While there is plenty of oversight when it comes to toys made for human children, pets and pet owners do not benefit from the same level of supervision when it comes to dog toy manufacturing. Many errors are caught through consumer complaints and warnings—not preventative measures taken by manufacturers. These complaints are often ignored outright. Unsafe toys still line the shelves, and it is up to you to learn to identify safe dog toys and distinguish them from unsafe toys. Here are some hazards to look out for:
· Toys which pose a choking hazard. With large and small dogs alike, choking hazards are very serious when toys are too small or have small parts. Even something as innocuous as a tennis ball can pose a choking hazard with the wrong dog. If you have multiple pets of different sizes, make sure the toys you buy for a small dog won’t pose a hazard for your larger dog.
· Look out for toxicity. Avoid buying toys from countries that do not enforce rigorous pet safety regulations. Don’t take for granted that U.S. manufactured products are safe either, though. Search for products by companies that have done testing on their toys and determined they are safe for dogs—not just humans. Safe dog toys should not be contaminated with heavy metals like lead, chromium, or cadmium. Latex is a dangerous replacement for plastic. Look out for toxic paints as well.
· You can prevent many problems by choosing dog toys made specifically for dogs, and not for children. Again, some products that are safe for children are not safe for dogs. A company may have verified the heavy metal content of the paint on a particular toy is safe for a child, but that company hasn’t verified that it is safe for your tiny dog.
· Choose toys your dog will not be able to destroy. If you have a dog that is liable to tear things to pieces, opt for products that can withstand a lot of abuse. There are durable, heavy-duty plush toys on the market from some manufacturers which are made for exactly this purpose. These products are safer for your dog, since toys that have been torn apart can pose choking hazards and other safety problems. Children’s plush toys are usually not suitable, since they are easy for most dogs to destroy.
· Research companies before you purchase products. It will take some extra time and work, but it can really pay off to learn about a manufacturer’s reputation. If a company’s products have received a stream of consumer complaints, you may want to avoid their products completely, or at least stick with products which received positive reviews. Try to buy products from companies that have pledged to follow safe manufacturing guidelines.
· Use discernment when shopping for chew toys. New pet owners often make the error of believing that all chew toys are well made, but this is not the case. Well-designed chew toys are healthy for your dog’s gums, while poorly designed chew toys are not. Be on the lookout for the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of approval, a set of safety standards for plaque and tartar control.
Shopping for dog toys can be tricky if you are a new pet owner, since you will have to familiarize yourself with safety requirements which are unique to canines. It can be tempting to simply buy toys intended for children and give them to your dog, but this is not a safe solution. Children’s toys are often hazardous to animals. And while there are hazardous dog toys on the market, there are many more safe options out there. Do the research and choose selectively. Your dog will thank you for keeping him entertained, happy, and healthy!