Certain dog toys contain chemicals that studies suggest could lead to health problems in your dog, according to a presentation this week at the Society of
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry conference held in California.
The worst offenders appear to be plastic fetching batons, called "bumpers," which are used to teach dogs how to retrieve.
"In the process of training a lab, you do a lot of work with these plastic bumpers," co-author Phil Smith was quoted as saying in a press release. "I have a lot of bumpers in my garage, and they spend a lot of time in the mouths of my retrievers. Well, lots of attention has been given to chemicals in plastics lately regarding their effects on humans. Since we all care about our dogs, and we want them to be as healthy and smart and well-behaved as possible, we decided to look into this."
Smith, who raises and trains Labrador retrievers, and hunts with them as well, is an associate professor of terrestrial ecotoxicology at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University. He worked on the study with colleague Kimberly Wooten.
Smith and Wooten suspected that bumpers, and other dog toys, could leach phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) into the mouths and bodies of dogs. The chemicals are used to give elasticity to plastic and vinyl and are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen or act as anti-androgens. Studies indicate they could lead to negative health effects.
To test for the chemicals, the researchers created simulated dog saliva, then simulated chewing by squeezing purchased bumpers and dog toys with stainless steel salad tongs. Some bumpers and toys were also weathered outside to determine if older toys gave off more chemicals.
"We found that the aging or weathering the toys increased concentrations of BPA and phthalates," Smith said. "The toys had lower concentrations of phthalates than the bumpers, so that's good news. But they also had some other chemicals that mimicked estrogen. We need to find out what those are."
Wooten explained that BPA and phthalates can have effects on developing fetuses and can have a lifelong effect on offspring of lab animals. Studies on humans have resulted in mixed conclusions, but concern was enough to warrant the U.S. government banning the use of BPA in baby bottles this year.
Questions still remain about how much of these chemicals actually leach into a dog's mouth during play.
"The interaction of pet health and environmental chemicals is understudied," Wooten said. "What may be a safe dose for one species isn't always a good measure for another species. But the amount of BPA and phthalates we found from the bumpers would be considered on the high end of what you might find in children's toys."