Truly Eco Friendly Dog Toys?

We can make playtime a little more environmentally friendly for our furry four legged friends too – but ‘caveat emptor’ ( buyer beware) certainly applies when it comes to dog toys; whether they are touted as being green or not.

According to the 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet – so nearly 73 millions homes.

The U.S. pet industry is massive and during 2012, an estimated $52.87 billion will have been spent on pet upkeep in the U.S.

Even pet toys can have a noticeable impact on the wallet; with US dog owners each spending on average around 43 bucks a year on playthings for their canine pals.

The impact goes beyond the hip pocket of course – many of the toys come at a cost to the environment and perhaps even dog health.

I’m often tempted to pick up something for Niki The Wonder Dog; but I tend to resist for a couple of reasons other than financial.

The first is she’ll likely grow bored with the toy quickly and the second is the garbage many of these toys are made from – plastics, dyes and such. It’s just something else that will ultimately wind up in the waste stream and perhaps even be additional poison for the planet as well as my pooch.

Niki is getting on a bit, so toys aren’t a big issue these days and a simple yellow ball that has been hanging around the place for years seems to keep her interested when she could be bothered with playing.

Of course, not all dogs are as sedate (lazy) as Niki – or as gentle on toys as she is.

I know of a Staffordshire terrier/Rottweiler cross that loves to play and will destroy pretty much any toy given to her; and very quickly. If no toys are available, she’ll then start on household items.

Given the destruction that can be borne of doggie boredom, there’s definitely a need for dog toys – but like most things these days, there needs to be more of a focus on quality rather than quantity.

I shudder to think the amount of pet toy waste is collectively generated by the 78 million or so pet dogs in the USA each year and these toys – regardless of what they are primarily made of, may also contain toxic payloads not mentioned in their description.

Research carried out at Texas Tech University found the hormone-altering chemicals Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in a variety of dog toys. These chemicals have been of particular concern in recent years in relation to humans. The EPA says BPA is a reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant in animal studies.

While BPA is not persistent in the environment, the problem is we  are Рand everything else is too Рbeing exposed to so much of it.

Other nasties known to be present in some dog toys include lead, arsenic, chlorine, cadmium, chromium and bromine.

A search I ran today on ‘eco friendly pet toys’ showed there are now many products available made with natural, recycled or recyclable materials; but you’ll need to be careful.

I was going to recommend a particular brand of well-known (and rather expensive) chew toy I’m familiar with that is made of what the manufacturer refers to as ‘ natural rubber’ – but then the BPA and phthalate issues sprang to mind. The manufacturer’s site mentions very little about environmental/health issues relating to the materials they use except in very broad terms.

This isn’t a good sign as “BPA-Free” is a huge selling point these days – most companies would declare this in their promotional materials as it would help give them an edge over a competitor.

As with any other product you would buy with the planet (and health) in mind; ask questions before parting with your cash. Bear in mind the details left out of any product description are where the problems may be. Ask pointed questions and treat responses that don’t properly address them as a red flag. By doing so, it also helps to send a message to dog toy manufacturers that they may need to lift their game in order to attract eco-savvy customers.