on into the name, plus, they come coated in flavoring, what could be more suitable for consumption than that?

Nylabone is a very unfortunate choice of name because it's actually a toy and not a food product. Created in the 1950s, Nylabones are made from a form of plastic called Nylon and then coated in delicious flavors, such as peanut butter, chicken or bacon to give them their delicious taste.

The whole purpose of creating the Nylabone was to create a toy for aggressive chewers that would help teach them appropriate chewing behavior. By coating the toy in flavors that dogs naturally find appealing, the idea is that your dog will go for their new toy rather than your clothing or furniture.  

Separation anxiety in dogs is also quite a common issue, so some pet parents find that using Nylabones is a great way of soothing their hound when they’re home alone. As a non-edible chew, Nylabones come in a range of shapes, sizes, and flavors, and include rings that can be given to teething puppies.

Are Nylabones dangerous?

Speaking to Dr Jo Woodnutt a qualified vet, she says, “The jury is out on this! Whether Nylabones are safe for dogs or not will depend a lot on your dog and their style of chewing. If your dog likes to eat things and has a powerful jaw, it’s possible they’ll swallow bits of Nylabone.”

She adds, “While the plastic is not in itself dangerous, if enough is swallowed it could cause a blockage (intestinal obstruction), which would require emergency surgery to remove. On the other hand, if your dog is a gentle chewer and prefers to rip things up rather than eat them, Nylabones may be safe.”

If you’re wanting to get your dog a Nylabone (and plenty of pet parents do!), then the most important thing is to use your common sense. Just like with any of the best dog toys, we recommend you inspect your dog's Nylabone regularly, looking for any signs of cracks and splinters. When it starts to look really worn, is close to breaking, or has started to break, replace it with a new one.

A great way to avoid mistaking a Nylabone for an edible item is to carefully check what the product is made from before you buy it. Online retailers, such as Amazon, clearly list 'nylon' or 'plastic' in the material section of the product description, so taking a look at this will help prevent confusion. 

You'll notice there are a lot of Nylabones on the market, so it's worth thinking through what you're primary purpose is for purchasing this toy. For example, some are great for teething puppies while others will do a brilliant job of keeping your canine companion's pearly whites in tip-top condition. Make sure you select the right Nylabone for your dog’s size, age, and needs.

Dr Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS
Joanna Woodnutt

Dr Joanna Woodnutt specializes in helping clients understand their pets better. After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She soon developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behavior, and nutrition. 

Dog chewing bone

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here’s what the team at Nylabone have to say about picking out one of their products:

“It is important to select the appropriate chew toy type, size, and formulation based on your dog's age, breed, chewing style, and weight. The pressure exerted by a strong chewer's jaw is considerable, and when directed straight down can put tremendous (as much as 450 psi) stress on the dog's teeth. It is therefore recommended that nonedible chew toys be large enough to encourage chewing from the side rather than the top and bottom. If you have more than one dog in your household, select chew toys that are appropriate for your largest, strongest chewer.”

Any dog that’s been given a Nylabone should be supervised when using it. While the Nylabone has been constructed to make sure large chunks can’t be broken off, nothing is ever 100% safe and if your dog does snap off and swallow a large piece, they’ll need to be taken to the vet immediately.

Nylabone safety tips

1) Conduct regular checks: It’s a good idea to have a look at your dog’s Nylabone after each use. While that may sound like we’re being pedantic, regularly inspecting the chew toy will let you quickly catch if any pieces have been broken off. You’ll also be able to spot when the Nylabone is starting to wear down, and needs replacing.

2) Supervision: Never leave your dog alone when they’re playing with their Nylabone. It can be frustrating when you’ve finally got some peace to have to keep watching them, but if a piece breaks off you’ll be able to move it out of their way so that it doesn’t present a choking hazard.

3) Proper storage: Being made of plastic, the Nylabone will be affected by the heat if it’s left out in the sun. When plastic melts, it releases toxic chemicals, so always store this toy away when not in use, preferably out of reach of your dog.

A final word on Nylabones

So there you have it, everything you need to know about Nylabones! Remember, non-edible Nylabones are no more dangerous than other chew toys when used under the proper supervision, but they are most definitely not to be ingested. 

If you’re feeling concerned about getting your dog a Nylabone, but still need a toy that will hold up to an aggressive chewer, why not check out our guide on how to use Kong toys?

We’re huge fans of these hollow rubber toys, and they can be smeared with peanut butter, yogurt, canned pumpkin, or dog food, for a delicious mentally and physically stimulating treat.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.