Are Plastic Chew Toys Harming Your Dog’s Health?
I am not afraid to admit that I wasn’t a very educated dog owner in the beginning.
I tell people that “I made very mistake in the book” with my first Dachshund and I am not kidding.
Although I consider myself a pretty educated pet parent now, I admit I still have a lot of learning to do.
UPDATED: January 23, 2023
There are new things that pop up every day that make me wonder if I am doing the right things for Chester and Gretel.
My Dachshund Gretel had really bad anxiety when she came to live with us.
One of the things that finally kept her from busting out of her crate when we left was giving her a stuffed treat toy.
She has been obsessed with her favorite treat toy ever since. I see her chewing on it at least 2 or 3 times a day and sometimes she even carries it out to potty with her.
She licks it over and over again until her face smells like “plastic”.
I began to wonder if licking her toy so much was good for her.
Can Dogs Eat Plastic?
While I was specifically concerned with the chemicals that might be released when a dog eats plastic, it turns out that should be the least of my worries.
To be clear, in our case, my dog does not chew up and eat pieces of the plastic chew toy per se.
She just licks it so much that I worry that she is ingesting microscopic particles of plastic.
The real danger with a dog eating plastic is due to the potential for a bowel obstruction.
Dogs should not eat pieces of it because plastic is not digestible and has the potential to cause blockages or damage to the dog’s digestive system.
According to the Veterinary Emergency Group, you should go to the vet right away if:
- You determine your dog has eaten a lot of plastic
- Your dog is showing any signs of difficulty breathing or choking
- Your dog’s posture shows that he is in pain
- You have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health
But What About the Chemicals?
It’s clear my dog should not eat pieces of plastic, and I already assumed that.
But, like I said, what if tiny grains of plastic make it into my dog’s stomach? Can the chemicals in it make her sick?
Dog chew toy made of hard plastic and vinyl contain Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.
BPA and phthalates have been linked to a number of health issues, including altered hormones, impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility and cancers in humans and rodents.
The United States and the European Union have banned some phthalates in children’s toys.
According to an article in Environmental Health News, researchers at Texas Tech University found that BPA and phthalates readily leach from bumper toys, which are used to train retrieving dogs.
There have been no studies that make a direct link between these chemicals and harmful health effects for dogs.
However, logic tells me that it’s likely since people and other animals have been negatively affected by them.
I immediately thought of Gretel sucking for hours on her treat toy and got a little worried.
I didn’t know if was the kind of chew toy that contained those icky chemicals. I fast forwarded 5 years in my mind wondering if that kind of constant exposure would cause her to get cancer.
I wanted to find out if her chew toy contained BPA or phthalates fast!
What I Found
The treat toy that Gretel is obsessed with is the Busy Buddy Waggle from PetSafe (sadly, she loves the XS size but they don’t make that anymore).
I contacted PetSafe and they said,
“The Busy Buddy toys are made of 70% natural and 30% synthetic rubber, and are flavored with vanilla to cover the natural rubber smell. They are BPA free.
Our toys are tested to the same standards that the US government requires for children’s toys.”
So it sounds like we’re in the clear, right? Not so fast.
Gretel’s favorite toy also contains synthetic rubber.
Synthetic rubber is made by man from petrochemicals petrochemicals (petroleum), which can contain phthalates.
Phthalates are known to cause problems to the kidneys, liver, and reproductive systems (source).
I reached out to PetSafe again and they said their rubber dog toys to not contain phthalates either.
So good news!
Please be aware that natural rubber does contain latex proteins though.
That means they aren’t a good choice if either you or your dog has a latex allergy.
It is also possible for latex allergies to develop from frequent and prolonged exposure.
In our case, since Gretel has been sucking on her rubber toys multiple times a day for over 5 years, I think she would have developed a latex allergy by now is she was going to.
Other BPA and Phthalate-free Dog Toys and Chews
Since the discovery of the negative effects of BPA and phthalates on children, some manufacturers of dog chew and treat toys have started manufacturing toys without those chemicals.
Besides the Busy Buddy line from PetSafe, here are some other companies with safer toys:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associate or other programs we participate in). As an affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
MajorDog is the first TÜV Certified dog toy.
TÜV Certification means that the product has been tested by a third-party for, and is free of, cadmium, phthalates, PAH’s, inorganic compounds, colorants, and DIN EN 77-3/9.
The MajorDog toys lineup includes tug toys, floating water toys, and a treat dispensing Snack Egg.
Planet Dog toys made from materials that are BPA, lead, and phthalate-free.
Two of my favorites are the Orbee-Tuff Snoop Treat Dispensing Dog Toy and the cute little Raspberry Treat-Dispensing Dog Chew Toy.
West Paw makes Gretel’s second favorite treat dispensing toy called the Toppl.
These dog chew toys are made of a proprietary material called Zogoflex®, which is non-toxic, BPA & phthalate-free, dishwasher safe and Made in USA.
And, as a bonus, they are 100% recyclable as part of the Join the Loop program.
BPA Free Dog Chews
If your dog loves to chew on toys, the healthiest and safest option is to avoid plastic and rubber chew toys all together.
Dog chews made out of food grade and animal ingredients are naturally BPA Free.
The ones I buy most commonly for my dogs are beef collagen sticks, odor-free bully sticks, and yak cheese chews.
What About Nylabones?
While we’re on the topic of dog toys, chews, and plastic, I want to address one of the most common dog chew toys on the market – Nylabones.
Many people get these for their dogs thinking that they are a safe choice.
However, as the name implies, they are made of Nylon.
Nylon is a petroleum product but is considered to be nontoxic.
But Nylon is indigestible so it has the potential to cause an intestinal blockage of your dog bites off a chunk and swallows it.
Now, Nylabone has been making dog chews since 1955 and the frequency of blockages is relatively low.
It’s important to select the correct toughness-chew level, so your dog is unlikely to bite off a piece or break a tooth, and always supervise your dog.
Now that you know the truth. you can make for informed choices for your pet.
However, I know many dogs will get gifts from well-meaning friends and family members on holidays and birthdays.
For the safety of your pets, please check the labels of any “plastic” looking toys.
Make sure the label says the toy is “BPA Free” and “phthalate free” or are made in the US from 100% natural rubber.
If the toys are risky, you might want to donate them to a local shelter or toss them in the trash.
It’s also important to evaluate the potential risk of your dog chewing the toy up and requiring surgery due to a blockage.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
I ordered the Petsafe Waggle for Emily because Gretel likes it so much. It was delivered just this morning and Emily took to it immediately, which is unusual for her. I suspect it’s because it has a softer feel than the Kong,
Then I got on Facebook and saw your post! I am so relieved the Waggle is safe!
Emily has separation anxiety that has not been helped at all by treats in her Kong, Benadryl, double Benadryl, ( per her vet)’ atavan, more atavan, in her crate, running free, television, …..
So I’m hoping the Waggle might do some good.
What about the safety of the Kong toys that are so popular?
I appreciate your writing very much. It feels like I have a friend in Seattle.
I hope that the Waggle helps Emily. It sure did help Gretel but she was never at a point that we had to medicate her. Do you keep Emily in a crate when you are gone? The other huge thing that helped was to switch her wire crate to an uncovered open-wire crate so she could see out. I know they say dogs feel comforted in a “den” so covering the crate helps but it had the exact opposite effect on Gretel. I knew to try the open wire crate because that’s what helped with Chester too.
As far as the KONG toys go, it’s my understanding that any chew toy should have more than one air hole to prevent suction and the KONG Classic does (the one you see most often that looks a little like a snowman) – the bigger open end and the small hole at the other end. The KONG that got stuck on that dog’s tongue was the KONG Beast. The Waggle has two holes too – the main opening and then the small holes in the side of each ball.
We really love Planet Dog and West Paw. The only plastic-type toy the girls spend a lot of time chewing are their Benebones, which are made of nylon like Nylabones.
I wish that Chester and Gretel were interested in the West Paw and Planet Dog toys because I really like them. I admit I haven’t tried the new West Paw Toppl Treat Toy though. They only like stuffies and treat toys. Besides that, they are not chewers.
There’s so much to think about when bringing a dog into your home, and to be honest, EVERYTHING needs to be a consideration. We know that NOW, but unfortunately a lot of us were ignorant when we first brought our babies home. Thank you for this information. I hope all dog owners will remember it when purchasing toys for their pets.
There IS so much to worry about. It’s overwhelming. I know I can’t possibly protect Chester and Gretel from every danger… heck, crossing the street is dangerous…. but I try to do things I can.
I would be really concerned about BPAs and other chemicals too! You can’t take your pet’s health too seriously. It’s great that you were able to find such great toys to replace the plastic ones Gretel used to love. She is so cute!
This isn’t something I’ve really given much thought to because Mr. N also likes squeaky stuffies. I’m glad there’s safe options out there though!
I didn’t even get into complications with stuffies in this post 🙂 There is a lot to be considered like dyes, material (and material manufacture). I’m not as concerned about those things as the “plastics” because the stuffies aren’t something Chester and Gretel play with regularly and constantly suck on. If I was going to go safe and natural with stuffies though, I LOVE the Simply Fido toys. The strange thing is, they don’t get destroyed like other stuffies at our house. I suspect it’s because the material feels different (organic cotton, including fill) and the outer material/dyes aren’t as “fragrant” (chemical-y).
I’ve been trying to pay more attention lately to where Luna’s toys are made and what they are made of. There is so much focus on treats (which isn’t bad) but I often forget that dogs put their toys in their mouths!
I had no idea about the latex though! Neither of us have allergies, but good to know!
I think it’s almost impossible to protect our pets from every danger out there. As with most things in life, everything comes with a certain amount of risk. But yeah… I feel like I can minimize risk for things they put in their mouth like food, treats, and toys. I had never given a lot of thought to the toys until recently either.
We have never been big fans of plastic chew toys, so it isn’t a big issue here but one does need to pay close attention to what dogs are given. My mom didn’t know much with her first dog, but she has learned a lot.
We’ve never been fans of most plastic toys – mainly the hard but squeaky plastic ones. Chester always annihilated those within minutes and I was afraid the would swallow the little pieces. The soft latex ones and Gretel’s rubbery chew toy are very popular at our house though. I just wasn’t sure which rubbery-plastic toys those chemicals were in and which they weren’t. It’s always good to keep learning.
Thanks for this great post. I didn’t think of bpa in my dogs’ chew toys. Time for me to check into it, and perhaps replace some with the safe alternatives you suggest.