BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie about Animals – June 2017

Dear Annie,

I read an article about dangerous pet toys in a magazine while at the doctor’s office. I wanted a copy of the story but was unable to find it anywhere. Can you help me?

Hidden Hazards?

Dear Hidden,

Pet parents must take care when choosing toys for their pets, just like new parents do for human infants. Unbridled corporate greed still results in a multitude of products being available for purchase that may contain arsenic, cadmium, lead, and other known toxins. While areas such as the United States and European Union require adherence to set safety standards for children’s toys, these standards can be purposely avoided – as in selling untested foreign products through Internet avenues, or accidentally by-passed through garage sales or hand-me-downs from family and friends. And if we can’t be sure our children’s toys are safe, how can we be sure our pet toys are safe?

Vinyl products commonly contain phthalates. Phthalates have been associated with liver and kidney damage as well as general cell-structure damage. If you are purchasing a vinyl toy, give it a ‘sniff-test’! If it has “that plastic odor”, put it back on the shelf. Your pet will be licking, chewing, inhaling and absorbing the phthalates it contains.

In some cases, buying people toys for your pet will be a safer option. Infant teddy bears and stuffed animals won’t contain hazardous levels of formaldehyde (found in fire retardants) since infants will lie on these toys, taste them, chew them, and suck on them – much like your pet will!

Tennis balls for people must pass quality standards while pet-marketed ones do not. One research study found extremely HIGH lead levels in pet tennis balls in the past decade! Beware when purchasing a ball, however. Size is an important consideration, here! Be sure that you are purchasing a ball large enough for your pet NOT to swallow, or even inhale, and choke upon.

Another hidden danger is the ‘onehole’ ball. I know. It sounds strange if you haven’t seen the consequences. The problem lies in the suction your canine companion can create when playing with such a toy. The suction created can have devastating costs – both physical and monetary. Many animal emergency rooms have had to rescue dogs’ tongues from these types of toys. Some pups have been fortunate to have no long-lasting effects. Others have needed partial tongue amputations. At least one case resulted in fatality.

Check pet toys for poor construction, or small parts that can detach. I have seen many cats play with toy mice whose noses, ears, or tails are quickly removed during play. When small parts detach, they can create a choking hazard, for any pet. Parts that are ingested can also create obstructions in the digestive system. With cats, a fondness for ‘stringy’ objects can create a slicing effect in the intestines when pieces/parts, or even non-toy, linear objects are swallowed.

Don’t get me wrong here! I’m not saying never give your pet toys to play with. Play is an absolute essential for the health and welfare of your pet. Toys can relieve boredom, reduce anxiety, encourage cognitive development, and aid you in strengthening the bond with your pet. I do recommend taking care when choosing pet products. I suggest looking for organic, chemical-free products whenever possible. One company that comes to mind is West Paw Design. Forbes Magazine named this company “One of the Best Small Companies in America” for 2016. They are so eco-friendly you can return your toys (bought from them) to them, to BE recycled…AGAIN! And Forbes reported that this year West Paw Design is EXPORTING their pet products to China!

One final tidbit: Always supervise your pet and remove toys that become damaged BEFORE accidents can occur. Even the pet ball marketed as “Indestructible” wasn’t…when a zoo bought it for their tiger!


Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to:

Annette_VidaAnnette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available.

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