Go Green: Ditch Those Hazardous Dog Toys
Ditch Hazardous Dog Toys with Safer, Healthier, Eco-friendly Alternatives
Tossing balls and toys to my Shepherd after a hard day's work is a great stress reliever for both of us. But until recently, I didn't know that the toys he loves to fetch and chomp are made from an unregulated stew of hazardous chemicals. From vinyl squeakies to filled stuffies, toxic pet toys are everywhere. Here's how to replace the worst ones with safer alternatives:
Spot Hazardous and Toxic Dog Toys
Every day, hazardous dog toys sneak into our homes without our knowledge. According to PoisonedPets.com,“...[T]he Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate pet toys, and that the Consumer Product Safety Commission only regulates pet toys that can be proven to put people and not pets at risk?” These three, big toxic toys are probably lurking in your dog's toy box:
Vinyl squeakies, chews, lunkers and other plastic toys
Vinyl is a hard plastic that isn't inherently dangerous. What turns it toxic are the chemical additives used to transform it into a pliable, chewable, squishy toy. This toxic soup includes lead, organotin, alkyl-phenols, BPAs and the scariest ingredient of all, phthalates - a toxic additive so harmful that it's banned from human child products in the European Union. Each time your dog chews, licks and nibbles on a vinyl toy, the additives get released into the body which could potentially unleash a storm of health issues. Among them, “measurable toxicity and biochemical changes in the kidneys and liver,” according to this excellent Whole Dog Journal article
Brightly, unnaturally colored dog toys
Toys with single air holes
More than one pet parent has experienced the horror of discovering their dog's tongue is trapped in a squeaky toy. When a dog chomps on a toy with only one air hole, the toy could viciously trap a pet's tongue inside the object. Get rid of these toys now.
Yep, the treasured tennis ball is both an accident waiting to happen and a slow-motion dental catastrophe. Tennis balls are a choking hazard for larger dogs, and the fuzzy exterior surface will wear down the teeth of any pup. Vets like Dr. Marty Becker advise using them under strict supervision if you still want to use them at all.
Toss and Replace with Safer Toys
With so many toxic dog toys on the market, what's a pet parent to do? Thankfully, a growing pack of eco-friendly manufacturers are producing safe, non-toxic dog toys. But don't be blinded by phrases like “natural”, “organic”, “USA-Made” or “recycled”– they're often just unregulated marketing hype. Instead, look for manufacturers who are transparent about product materials. Here are some of my favorite safe, non-toxic dog toy companies that do just that:
A Pennsylvania company called Purrfect Play is proving that safe pet toys are more fun and longer-lasting than cheap junk. Founded by Pam Wheelock, Purrfect Play makes adorable, non-toxic toys from organic wool, hemp and cotton that stand up to my German Shepherd's antics. Purrfect Play's toys don't use synthetic or reprocessed plastics, they're free of dyes and sustainably and fair trade certified.
Ruffwear's ultra durable toys are so tough that my Shepherd hasn't destroyed his, even after several years of use. They make several durable toys from a high-density, natural latex rubber, sustainably sourced from trees near the Vietnamese facility that hand produces them. With no corners or angled weak spots for a dog to sink teeth into, the odd shapes of Ruffwear toys like the Huckama™ create an erratic bounce that drives dogs wild.
Working dog experts such as Leerberg Kennels and world-famous clicker trainer Karen Pryor, both approve of Planet Dog's non-toxic, eco-friendly toys like the “Orbee-Tuff®” Zoom Flyers. Planet Dog's toys are made with vinyl, but without chemical softeners like Phthalates or BPAs. The company says “our toys have been tested and shown to be non-toxic many times since Orbee-tuff was introduced 10 years ago.”
Dog toys have come a long way, but there's still so much we can do to ensure the health and safety of our pets. Do your research to locate responsible, eco-friendly dog toy manufacturers and support their efforts by opting for their worry-free toys over cheap, hazardous junk. Remember, dog toys are made for fun, not fear.
*Note from the Guild of Shepherds & Collies: Planet Dog, in addition to their eco-friendly dog toys, donates a percentage of every sale to their Planet Dog Foundation. “The Planet Dog Foundation celebrates all "working" dogs that are enhancing and saving human lives. We do this by supporting innovative, respected and effective non-profit organizations that work tirelessly to raise, train and place the dogs.”