Killer Dog Toys
by Tracy Werner

They squeak, they squish, they bounce. They
come in all shapes and colors, from T-bone
steaks to squeaky porcupines. Your dogs
play with them, chew on them, and love them
to pieces (literally). What you might not know
is that they could cause cancer and liver
damage. Vinyl and plastic dog toys contain a
chemical compound that is currently under
investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) due to possible
cancer risks to humans. The chemical in
question is DINP (di-isononyl phthalate), used
to make hard PVC plastic soft and pliable. In
1998 Health Canada issued an advisory
warning about the dangers of mouthing soft
plastic toys by small children, and some
countries, such as Sweden, Germany, and
Italy, have already started phasing out DINP
for use in children's toys. But no one is
talking about the effects DINP may have on
dogs' health.

Over the past decade, scientific research has
shown that DINP can be toxic to lab animals,
causing liver and kidney damage and at
higher levels of exposure, increased cancer
incidence. These findings were important
enough to prompt further review of
exposures to children due to mouthing soft
plastic toys. The studies focused on small
children who generally only mouth toys for
brief periods during a small fraction of their
lifespan. Dogs, in contrast, may chew and
ingest soft vinyl toys for hours at a time
throughout their entire lives.

The U.S. CPSC concluded that phthalates can
leach out of plastics and that a child
mouthing or sucking a soft plastic toy may
ingest more than the acceptable daily intake.
Their 1998 report, The Risk of Chronic
Toxicity Associated with Exposure to
Diisononyl Phthalate (DINP) in Children's
Products, states that "Animal studies show
that DINP causes chronic toxic effects to the
liver and other organs." and that "the
magnitude of the risk is directly related to the
amount of DINP released from mouthing and
the amount of time children mouth the

Then what about our dogs? According to, "almost all soft plastic toys
contain PVC," so avoid these types of toys if
you're concerned about the health risks
mentioned above. Natural rubber or latex soft
toys provide a non-toxic and environmentally
friendly alternative.

Tracy Werner is the owner of Natural Pet
Market, a company focused on healthy
alternatives for companion animals. (See Her recent loss
of one of her dogs to cancer prompted her to
research the issues she discusses here.

References: – PVC in Toys
USCPSC – The Risk of Chronic Toxicity
Associated with Exposure to Diisononyl
Phthalate (DINP) in Children’s Products 1998