Natural Dog Toys: How to Know if They’re *Really* Natural!
If you’re like most dog parents, Fido’s health is as important to you as your own (if not more!). You make sure your dog gets exercise and fresh air; you take him to the vet regularly; and you feed him hearty, nutritious food with safe, natural ingredients.
After you’ve done all this work to treat your best buddy right, would you then turn around and give him a toy or chew that exposes him to cancer-causing toxins? No, of course you wouldn’t!
We feel exactly the same way about our own four-legged friends. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for natural dog toys that are safe, organic and sustainable.
But with “natural” products being so trendy these days, how do you know if a dog toy is truly natural — or if it’s all just corporate greenwashing?
Here are a few key factors and materials to look for to let you know if a natural dog toy is a safe and eco-friendly choice for Fido!
Toxins in Dog Toys? It’s Not Far-Fetched!
Artificial dog toys aren’t a good choice for your pet — or your planet!
Federal studies have shown that due to environmental exposure, the average pet is contaminated with all kinds of industrial chemicals including heavy metals, fire retardants and Teflon. These chemicals can come from all kinds of sources, but one culprit may be your dog’s favorite toys. Unlike toys for our human children, our fur-babies’ toys are almost completely unregulated.
That means many industrial chemicals and toxins that have been banned in most children’s products are still allowed in Fido’s toys, including PVC, Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead and even arsenic! You may not see the negative impacts from exposure to these chemicals on a day-to-day basis, but do you really want something leaking industrial toxins to be in your dog’s mouth all the time?!
Plus, plastics, heavy metals and other processed materials biodegrade very slowly or not at all — therefore, artificial dog toys are bad for the environment, too.
How to Identify Natural Dog Toys
If you want Fido’s toys to be as natural, safe and sustainable as possible, there are a few key factors you need to look for.
Most importantly, your pup’s toys must be free from toxic ingredients such as BPA, PVC or lead. Look for toys that use natural dyes for any coloring, natural scents such as vanilla or olive oil, and avoid artificial flavoring.
Soft Natural Materials for Dog Toys
Ropes are popular dog toys for that classic canine game: tug-of-war. But rather than giving Fido bleached or heavily processed ropes, look for tug toys made with natural fibers.
Hemp is one of the safest and most sustainable natural fibers. It can be made into hemp ropes for your dog to enjoy, or other soft toys. Jute is another good option, as well as natural wool, leather or unbleached cotton.
Make sure you pay attention to what’s inside your dog’s toys, too. Safe natural materials that are used to fill organic dog toys include rice fiber husks and coconut husks.
Some organic dog toys are even wrapped in natural rabbit fur — which is sure to intrigue your pup!
Hard Natural Materials for Dog Toys
If you have a chewer on your hands, you know how hard it can be to find a safe chew toy that doesn’t get torn apart on Day 1. You’ve probably heard that rawhide is chemically processed, hard to digest and is dangerous for dogs to chew. So what are the safe, natural alternatives for chew toys?
Of course, the most “organic” dog toy of all would be a stick from the woods — but as much as your little mulch-maker may love them, most sticks aren’t safe as long-term chews. They splinter into small, sharp fragments that your pup may swallow or cut themselves on. (Trust us: treating an infected splinter in your dog’s mouth is NOT a fun experience!!)
Fortunately, there are several types of real, natural wood that are safe for your pup to have a good chew on. Coffee wood, beech wood, olive wood and bamboo are all good choices, as these woods tend to “whittle down” instead of splinter. They’re long-lasting and still satisfy your dog’s need for an earthy, wooden chew.
Antlers are another option for an organic dog chew. However, as with any particularly hard material, they can cause tooth fractures if your pup bites down aggressively. Use with supervision and substitute for something with more “give” if your dog is chomping with too much enthusiasm.
Have you ever considered letting your dog chew on…cheese?? That’s right; some of the best organic dog chews are made from goat’s milk, yak milk or cow milk. They are formed into a solid salt-block-like chew that pups love.
Also known as “Himalayan” dog chews, yak cheese chews give your dog something to gnaw on for quite a while and can ultimately be eaten completely.
If your dog enjoys a Himalayan chew, make sure to break it apart and give it to your pup as bite-sized treats when it gets small enough to be a choking hazard. You can even soak the end of the chew in water for a little while, then pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. It’ll turn into a crunchy “cheese puff” treat that is safe to eat!
Finally, many dog chews and other natural dog toys are made from naturally sourced rubber or latex. It may surprise you that even some of the big name dog toy brands use natural rubber instead of artificial materials!
Next Best Option for Natural Dog Toys: Recycled Materials
Even if the material your dog’s toys are made from isn’t biodegradable, choosing a toy made from recycled materials is far more sustainable than the alternative. A surprising number of eco-friendly dog toys are made from recycled polyester, t-shirts, water bottles or even flip flops!
Many of these toys are able to be broken down to their base materials and used again. These companies may encourage you to return your “well-loved” dog toys to them, so they can send you a fresh new one for Fido to enjoy!
With any dog toys you buy, natural or not, always be aware of the risks of choking or intestinal blockage. Dogs have been known to swallow some pretty ridiculous items! Being familiar with your dog’s chewing tendencies, buying them natural dog toys and supervising them if necessary are all important steps to being a safe and responsible dog parent.
And remember: what goes into your dog’s diet is just as important as what goes into their toys. To keep your pup as happy and healthy as possible, feed them a clean, natural diet free from grains, glutens, dyes and artificial ingredients.
That’s what we believe here at Nature’s Advantage, and that’s why our food and treats contain “only the good stuff” — the real meat, fresh fruit and farm-raised veggies that your pup naturally needs and definitely deserves!