Did you know that some of the toys that your dog plays with could be harmful to his health? Unfortunately, it’s true. Researchers discovered that some dog toys contain dangerous chemicals, such as Bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates. The good news? Several canine product manufacturers have stepped up to the plate to create safe toys for your dog.
Our favorite safe, non-toxic dog toys are:
- West Paw Zogoflex Tux Treat Toy
- Royal Pet Gnawsome Football
- Classic Kong
- Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Foodies Chew Toy Line
- Lucas B XL Sensory Broccoli Romanesco Rubber Squeaky Toy.
In this article, we will discuss what makes these five toys safer for your pup than other similar items. And we will also share with you the different chemicals that have found in “unsafe” toys and how they can potentially be harmful to your pet. Lastly, we will give you a list of popular dog toys that experts consider to be unsafe for your pet.
A Brief Introduction
I love dogs.
They’ve been a big part of my life since I was a small child.
I’ve had an Australian Shepherd, a Dalmatian, a Welsh Terrier, Dachshunds, and Wire Fox Terriers. I have also fostered several dogs for a no-kill rescue that saves canines from the Korean meat markets. In addition, I like to walk dogs that live in another no-kill rescue on my weekends.
Volunteering at no-kill rescues has made me observe a lot about toys and dogs. For many pups living in a shelter, toys are their only source of entertainment. That is why the rescue I volunteer at tries to provide non-aggressive chewers with safe, non-toxic dog toys.
If you have an aggressive chewer at home, they should never be unsupervised during playtime with toys. This is because they can easily rip one apart and then swallow the pieces.
Should you let a dog rip and totally destroy their toys? Here at Outdoor Dog Fun our verdict is ‘no’. And you can read our compelling reasons why by clicking here.
Dog Toys are Not Regulated
Do you assume that each new dog toy you give your dog has been vetted and approved by some federal agency? You assume this authority ensures that toy is safe for your pet to play with, right? Sadly, that assumption is wrong.
According to ABC7 News in the San Francisco Bay area, there are no federal standards for pet toys. So, unlike kid’s toys, which must meet certain regulatory requirements, your fur baby’s toys are not tested to ensure that they are safe.
Even worse? Your pet has only one way to carry around a toxic toy, and that is with his mouth. So, any harmful chemicals that may be in a toy will get released directly into your fur baby’s mouth.
Chemicals Found in Dog Toys
The following are just some of the chemicals that researchers have found in dog toys.
Healthy Stuff is a project of The Ecology Center. They say that 48 percent of pet products it tested contained “detectable levels of lead.”
And you know lead is a very dangerous, highly toxic metal. It can damage your dog’s internal organs, including his nervous system.
BPA is short for Bisphenol A.
In 2012, BPA was banned being used in baby bottles and sippy cups by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Why? Their studies showed that BPA can leach from containers into food or liquids. There is also strong evidence to suggest that exposure to BPA may cause cancer and other health issues in humans.
Because many dog toys also contain BPA, studies were conducted to see if this chemical had any adverse effects on canines. The results of those studies showed that dogs who had BPA present in their systems also had noticeable changes in their metabolism (Source: Time magazine).
Another study in 2013 showed that dog toys designed to be mouthed and chewed by dogs leached out BPA and phthalates out of the plastic and into the dog’s saliva.
A Consumer Affairs report revealed that many imported dog toys contained high levels of cadmium. This chemical is dangerous because it can damage a canine’s kidneys, lungs, and bones.
This chemical is added to plastic materials to make them flexible.
Phthalates are commonly used in vinyl dog toys and also in the bumpers used to train retrievers and other breeds.
According to Whole Dog Journal, one way to tell if a toy you’re giving your pup contains phthalate is by smelling it. If it has a “vinyl” odor, it contains phthalates. Exposure to this chemical may result in reproductive problems and/or damage to a canine’s liver and kidneys.
And remember, these chemicals aren’t just dangerous for your pets. Anyone in your family handling these toys will be exposed to these toxins, as well.
Harmful chemicals aren’t the only thing that can make a dog toy dangerous.
Some toys can become choking hazards if chewed apart and swallowed by a dog with powerful jaws.
Even if your pup manages to swallow the pieces safely, he’s not out of the woods yet. Those broken toy pieces could still form a dangerous blockage in your dog’s gastrointestinal system.
To ensure that the toys you give your dog aren’t dangerous, consider these actions.
Read a toy’s packaging or label carefully
You may be surprised by the information that appears there.
For instance, did you know that some Nylabones are not meant to be eaten by your dog? Many dog owners like me are unaware of this. I just assumed that these bone-shaped chews were edible. But this product’s packaging actually contains a disclaimer that states these toys are not intended for a dog’s consumption.
Check where your toys are made
Does it really matter where your dog’s toys are made? For instance, are dog toys made in China dangerous?
Unfortunately, some countries – including China – use dangerous chemicals during the production of their canine products. These include lead and cadmium. So, for your dog’s safety, you may want to avoid toys made in China.
There are exceptions.
Kong, for example, imports a few of its products from China. But Kong states that it has these products tested by independent laboratories to ensure that they only sell safe, non-toxic dog toys.
Buy well-made toys
An aggressive chewer can tear apart a toy in a matter of seconds and could potentially swallow the pieces. So, purchasing poorly made toys for your pup is just asking for trouble.
Check product reviews
A quick search online about a particular toy can help you determine if the toy is durable or a dud. Of course, you need to take some reviews with a grain of salt, since not all toys will be perfect for all dogs.
Our 5 Favorite Safe Non-Toxic Dog Toys
So is there anything else that you – a concerned pet parent – can do to ensure that your dog only plays with toys that won’t pose a danger to his health? Yes, you can choose one or more of the following five toys.
Although there are no regulatory requirements for pet products, the manufacturers of these five items have decided to go above and beyond in providing safe, non-toxic dog toys for your canine.
West Paw Zogoflex Tux Treat Toy
West Paw’s Zogoflex non-toxic material is free of phthalate, latex, BPA, lead, cadmium and mercury.
According to West Paw, Zogoflex is even FDA compliant, which means that if you wanted to, you could safely eat off of it!
The Tux toy is made in the United States.
It comes in a small and large size. That way, you can pick the size that is appropriate for your pup.
We also like this toy’s unique design. Its triangular shape makes it easy for your pup to hold onto it with his paws while he happily gnaws away on it.
The Tux also has a space that you can fill with your dog’s favorite treat, such as peanut butter. In the summer months, West Paw recommends filling the Tux with broth or wet dog food and then freezing it. Your pup is sure to enjoy having a cold pup-sicle on a hot day.
This toy is dishwasher safe. So keeping this toy squeaky clean is easy and simple. If you need some help knowing how to sanitize and clean your other dog’s toys, have a read of this article.
The Tux can also be used as a fetch toy. Its three-sided design means that it will bounce unpredictably when it hits the ground, which many dogs find irresistible.
Because Toys made from Zogoflex are incredibly durable, West Paw feels confident offering a one-time Love It Guarantee replacement for it.
Royal Pet Gnawsome Football
Do you own a dog that absolutely loves squeaker toys? Then, the Gnawsome Football may be just the toy you’ve been looking for.
This football boasts a very loud squeak, which will grab and hold your pup’s attention.
And it’s also built to last. So, unlike some squeaky toys, the Gnawsome Football is not easily de-squeaked. In fact, most online reviewers praised this toy for being hardy and long-lasting.
The Tux is made in the USA from BPA-free, food-grade TPR rubber and is non-toxic.
Royal Pet has covered this football in soft little rubber spikes that the company says will gently massage your dog’s gums.
The Tux is only available in two sizes — medium and large. So, if you have a small dog, you may want to get Royal Pet’s non-toxic squeaker ball, which is a more appropriate size for little canines.
Is your dog not a fan of playing with ball-shaped toys? No worries. Royal Pet also makes non-toxic squeaker bones in a small, medium, and a mega-size. The latter, which was introduced into Royal Pet’s product lineup in October 2019, is a substantial 11.5 inches long by 5.5 inches, making it an excellent choice for your bigger breeds.
Kong’s website does not explicitly mention that its toys are BPA-free. A Kong consumer relations representative told me that BPA is usually found in plastics and plastic compounds. Since their toys are made from non-toxic, natural rubber, you won’t find BPA in their toys.
Even though there are no regulations in place for dog toys, Kong decided to ensure a baseline quality by following other standards. During manufacturing, Kong follows the standards for children’s toys created by ASTM F963 and EN-71 when performing chemical testing on their toys. ASTM stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials, and ASTM F963 details the safety requirements for toys sold in the United States. EN-71 is the European Product Safety standards for children’s toys sold in the European Union.
Although Kong offers a pretty large selection of toys, we actually think the Kong Classic is the best of the bunch for several reasons. For instance, while we like the Kong Jump’N Jack toy, some users have said that its shape makes it easier for power chewers to chomp down and break off its parts.
We also like that the original Kong is easier to fill with treats than, say, the Kong Goodie Ribbon toy.
Speaking of treats, that’s one of the best reasons to get a Kong classic. These toys are easy to stuff with your dog’s favorite treats, such as:
- Plain yogurt
- Wet dog food
To keep your pup entertained for a longer period of time, freeze your treat-filled Kong Classic. That will make it harder for your dog to get to its yummies.
Two other reasons we love the Kong original?
- It’s crafted from a durable rubber that is perfect for average chewers (power chewers may need to move up to a Kong Extreme).
- These toys are easy to clean. Just toss it on the top rack of the dishwasher, and your toy should emerge squeaky clean.
Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Foodies Chew Toy Line
Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff material is a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) that does not contain phthalates or BPAs. According to the company, this material is non-toxic and tested to ensure that it is not only safe for dogs, but also for babies.
Toys made from Orbee-Tuff are durable and built to withstand some reasonably severe chomping.
We like the Orbee-Tuff Foodies line because it offers a variety of fruit and vegetable-shaped toys that range from 1.75 inches to 7 inches long. These varying dimensions makes it easier to purchase an appropriate size toy for your canine.
The Orbee-Tuff Foodies line includes the following shapes, from smallest to largest:
Because these toys aren’t round like a ball, they tend to bounce unpredictably when thrown. This erratic movement is irresistible for prey-driven dogs.
The Foodies toys also feature a hole that you can stuff with your dog’s favorite treats.
Lucas b. XL Sensory Broccoli Romanesco Rubber Squeaky Toy
Lucas b. prides itself on selling “the safest toys on the planet.” The company claims to only use only 100 percent natural rubber from the sap of the Hevea Brasiliensis tree, natural food-based dyes, and certified lead-free paints.
Its toys are also free from chemicals, including BPA, phthalates, and nitrosamines.
Lucab b. designs its toys to meet the same safety standards — EN-71 –.as those used for in Europe for children’s toys.
The Broccoli Romanesco toy is a bit strange looking. It was inspired by the vegetable broccoli romanesco (brassica oleracea). It’s also known as the green romanesco cabbage.
The broccoli romanesco is bright green and bumpy, but dogs seem to fall in love with this squeaky toy. And while it is a soft toy that can be squished relatively flat by a dog’s jaws, most of the pet owners who purchased it were satisfied with its durability.
This toy is not for aggressive chewers.
Toys to Avoid
Although this article is about toys that are safe for your pet, we think it’s also important to mention a few that may pose a danger to your pup.
1. Tennis balls
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs with powerful jaws can easily chew apart a tennis ball and then swallow the pieces.
Another issue? Some dogs enjoy gnawing the fuzz off of a tennis ball and then swallowing this material. And if a dog eats enough of the fuzz, it may eventually cause a bowel obstruction.
Rawhide treats come in all shapes and sizes. You can even find Christmas-themed rawhide treats during the holidays. So, you might be surprised to learn that such a typical dog toy can actually be hazardous for dogs to chew on.
According to the AKC, rawhide treats are meant to be gnawed on slowly over a period of time.
The problem is that aggressive chewers can rip a rawhide into shreds, and some will then wolf down the pieces, which are not easily digestible.
Large pieces can even stay in a dog’s stomach for months.
Even worse, the pieces could eventually cause an obstruction in your pet’s intestines.
Another problem? Manufacturers in some countries — such as China — use dangerous substances like arsenic or formaldehyde to process their rawhide toys.
If you have a canine that likes to swallow material, make sure to avoid leaving them alone with rope toys.
When swallowed, the strings from a rope toy can collect in your dog’s digestive system, which could eventually lead to an intestinal blockage.
Even worse, sometimes the end of a rope or string will get caught in one part of the dog’s body, while the other end tries to pass out of his system. For example, the end of a string might get caught in the dog’s stomach, while the rest begins to work its way through your pet’s intestines. As your dog’s body tries to push this linear foreign body out, his intestines will begin to bunch up. This happens much in the same way that you can cinch a pair of sweatpants tight with a drawstring. This is a very painful and dangerous condition that requires immediate surgery.
We do a comprehensive investigation of the dangers of rope toys for dogs you can read about here.
If you love your pup, you will want to ensure that all of the toys he plays with are safe.
Our five safe, non-toxic dog toys are excellent examples of the type of toys you should be looking for when shopping for your canine. All five are non-toxic and durable.
But it’s important to note that even durable toys aren’t indestructible. That means that you — as a responsible pet owner — must check your toys regularly for cracks and other signs of wear and tear. Then, you should weed out any damaged toys and replace them with new ones.
Maximizing Fun From Toy Time
Here at Outdoor Dog Fun, we aim to be the most helpful resource possible when it comes to you and your dog. That’s why we’ve spent so much time writing about how to get the safest fun from playtime with toys. You may find the following articles an interesting read to maximize toy time with your dog.
- Rope toys – dangerous or safe. We investigate.
- Can dogs have favorite toys? Yes, they can. Find out why.
- Find out why dogs shouldn’t be left to destroy their toys.
- Got a dog that’s lost interest in their toys? Find out what you can do.
- How to keep dog toys hygienic and clean and the consequences if you don’t.
- Don’t know whether putting toys in your dog’s crate is a good idea? We investigate.