Melissa Mazzeo Melissa is an author, editor, and best friend to Phoebe (pictured) and Finian, both rescued Chihuahua mixes.

Chinese Dog Products—Will Your Dog Be The Next Victim?

4 min read

Ever since the scandals in 2007 and 2011 involving Chinese-made pet food and treats that killed thousands of dogs and cats, vigilant pet owners have avoided Chinese dog food like the plague. Some of America’s favorite brands—such as Iams, Purina, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition—and retailers—WalMart, Costco, Petco, PetSmart—were implicated in the heartbreaking incidents.

More than 13,000 pets died from tainted Chinese pet food and treats, and 9,000 were sickened, all due to Chinese manufacturers, who are often solely focused on profits—even at the expense of your pet’s life.

China Profits—And Your Dog Pays the Price

Deliberate activities on the part of Chinese manufacturers are often to blame when pets in the U.S. get sick. Investigators determined that many of the deaths were caused from two chemical additives that were present in some of the food: melamine and cyanuric acid. When both melamine and cyanuric are present in pet food, they form dangerous crystals in the kidneys of the dogs and cats who ingest them.

U.S. investigators discovered that adding chemicals to animal feed is a normal practice in China. In the case of these pet food contaminations, Chinese feed producers were adding melamine and cyanuric acid to wheat gluten, which is a high-protein ingredient commonly found in pet food.

You may be wondering why Chinese feed producers would add these substances to the wheat gluten used in pet food. And you may not be surprised that their motive is completely financial. The price of pet food is largely based on the protein content of the food. Producers can charge more money for food with higher protein percentages.

Both melamine and cyanuric acid are routinely added to animal feed in China as fake proteins. Neither provides any nutritional benefits to animals, but they mimic proteins when tested. Chinese pet food producers intentionally committed acts of fraud to increase their profits.

Disturbingly, even after a class-action lawsuit that awarded $24 million to the victims, it’s not clear that these practices have been discontinued in China.

U.S. Laws Have Changed—But Can You Trust China?

Effective in 2015, the U.S. Food Modernization Safety Act gives the FDA the authority to mandate pet food recalls (prior food recalls were voluntary). In addition, the new regulations require U.S. pet-food manufacturers to use basic sanitation practices to prevent product contamination and to maintain written policies to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Despite the regulatory overhaul, U.S. government agencies remain underfunded and are challenged by a consistent lack of cooperation from Chinese manufacturers, who are not subject to regulations. As U.S. government agencies devote resources to policing human food products, pets are left vulnerable. And of course, dog food recalls aren’t imposed until AFTER multiple reports of adversely affected dogs come to light. Not that comforting, is it?

To be safe, the FDA has advised U.S. pet owners to completely avoid Chinese-made pet food and treats. In addition, they caution pet owners to exclusively purchase pet food that is produced in the U.S. using domestic ingredients.

Chinese Dog Toys: Playing With Fire

6584504895_148a8ca8e6_oWhile most people are aware that Chinese pet food is potentially very harmful, the problems with dog toys have flown mostly under the radar. It is important to realize, however, that dog toys are unregulated in the U.S. and in China. Many American dog-toy manufacturers voluntarily comply with the standards used for children’s toys, and all U.S. dog-toy manufacturers are limited in their use of toxic chemicals due to environmental and labor laws. On the other hand, Chinese factories do not self-regulate, nor do they face government oversight.

In 2009, the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization, tested hundreds of pet products for the presence of toxins, many of which were manufactured in China. Of the approximately 400 products tested, 45 percent tested positive for the presence of at least one hazardous toxin, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. These toxins can cause a multitude of serious problems in dogs including vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and brain damage.

The Ecology Center’s test results for tennis ball dog toys were particularly disturbing.
Almost half the tennis balls tested contained lead. The lettering on one of the balls had lead levels of 2,296 parts per million. By comparison, the legal maximum amount of lead allowed in children’s toys is 90 parts per million. The dog tennis ball contained more than 25 times that amount! In addition, the ball’s lead level is worse than the maximum-allowed dietary level in dogs. A dog that is overexposed to lead could experience vomiting, weight loss, anemia, seizures, and permanent neurological damage.

378261358_210b6ce03b_oThe same tennis ball had arsenic levels of 262 parts per million, which is ten times more than the maximum level allowed for children’s toys. Likewise, the level of arsenic in the tennis ball exceeds the maximum dietary allowance for dogs. Arsenic poisoning in dogs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pain, lethargy, weight loss, and unconsciousness.

Other Chinese-made toys in the study that were found to contain toxic substances such as lead, bromine, and chromium included Big Mouth Rings, Boomerang Junior, Dolce and Grrrbana Shoe Toy, Fleecy Clean Dog Toy Bone, and the Jimmy Chew. The Canine Plus Dog Toy Bug tested for a whopping 287,000ppm of chlorine!

In 2007, a forensic toxicologist tested Chinese-made pet toys for ConsumerAffairs.com and found that some contained toxic heavy metals including cadmium, chromium, and lead. According to the toxicologist, the poisonous chemicals could be released from the toys when dogs lick and chew them. In addition, the toxicologist pointed out that the toxins can cause cancer and neurological damage.

The scary thing is that if your dog ever gets sick from playing with Chinese-made toys, it’s unlikely that you or your vet would ever be able to discover the cause of her illness. The basket of toys you have sitting in your living room could be causing pain and suffering in your pet without you ever knowing it.

Bottom line? Even if you have stopped purchasing Chinese pet food products, you may be enjoying a false sense of security if you have not eliminated every Chinese-made product from the reach of your dog. Food and treats are simply not the only dangers.

A 100% Safe Rest

Big Barker is one of the very few dog bed manufacturers that insists on sourcing every ounce of our foam in the United States. And our upcoming article on the dangers of Chinese-made dogs beds will shock you every bit as much as the treat and toy scandals that we’ve discussed above. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to remind your fellow dog lovers about the very serious dangers of Chinese-made pet products, please share this article on Facebook and Twitter. The health and safety of a beloved pet may depend on it!

Melissa Mazzeo
Melissa Mazzeo Melissa is an author, editor, and best friend to Phoebe (pictured) and Finian, both rescued Chihuahua mixes.