We prioritize the safety of our pets by keeping them away from dangerous situations, providing them with the right food, and visiting the veterinarian when they are sick. What about the dog toys that we purchase? Are we aware of any safety hazards in these products?
Rory Lubold is a veterinarian at Paion, in Scottsdale, Arizona. They are an important source of stimulation and enrichment for our pets.
dog toy are not regulated by anybody, unlike children’s toys. Thaddeus Harrington, public relations specialist at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission explains that pet toys are not under their jurisdiction.
Understanding labels will help you to distinguish between safe and unsafe products. Dog toys may have labels such as “BPA free,” “phthalate-free,” and “nontoxic,” which can confuse those without a scientific background. What should pet owners look out for and avoid when buying toys?
What is BPA?
To understand labels, you must first decode the terminology. BPA stands for bisphenol A. This chemical is used to make polycarbonate plastics. The Centers for Disease Control reports that BPA can be found in everything, from beverage bottles and food can linings up to auto parts. Food and beverage containers are the main source of exposure for both humans and animals.
What are Phthalates?
The term “phthalates” is a chemical group that can also be called “plasticizers”, which according to the CDC, make plastics flexible. They are used in many plastic products, including toys and containers for pets and children.
As is the case with BPA exposure, phthalates are mainly absorbed through food or drink stored in plastic containers. The labels “BPA-free”, “phthalate-free” and “phthalate safe” indicate that these materials have been tested to make sure they’re not contaminated with the chemicals.
Harrington says that dog toys aren’t regulated by the government. This means there’s no law forcing companies to meet certain standards or test their toys (unlike children toys). Some websites will provide information on testing to back up the claims of some companies, while others do not. The label may imply they’ve done some testing but the best thing for pet owners to do is contact the company.
What does nontoxic mean?
You still have questions about the meaning of “nontoxic?” This one’s a little trickier. The Environmental Working Group states that “this common marketing term implies the product or ingredient will not harm the human health or environment.”
BPA and Phthalates: Potential risks
BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals have been found in many products and environments. According to National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences “The 2003-04 National Health and Nutrition Exam Survey (NHANES III), conducted by the CDC, detected levels of BPA were found in 93 percent of the 2,517 samples of urine from adults aged 6 and over.”
BPA is a chemical that has been linked to “endocrine disruption” in mice (which can have implications for human fertility). The studies linked BPA to reproductive issues in mice, which could have implications on human fertility. They also showed that BPA altered the thyroid hormone level in pregnant women . Recent studies have shown that phthalates may also have an effect on the development of children, or an increase in diabetes.
Although there has been less research done on these chemicals’ effects on pets, a 2013 study revealed that many products meant for dogs to chew and mouth often contain BPA and other chemicals, which, in certain cases, can leach into their saliva.
A more conclusive research conducted only last year showed that BPA from canned dog food has an effect on pets’ BPA levels and changes their gut microbiome. The amount of BPA found in dog food can be more than twice as high as the level in toys, Dr. Lubold adds. “There are not many data regarding health issues with BPA or phthalates in toys.”
It’s better to play it safe because we still don’t understand these chemicals. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Lubold advises that it is best to stay away from plasticizers and additional chemicals whenever possible. However, he says the chances of pets developing health problems as a result are low.
He says that most dogs chew on toys only occasionally, and do not consume enough chemicals to have an impact. The chemicals can have a wide-ranging environmental impact.
There are other dog chew toy dangers
Veterinarians often see illnesses caused by chew toys that are unsafe. Rawhide chews and pig ears can lead to gastrointestinal problems and choking hazards, according to Dr. Rachel Barrack. She is a licensed vet with expertise in Western and Eastern medicine, and the owner of Animal Acupuncture, located in New York City. She says that bones and sticks can also be problematic. “They may fragment, causing intestinal blockage, or perforation. Medical emergencies require surgical intervention.”
The ingestion of tiny pieces is the biggest concern when it comes to chew toys. Dr. Lubold has extensive experience in emergency medicine. These pieces may become stuck in the intestines or stomach and need surgery to be removed. Some dogs can chew through toys that are advertised as ‘indestructible.’ “I have taken many toys away from dogs of all brands.” He says that you should look for toys that suit your dog’s style of playing.
Dr. Barrack is in agreement. Dr. Barrack agrees.
What to look for when buying a dog toy
According to Dr. Lubold, “there are many choices when it comes to choosing chew toys for your dog, depending on what you want.” Dr. Lubold recommends that you choose a tougher toy if your dog has a tendency to chew aggressively.
Toys with too much rigidity can cause teeth to wear out over time, or break them. “A good rule of thumb is that hard toys should be soft enough to allow you to press your fingernail in and make an impression,” advises Dr. Lubold.
Dr. Lubold has approved West Paw’s Zogoflex Hurley. It is made of BPA-free plastic, free from phthalates and latex, that meets FDA standards. This is a great assurance that the material is FDA compliant.
The Gnawsome Squeaker Football Dog Toy is also made of plastic and follows the same guidelines. Nerf Dog flyer is a good choice for athletic dogs. It’s also made of FDA-approved nylon that doesn’t contain BPA.
It’s important to check the websites of companies that sell dog toys for additional information. For instance, the website of Planet Dog contains details about its toys, including how it developed its special plastic using white olefinic oils instead of chemical softeners.
With a little information on labeling, chemicals, and other materials that could be harmful, selecting an environmentally friendly and safe dog toy should become easier.
Don’t forget your furry friends, either: their preferences and personalities will help you to make the right choice. There is no one size fits all, Dr. Barrack says. When choosing toys, it is crucial to understand your pet.