What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About the Pet Products They Buy for Their Dogs

To say I am a lifelong dog owner wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. After an emotional campaign that included pleading and bargaining on a daily basis, my father finally gave in and got me my first puppy when I was three years old.

“Caspy”, whom I named after my favorite cartoon “Casper” at the time, was a beagle mix. I still remember going to a man’s house where there were all kinds of dogs running around outside. The litter of puppies from which I got to choose her was in a big box in front of the front porch. I made a good choice; she was a really great dog and a wonderful companion until I lost her when I was in high school.

Pet ownership was a lot different in those days. My great aunt and uncle had a chihuahua indoors, but every other dog I knew of was kept outdoors. There also weren’t a lot of dog foods to choose from, much less formulas for different ages and sizes of dogs.

We were fortunate to have a large fenced-in yard where Caspy and I could play safely away from traffic. My father made her a dog house, but she only used it when the winters got really cold out. Most of the time, she preferred to sleep on our front porch. Caspy didn’t have a big, soft dog bed or any toys to keep her entertained. I never even saw her play with a stick. She didn’t bother anything or chew up things she wasn’t supposed to.

I remember sharing bags of M&M’s with here (yes, chocolate!) and giving her pieces of saltine crackers to reward her for doing tricks. She did whatever I did and, while not a vicious dog, she was protective of me. I can’t imagine any child having to grow up without knowing that special bond and the unconditional love of a dog.

What’s Different In Dog Ownership Today

Today, everything is different. It almost makes you feel guilty to say you “own” a dog instead of being a pet parent. People call their dogs their children or grandchildren, often spoiling them as they might the humans who fill these roles.

There has never been a broader range of pet products and advice out there than what is available today. You don’t have to go to specialty shops to have a wide selection to choose from either. Most larger grocery stores dedicate at least one aisle to pets, often an entire one just for items for dogs.

Not only are there many dog toys available, but there are lots of designs that meet the needs of different personality types. Educational and interactive dog toys help occupy energetic dogs or slow down fast eaters. The right type of ball can keep your dog busy and out of trouble for hours on end.

While there are more types and styles of dog products than ever before, there are also a lot of risks associated with them. It isn’t from the design of the toys, but from the potential toxins and other hazards they contain.

Cheap Toys Aren’t the Only Risk

The problem with dog toys, chews, and treats is that there are pretty much no regulations to ensure their safety. Let’s face it, the threat of lead and other toxins in products from China isn’t anything new. In 2007, baby bibs being sold at Toys ‘R’ Us contained three to four times the amount of lead allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Considering the lack of oversight given to dog products in comparison to that for products for children, it’s a little easier to imagine the potential for harm.

It isn’t just lead that you have to worry about either. Some of the other harmful substances found in pet products include:

  • Formaldehyde – The same chemical found in some building materials and insulation, fertilizers, pesticides, cigarette smoke, and in the emissions from un-vented fuel-burning appliances is also used to preserve rawhides and other chews. Not surprisingly, it can cause digestive problems and lead to potential respiratory issues in dogs.
  • Melamine – Melamine is a chemical that is used to make resin. The melamine is combined with formaldehyde to make plastics, glues, and flame retardants. Although melamine isn’t considered highly toxic when ingested, it has been linked to kidney failure in dogs.
  • Bromine – Sometimes bromine is used in pools where dogs pet because it is safer than chlorine. However, exposure to bromine leads to stomach upset and changes in urination.
  • Chromium – Chromium is an essential dietary trace mineral that is required for the cellular uptake of glucose. Supplements are given to humans and dogs who require insulin treatment. High levels of chromium have been linked to cancer in humans.
  • Arsenic – This heavy metal mineral occurs naturally, and it is used to treat parasitic conditions in dogs. Good quality products contain low enough levels of arsenic that they won’t harm the dog. The best approach is to have your dog treated for conditions like heartworm at the vet’s office and not to keep the products at home. Often, arsenic poisoning occurs when dogs gain access to the compounds containing the poison and ingesting it.

Some manufacturers follow the same standards for pet toys and other pet products that they do for children’s products. Keep in mind that there aren’t any officially accepted safety standards related to any of these toxins.

There is also the fact that every pet won’t have the same risks from the same product. Smaller dog breeds and puppies are at a greater risk of danger than larger dogs. To further complicate things, there’s no real way to know the threshold for toxins in any pet.

What You Can Do to Ensure Your Pet Products Are Safe

Many of the products offered at the store today are made in China, including both cheap ones and more expensive ones. You can’t base a product’s safety on the price, but it’s always best to avoid those made in China period.

There aren’t any guarantees that the products made in the US are 100% safe for pets. Without any hard and fast guidelines, it’s impossible to tell. But we do know that there is a greater risk of running into toxins and poorly made pet products when they come from China.

The demand for American-made products is growing, including those in a range of categories. Meanwhile, buyers should be careful to avoid those made in China. It’s also a good idea to keep up with the news and any new findings related to dog toys, food, and treats. It will take some time to stay up on the latest findings, but it’s well worth the effort when it comes to your dog’s safety.

Another way to get quality, safe dog toys is to stick with those made from non-toxic materials. Any toy that’s going to spend a lot of time in your dog’s mouth should be safe from toxins!

When it comes to buying dog toys, dog beds, or any product you will use for your dog, keep your dogs personality and habits in mind. When I had my male golden retriever, Buddy, he would play and snuggle with these little flat plush toys for months without making a mark on them.

Then my little girl Bell came along and brought the gentle fun to an end. From the time she got hold of one of the toys, her goal was to rip it apart and get to the “squeaker” inside. A tough chewer or a dog that is destructive like she was (and sometimes still is) can get hurt by the little parts they create. Every dog needs toys that are well-made and will stand up to their level of behavior.

I started Gold Dog Whistle with the hope that I could sell only products made in the USA. It simply isn’t something that’s possible at this point in time. As an alternative, when I have to get products that aren’t made domestically, I make sure they are still high quality and safe for your dog. I know how important your dog is to you.

Hopefully, as the demand for more American-made dog products grows, there will continue to be more options from here at home. Until then, let’s work together to make sure everything we give our dogs is as safe and beneficial as possible.

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