Dog Toys, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted by Tether Tug Team on

While energy levels vary from dog to dog, some dogs and some breeds have high energy levels than others. A rousing game of fetch might involve 4 or 5 throws for some dogs, while others insist on an hour or more of fetch. Then there are other dogs who want to follow up the fetch exercise with a run or some other form of strenuous exercise using their human or dog toys.

Toys for dogs with different energy levels vary, but most dogs (except for dog bed potatoes – a dog’s version of a couch potato) like at least a little bit of tug of war, chasing a tennis ball and a jumping for a Frisbee.

Most dog toys are safe, but some can pose fatal hazards

When we go to the local pet store to get a new toy for our beloved furry friend, we sometimes take our dogs with us to pick out their new toys. But some toys that look good to both us and our dogs can be dangerous.

One of these is the Kong Beast Tug Toy. When dogs play really hard with it, the ball comes loose and suctions the dog’s tongue, creating a serious injury to the dog. Another toy created by the dog toy company Four Paws, called a Pimple Ball, was recalled in 2008 for creating the same type of injury to dogs.

The problem with both balls arises because the balls do not have holes at both ends to allow for air flow so that there is a vacuum created that sucks a dog’s tongue into the toy, injuring the tongue. One Rottweiler’s tongue injuries were so severe that he did not survive the injuries.

The hazards of vinyl dog toys

During the previous decade public concern has grown about the safety of vinyl children’s toys. The concern has been about the additives used in vinyl, and governments and municipalities around the world have ether banned or strongly advised against the use of these additives in children’s toys and other items.

Although the vinyl toys are cute, and made of a soft and chewy vinyl, the bottom line is that if they are not safe for our children, they are not safe for our dogs either. (After all, some of us consider our dogs to be our children also.) Recent studies have led the governments and municipalities who have expressed concern over vinyl toys to feel that the additives in vinyl can transfer out to a teething child (or a dog) such that they will impair the chld’s physical develometn.

Studies have shown that the plasticizers that are used to make the vinyl soft and appealing transfer out into the children to cause damage other than interfering with the child’s physical development. The vinyl, or polyvinyl chloride is ubiquitous in our society. Chlorine itself has its own history of being a dangerous chemicals that can produce dioxins known to cause a host of physical damage to humans including cancer, immune system damage and reproductive damage. Vinyl by itself is fairly stable, though, and being somewhat brittle, it requires additives to make it soft and malleable.

Phthalates are used to soften vinyl. They create that plastic smell, and they soften the vinyl because their molecules do not adhere to the vinyl but move through it. This means they also move freely out of it. Phthalates are highly toxic to the bodies of children and animals (including dogs), causing damage to liver and kidneys, producing reproductive problems, and lowered sperm counts.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the additives used to soften vinyl along with phthalates. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry carried out a research project to assess the effects of these chemicals in dog toys. They looked at plastic toys, including chew bones, and found that aging and weathering of the toys increased the amounts of BPA and phthalates they exuded.

BPA has been banned in baby bottles, and some of the dog toy manufacturers have begun removing it from dog toys. Look for dog toys that carry the ‘BPA Free’ label.

Pet toy stuffing materials may be toxic

Dog toys with stuffing are generally regarded by vets as not being safe or durable. They have been found to be stuffed with questionable and often toxic materials that may be ingested causing illness or cause allergic skin reactions in dogs.

Most dogs play quite roughly with stuffed toys. It is a rare dog that simply carries a stuffed toy around from place to place. But even if the toy is not broken open, the fact that it is in the dog’s mouth and wet with the dog’s saliva can cause the toxins in the toy to get into the dog’s system.

If your dog absolutely loves stuffed toys, there is a hypoallergenic stuffing you can buy and make stuffed toys. Just make sure to wash al the formaldehyde out of the material used to make the toy before sewing the toy together. Formaldehyde is not good for your dog either.

Good dog toys that are safe

By now you may be thinking there are no safe dog toys on the market, but take heart, there are many safe dog toys out there the your dog can enjoy for hours. The Humane Society recommends hard rubber toys, tennis balls (replace immediately if damaged in any way), rope toys, distraction toys and dirty laundry.

Another incredibly safe and fun toy is the Tether Tug toy. The outdoor version has a base that is tamped down into the ground where it cannot be lifted up by a dog. A pole (much like a fishing pole that was the prototype for it) inserts into the base, and a rope extends from the pole. There are several sizes to suit the mouth and size of any dog.

Dogs love to play tug-of-war with the pole, running round and round trying to best the Tether Tug and get the rope to take away with them.


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