Cocker Spaniel with a ball

Dangerous Dog Toys: The Cold Hard Truth

We live in a world where dangerous dog toys exist. This blog’s job is to inform, educate, and enlighten. Some dog toys are lethal weapons. Armed with these facts, you can help save your dog’s life and those of your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and so on.

Yes, toys that are too small for dogs are dangerous as they can be swallowed. Cheap, chewable dog toys also pose dangers due to the materials used in their processing. By materials, I mean the structure and the chemicals, many of which are toxic if ingested. And your dogs are putting them in their mouths.

I’ve worked in the pet industry for close to 20 years, and I often have access as to how things are made.

Have you heard of phthalates? The ph word that’s hard to say but easy to kill dogs.

Phthalates sounds like something Bugs Bunny might utter to Elmer Fudd, but there’s nothing funny about it.  Phthalates give a product a “vinyl” smell. If a vinyl product smell lasts over time, the amount of phthalates it contains is high.

Many dog toys use phthalates in their manufacture. Sadly, not all phthalates have been studied to determine the danger and degree, if any, of toxicity. Six of the types most commonly found in vinyl are identified.

Phthalates are dangerous to the liver, kidneys, and integrity of cell structures in general. Dogs can’t flip a toy in the air with their paws (well, trick dogs can), so what do dogs most often do to engage in play? Like babies, toys go into a dog’s mouth. Dogs who do the following are at risk for absorbing phthalates from vinyl:

Chewing: Anyone have a dog who chews a toy?

Salivating: Anyone have a dog who gets saliva on a toy?

Body heat: Anyone have a dog who breathes on a toy?

Digestive: Anyone have a dog who bites off pieces of toys?

Inhaling: Anyone have a dog who smells a toy?

Skin contact: Anyone have a dog who sleeps with or nuzzles with a toy?

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also an Etsy and Chewy affiliate.

Dangerous Dog Toys: Vinyl and More

Some toys may contain harmful substances such as lead, phthalates, or other chemicals that can be toxic if ingested.

Check the label of a dog chew toy for any semblance of vinyl.  Vinyl can be found in other dog products like leashes, collars, carriers, bedding, flooring, common house dust (so keep your place clean), car dashboards, and many types of strollers and clothing.

Look for toys made from safe materials such as natural rubber, cotton, or nylon. Avoid toys with strong chemical odors.

Dogs of any size can swallow a ball, a toy, a treat, or any number of household objects. Due to the size of our dog’s mouth, we avoid any balls, toys, or treats smaller than a tennis ball. Other dogs have been known to choke on sticks and even swallow them.

Other chemicals to avoid in dog toys include formaldehyde, lead, bisphenol (BPA), chlorine (PVC), chromium, and cadmium.

Because there are no regulations in the manufacturing of dog toys, companies can basically put anything they want in their products.

PRO TIP: Check the FDA website for recalls and withdrawals.

Dangers of Nylabones

The manufacturer will tell you that Nylabones are “best enjoyed by a dog with all its permanent teeth and they are not recommended for immature digestive systems of very young puppies.”

Profilic pet advocate Rodney Habib shows why Nylabones are not ideal for any dog in this video:

Dangers of Nylabones to dog

Further, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dog toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission only regulates pet toys if consumers are at risk. Dogs are left to fend for themselves. That whole hierarchy thing sucks for dogs according to the FDA and CPSC standards.

Nylabones are made of nylon, a thermoplastic polymer that can be turned into fabric, toothbrushes, car parts, and plastic film for food. Non-edible chews cannot be digested and can pose a major choking hazard.

Some types of chews and chew toys are best avoided if you want to keep your dog safe or at least lessen your risk of veterinary emergencies or dental costs. Nylabones are a hard no.

If your dog eats a large piece of Nylabone, it can be hard to digest and cause major issues. In most cases, it won’t digest and your dog should see a veterinarian immediately.

Dangers of Dog Toys Made in the United States

American-made toys do not necessarily make dog toys safe. It’s all about the ingredients.

Some dogs like to sit and tear and shear at their toys, as they would their prey. Dogs don’t have the ability to “chew” toys or food for that matetr.

dog teeth facts
Amazing, isn’t it?

PRO TIP: If a toy is produced in a factory that uses lead, for example, it is likely to contain trace amounts and may, therefore, be harmful to your dog.

How To Protect Dogs From Dangerous Toys

There are things you can do to protect your pets. Here are seven deadly dangers of dog toys and what you need to know to save your dog from harm or worse:

  1. Remember that toys are targeted at the pet parent, not the pet. If you think it’s cute, cool, or appeals to you, these are the marketing tactics big companies use. I fall for this, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that IF you know what to watch for in terms of toy structure and material.Check out the label and log onto the manufacturers’ websites for more information.

  2. Find toys that do not easily fit into the back of your dogs mouth where he or she can chew with his molars. If your dog is a power chewer, proceed with caution and scrutiny on what you allow him to chew.

  3. Take a cue from your dog and sniff first. If you smell chemicals or anything out of the ordinary, move on. Bright colors get that way due to dyes, and they may come off when licked or wet. Toys that have stain guards or are dubbed “fire retardant” should be avoided since they probably contain a host of chemicals, including formaldehyde.

  4. If a company has gone the extra mile with their manufacturing processes and materials used, the label will say so. That quote about “people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing” is so true in this case. If the company is transparent, they will be more than happy to shout about it on the toy label or packaging.

  5. Avoid toys with a single air hole. Those images floating around of dogs with their tongues stuck in a ball are oh so frightening. A single air hole can act as a deadly suction trap.

  6. Just say no to vinyl… no matter how cute the toy is.

  7. Rope toys might seem safe but dogs can easily pull pieces off and swallow them. I’ve interviewed several veterinarians who tell me rope toy shards had to be surgically removed from a dog’s intestines due to blockage. If you use a rope toy, do so carefully, with supervision, and never allow the dog to chew on it outside your line of vision.

Used appropriately and with your supervision, dog toys can be a fun way to enhance a dog’s relationship with you. There is no substitute for one-on-one time between dog and dog parent, so why not forego the toy and head to the park, for a walk, or for some fun in-house play.

NEVER leave unsafe busy toys with a dog in your absence.

Dog toys are meant to bring joy and stimulation to our pets, but safety should always come first.

PRO TIP: Always choose the right type of toys for puppies. Be sure to read our post on that topic. Also, when our puppy received a Calmeroos toy, we supervised him closely, too.

Which Dog Toys Are Safe?

Sadly, we live in a world where we can’t trust some dog toy manufacturers to keep our pets safe. However, you can be a proactive pet parent and consider these tips when purchasing your dog’s next toy:

  1. Supervise your dog when playing. Remove toys that are torn up or have parts that can be swallowed.
  2. Select toys that match your dog’s strength and style of play.
  3. Say no to vinyl, strong smelling toys, fire retardant and stain guard toys, and anything with soft plastic.
  4. Rotate toys and keep a variety of safe dog toys on hand.
  5. Don’t substitute toys for interacting with your dog.

Some of my favorite dog toy brands are:

West Paw Design

Based in Montana, they are passionate about environmentally friendly production. One of their tougher toys, Zogoflex is great for dogs who tend to destroy toys. It is made with 10 percent post-industrial and touted as nontoxic, FDA-compliant, and free of nasty chemicals like latex, phthalates, asbestos, and more.

West Paw Zogoflex is a safer toy for dogs

Kong Toys

KONG toys and chews are made in the United States from what the company calls “dog-safe materials.” The rubber used in KONG toys is non-toxic, but you should always supervise your dog with any treat or toy. I’ve seen power chewers tear up KONG products. They aren’t indestructible. Most toys for dogs are not indestructible. We like the KONG Classic, KONG Wobbler, and a few other fetch toys.


For the destructive type of dog and made of natural rubber, Goughnuts offers different sizes because all dogs are different shapes and sizes. It is a female-owned brand that manufactures their products in the USA.

If toys are your thing, do your research and remember that Fido has no idea the toy is cute and in your favorite color: He just wants to shake it, rip it, and spend time playing with you. Happy and safe playing!

Tuffy Toys

Have you ever noticed that more durable, safer dog toys aren’t so cute? Tuffy Toys offers a variety of cute and durable dog toys, from octopus to lobster, and no-stuff rings for playing fetch.

PRO TIP: Test the durability of your dog’s toy by performing the thumbnail test. If your thumbnail can make an indent in the object, it’s likely fine to chew. If your thumbnail bends, it will likely break teeth.

QUESTION: Do you use caution before allowing your dog to play with a toy? 


Dangerous dog toys and the hard truth pet parents need to know


  1. We are very picky about toys at my house because I have strong chewers with a penchant for swallowing things they shouldn’t. I love the West Paw ZogoFlex toys and Planet Dog balls – they seem to hold up very well. Plush or fabric are only allowed for short, supervised tug sessions. Great post!

  2. What a great post! Mom is VERY picky when it comes to our toys, we are always being supervised. We are big fans of Planet Dog products. We rarely get to play with stuffies only because they don’t last very long with all our tugging and de-stuffing! BOL!

  3. We’re always very careful about the toys and treats we give our pups. Most of our doggie supplies come from our monthly PetBoxes, who only send the best supplies. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Well, after reading this, I went through my dogs’ toy box and I literally discarded many of their toys. Time to buy some new ones and will most definitely read the labels much more closely. Thank you so much for writing this article.

  5. Mom loves toys that are soft and fluffy…just like her pets. She has rarely every bought a vinyl toy and we honestly don’t like them. Stuffies are the number one choice, and maybe a rope but that is about it for us.

  6. Great article. Thanks for the heads-up. Please tell me that the Cocker crack soccer balls that Dexter loves (and most other dogs it seems), aren’t vinyl? Not even sure what the difference is between latex and vinyl! How do I know if Poppy’s stroller is safe? With as much time as Poppy spends in it, I’m a bit concerned.

    1. There are many balls of different substances – some I keep and others I won’t use. If they have an odor to them, I don’t allow them at all. For the stroller, I would not be too concerned with that. You could always ask the manufacturer of the stroller, Kim.

    2. No type of plastic is good even ones that claim to be BPA free! Those have been tested and also have estrogenic material leaking! Those I believe pdbe maybe wrong but its the flame retardant ones those that contain stuffing like in couches snd mattresss so I wonder if its not in toy stuffing! And my baby lived her tennis balls but I pulled up patents on those and found the adhesives used are bad so on other ball similar prob same thing! Oh boy, is anything safe!? Not even the food!

  7. So much we don’t know . . . so much to learn as pet parents! Thank goodness we have you, Carol to keep our pups safe!!

  8. Great post, we have to watch out for our dogs all the time, I take the squeakers out of the toys, I know my dogs like them, but I’m so afraid that one of them could be swallowed.

  9. I sort through the toy stash monthly, because there are residual toys leftover from my days of impulsive buying. Using a pet subscription service has replaced most of the cheap impulsive purchases

  10. Thanks for the information about the vinyl. I knew if I smelled chemicals that it probably wasn’t a good idea to get that particular toy. And I watch out for small toys that my dogs can swallow too. I also stopped buying stuffed toys because Maya and Pierson would destuff them and I was worried about them swallowing the stuffings or the squeakers.

  11. Thanks for the warnings! I never considered most of these points, and there’s so much conflicting information out there. Hoping all the toy manufacturers we use list what the toys are made of, I’ll start checking. My Husky is an extreme chewer – there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy in our house! She loves stuffed toys & Kong bones, hope the Kong’s are ok.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe

  12. This is a topic I tackled years ago, You have to choose toys as if you were picking them out for a small child, with safety in mind. The rope toys not only break off and can lead to surgery if swallowed but they get filthy being dragged around on the floor. If you have a small dog you have to be sure that the squeaker can’t be easily removed. Be sure to remove any parts that can come off before the dog has a chance to do it. Play should be fun and safe. Good blog post!

    Darlene Arden

  13. I try to be really careful and buy my dogs only toys that are labeled non-toxic and are made in the US. I do let my dogs have rope toys, but I will be more vigilant about that. I had no idea that a ball with one hole could be a problem, so I guess I’m not as thorough as I thought I was. Thanks for this cautionary post.

  14. I believe all of my dog’s toys are safe. You have me wondering about her bed though. My dog spends a lot of time in her bed, will need to check into this. Thank you ❤

  15. My dog died after I bought her a new toy. BOW-WOW pet products was the label. She got sick about 2 hours after she played with the toy. She vomited a lot and kept drinking water and then vomit. She died a day and a half after and I wonder if she suffered at all. She died during the night. I need some answers and where can I report about this toy being deadly?

    1. Joyce, I am saddened to hear about your pet’s sudden and unexpected death. A pet dying for any reason is sad, but to potentially have died from a toy is indeed concerning. Unfortunately, at this time there is no Federal agency that regulates pet products unless they present a danger to human children, such as the CPSC. The American Pet Products Association (APPA), which is a trade association has no control over its members or the products they manufacture, but they may relay your concerns to the company. Each state also has its own laws so maybe the state in which you live has an agency that does regulate pet products manufactured within its borders so you might want to contact your state attorney general or your state consumer agency to find out. I wish there was a more hopeful answer but if we all campaign for change it can happen.

  16. I let mine chew on a stick of hickory firewood. Or their rubberized farm watering bucket. My lab are super chewers. I have been going to Goodwill and getting the shoes of dead persons to satisfy their chew fix.

  17. Toy ropes are fine as long as you’re using the right ones. You want only 100% cotton, non-bleached, white triple strand rope as the K-9 digestive system can digest it. Just because the toy may say cotton, doesn’t mean it’s a 100% cotton, A lot of ropes depending on what they were manufactured for can have nylon, polyester, MFP (multi-filament polypropylene) and any coloring in a rope will have traces of Yellow#5, Red#6 and sodium hypochlorite or bleach. Most pet toy companies that make rope toys buy rope in 600′ spools and usually the cheapest thing they can get.. Lastly, you never want the rope toy that exceeds 6″ long so that if your dog does manage to get a single strand out, anything longer than 6″, it will take too long to digest at which point the strand can leave the stomach and become entangled in the small intestine at which point surgery is needed to remove if it becomes a problem.
    If you can find 100% cotton, that’s not colored, 6″ in length you also want to ensure that the rope is tied into knots on both ends making it look like a bone and in those knots, there should be a locking stitch using a non-wax thread. This prevents your dog from ever unraveling it as that rope would then be close to 10″ long. It seems like a lot to look for but they are out there and are actually very healthy for your dog as it is natures tooth brush and fresh breath maker. It can also be thrown in the washing machine to be freshened up, just be sure to inspect it for any signs of wear but these “rope bones” will last a long time. I know all this as I was raised on a sailboat all my life which doesn’t qualify me but my mother owned the largest rope manufacturer in North America. We had consulted many vets and professors at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada which is renowned for their veterinary training & degrees. That should qualify me on rope dog bones. Unfortunately, my parents sold the business and have gone sailing around the world on their catamaran and left me behind. I hope this helps on this topic and clears the air. Everything else I have seen on this site is spot on and some things that I have never come across or thought of and are seriously good things to be aware of. To the site owner, fantastic work! Dogs lives are a little less ruff thanks to you.

  18. Most pet toy companies that make rope toys buy rope in 600′ spools and usually the cheapest thing they can get.. Lastly, you never want the rope toy that exceeds 6″ long so that if your dog does manage to get a single strand out, anything longer than 6″, it will take too long to digest at which point the strand can leave the stomach and become entangled in the small intestine at which point surgery is needed to remove if it becomes a problem. Thanks for this article

  19. Hi, thank you for the excellent article – I lost my dog Ginger to a rope toy so am trying to spread the word of the danger with these types of toys. I wrote an article about it:

    I feel…I have found out the hard way…that it’s important to give strong consideration to what kind of chew toys you leave your four legged friends alone with. Please tread carefully

  20. We do absolutely no vinyl toys as the first thing my girl does is chew a hole in it! One and we are done!
    I disagree with the color thing though, our Shihtzu loves any toy that is pink, he’s a boy, lol!
    Thanks for the information!

    1. Hahaha that’s pawsome. Our male Cocker loves his pink toys, too – as you can see in the featured photo. 😉 Give your Shitzu a tummy rub for us.

  21. Jolly, our 4 year old buff American Cocker Spaniel, loves toys that squeak. We primarily purchase Kong Squeak Air tennis balls, blue and yellow, which are the colors that dogs see best. We do purchase soft, cloth, squeak toys, but none with appendages for her to grasp on to, or ones with beads. In any case, we monitor Jolly very, very closely when she is chewing on the soft cloth toy. When she begins to tear into it, the inside squeaker plastic ball can become exposed, and that is when we take it away from her so that she doesn’t swallow it. We have NEVER purchased any dog toy that is made of vinyl or plastic. Early on, we did purchase some dog toys that are called “dog proof” since Jolly can rip into almost anything. We ultimately learned that there is no such thing as a “dog proof” toy, and we have not purchased one ever since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.