Dog Toys from China – The Alternatives


I’d like to thank everyone who commented on my article Dog Toys from China – Why We Should be Worried. I was horrified by the number of you whose dogs have been suffering inexplicable seizures and which are now on long term medication to control them.

The common denominator appears to be dog toys purchased from a variety of stores, and all of which were manufactured in China.

In response to Theresa’s question yesterday as to whether there is a list of toys that have been recalled, I’ve found what I can on the toys recalled, and put together a list of toys that are manufactured in the US which you may feel are safer to give your dogs to play with.

A Summary of the Problem

Late last year Consumer Affairs published a number of articles highlighting tests they’d done on a variety of dog toys manufactured in China and which contained high levels of lead, chromium and cadmium.

There are guidelines for the amount of lead considered to be safe in childrens toys, but no regulation for dog toys. However, given how small a body mass many dogs are compared to children, and the fact they lick, chew and swallow their toys more than children do, you’d have to think that dogs would become ill playing with toys containing much lower levels of lead than that recommended.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that the safe level of lead is 600 parts per million (ppm), many of the toys tested contained lead that exceeded this amount.

Which Toys Have Been Tested?

Whilst there have been numerous tests for lead and other poisonous substances undertaken on dog toys, it’s been difficult to specifically identify the toys that have been tested.

Here are links to the tests that I have managed to find:

  • Fox News Chicago – found Paws ‘N Claws tennis balls contained an ink logo that had lead in it of 30,000 ppm, and ceramic dog bowls which contained paint with 3,000 ppm of lead in it;
  • Consumer Affairs – found high levels of lead in PetSmart tennis balls, Hartz rubber Percival Platypus, a cloth hedgehog and a Green latex monster (picture below); and
  • Target 7 – found levels of lead in toys, but the toys were not specifically identified.


What seems to be evident from the articles is that painted toys contain the highest levels of lead in them, particularly toys made from latex and plastic.

However, the plastic or PVC toys themselves may also contain high levels of lead, and this isn’t just a problem with Chinese manufacture, but an issue that’s inherent in the production of PVC (also known as vinyl) wherever it’s manufactured. PVC is identified by the label “3” on the bottom of a plastic product.

In 2005 a Greenpeace investigation highlighted the presence of hazardous levels of lead and cadmium in a number of vinyl consumer products, including childrens toys such as Barbie, Minnie and Mickey Mouse, 101 Dalmatians, Bugs Bunny, and various other Looney Tunes character toys. How many of these toys do our dogs end up chewing?

Here is a link to all the childrens toys that have been recalled by the CPSC – this is a useful list as many pet and childrens toys seem to be interchangeable.

So, it would seem that any colorful plastic or latex toy is a potential hazard to our dogs, together with anything that includes a painted design (such as ceramic food bowls).

What’s the Alternative?

Ideally you want to find products that are made locally by a company you feel you can trust.

Many thanks to Denise who has found that Penn tennis balls are made in the US. So if your dog is a tennis ball nut, Penn may be a safer alternative to all other brands that would appear to be manufactured in China.

Kong has stated that all it’s products are made in the US with the exception of Air KONG (tennis ball toys), KONG Plush, and KONG Wubba, all of which are made in China.

Kong’s director of marketing, Chuck Costello has said that “All imported KONG product lines are tested by independent laboratories, once in China and again in the U.S. to prove they are safe and non-toxic, …” Source: Consumer Affairs

Another company that is worth looking at is West Paw Design which is based in Montana and manufactures all it’s products in the US.

Another alternative is that you can make your own toys, and I’ll post some ideas I’ve found tomorrow.

What have I done with the dogs’ toys? All the plush and plastic toys manufactured in China have gone in the bin and we are left with Kongs, and old rope chew toy that’s lost it’s color so I’ve assumed it’s probably OK for Zoe and Fritz to continue chewing on, some knotted tea towels and a number of tennis balls.

They don’t look the most attractive set of toys in the toy box, but I’ve made the decision that chewing on brightly colored plastic probably isn’t good for my dogs, and they seem happier enough with the alternatives.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Great job searching out the sources. In most cases, I strive to encourage people to buy USA manufacturer toys. It is hard to distinguish why paying premium for pet toys is important–but safety is priceless.

    Thanks for coming by and I subscribed via RSS–hope you’ll do the same and let me know if there is anything I can help you with.

  2. Thanks Diana – I subscribed to your feed a while ago and enjoy reading your articles.
    You did a post on dog park etiquette which was very good, and was included on Dog Topics News

  3. It is not that the quality control is not applicable in china… rather the customers who buy these toys don’t make sure if the supplier is the one who manufactueres it and are they following the strict quality test and have clear description about the elements used in manufacturing them. There are many suppliers who claim to be the manufactueres but actually middle men who act as manufactures. As a wholesaler, I always try to get the full spec of the toys I deal with.

  4. Thank you so much for all of the information. My dog Pepsi had her first seizure this week, and the vet said it sounded like a toxic cause, but we couldn’t find anything around the house that she had gotten into. Then I thought of the new plastic toy I gave her this week, and the new plastic Brake-fast bowl that she just started eating out of, and thought of all the recalls of children’s plastic toys, and did a search online. Your article came up, with helpful links and information. I have since gotten rid of the bowl and any toys made in China, and am hoping that this will prevent further health problems for Pepsi.

  5. Judi Jordan says:

    I just came across an old article in the newspaper while cleaning out hte garage and it was about lead found in dog toys. It told about how this lady had her dogs toys teated for lead and found most of the toys did contain lead. I found your article here very interesting as well. My question is does anyone know if Nylanbone contains lead and if so what do you recommend to use in place of them. Nylabone is my dog’s favorite toy. Her second favorite toy is her kong. Thanks, Judi Jordan

  6. Susie Werner says:

    When I bought a dog toy (made in China)at Wal-Mart to a then 5-month-old dog (Oscar) and he had a hair loss after eating part of it, I did not associate the toy to it. His hair eventually grew back and I forgot about it. Because he seemed to like it, I bought the same toy again at WalMart. Several days later, he lost 50% of hair in his back and head. This time I saw him eating and took pieces away but still he lost a substantial amount of body hair, i.e., chucks here, chunks there. Oscar looked not only ugly but also had an itchy sensation and irritation sent him dashing around in the porch. Even tender brushing session revealed that he had a flaky skin in the hair loss sections, like large mesh of powder flying out of his skin. Why WalMart keeps selling this kind of toy? They are not doing quality check!!! Has anyone experienced same problem ?

  7. Just because it’s made in China doesn’t mean it contains lead, and just because it’s made elsewhere doesn’t mean it’s lead-free. Since such a large percentage of toys (children’s and pets’) are made in China in the first place, a lot of lead-containing items will be from China.

    A toy losing its color does NOT mean it no longer contains lead. Lead can be present in paint or in plastic.

    For pets, it seems the only safe thing to do is avoid all plastic or painted toys unless the manufacturer gives a convincing assurance that the toy is safe! Bummer.

Speak Your Mind