How to keep your dog safe from toxic stuff this Christmas

Christmas is great fun for dogs, but it’s also fraught with risks. Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe, happy and healthy throughout the festive season.

Avoiding poisonous PVC dog toys

Vinyl (AKA polyvinyl chloride / PVC) can poison dogs as well as being dangerous for everyone else in the household. Since the risks were discovered, a handful of governments across the word have taken steps to either ban or warn manufacturers about vinyl in children's toys. But pet toys don’t come under the legislation and animals remain at risk.


Chlorine is a primary ingredient in PVC. Under some conditions it creates dioxins, which cause cancers, reproductive issues, developmental problems and immune system damage.

Then there’s the phthalates used to make PVC flexible. They’re easy to identify because they give off a strong smell, very like the horrid plastic smell of a new car’s dashboard. If your dog toy smells, it probably contains phthalates. Over time they leak out into the environment, so it’s best to avoid them at all costs. The DIY odour test is useful in the absence of a full-blown chemistry lab - if it smells, ditch it!

As a general rule it’s best to avoid PVC toys altogether. Alternatively look at the ‘ingredients’ before you buy. Or if you buy online, check what it’s made of before you wrap it. And bear in mind that vinyl also rears its ugly head in leads, collars, dog bedding and dog carriers.

Steering clear of more chemical nasties in everyday dog toys

In the US they’ve done tests on hundreds of pet toys and accessories and found that many contain what the researchers called ‘alarming’ amounts of lead and other nasties. Out of the 400 pet products they looked at 45% included one or more hazardous toxin, including truly awful stuff like arsenic, chlorine and bromine, all linked with unpleasant doggy medical conditions.

Making and buying safe doggie toys

If you’re in doubt, try a bit of DIY. Dogs are just as happy with simple home-made toys like stuffed socks, lengths of rope or plaited tea towels, fabric knots, cuddly toys with the stuffing removed and cardboard tubes. And don’t forget good, old fashioned sticks. 

Alternatively find a supplier whose dog toys are non-toxic, green and properly quality tested.

Keeping kids’ toys away from your pooch

There have been various scandals over the years as cheap children’s toys have turned out to be lethally dangerous because of parts that come adrift in small hands, poisonous lead paints, toxic plastics and metals plus horribly sharp internal wires. These days most children’s toys are safe. But even the safest kids’ toys can be dodgy for dogs. There’s nothing worse than having to find an emergency vet at Christmas because your dog has swallowed a load of Lego or eaten Action Man’s head.

Ideally it’s best to make sure your pet can’t get hold of your children’s Christmas toys. Which can be easier said than done amongst all the fun and excitement, especially since dogs love to join in with whatever their humans are doing. It might be best to shut your pooch in a cosy room with a bed, snacks and dog toys until the presents are all opened. If you don’t want to do that, appoint someone as official dog-watcher for the day or divide the task into shifts.

Wrapping paper, string, Sellotape, glitter glues and tinsel present doggy health risks too. If your pet loves nothing more than chewing everything in sight, take care to remove him or her from temptation. Or only let them into the room once you’ve cleared away the post-present-opening chaos.

Another word about chocolate and sweet stuff

We’ve covered chocolate before. It can be lethal, so stash your chocs in a cupboard or kitchen drawer to keep them out of temptation’s way. Close the lid on your massive tin of Quality Street. And bear in mind dogs can easily chew through cardboard boxes in seconds to get at the treats inside.

Chocolate aside, it’s never a good idea to feed your dog too much sweet stuff. Instead, give them good quality, properly-balanced dog treats like the ones we sell, they’re natural, hypo-allergenic and full of wholesome ingredients.

Any more tips?

Have we covered everything? If there’s anything else we should add to our list, we’d love to share it with our customers and readers for a happy, waggy Christmas.

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In the meantime, a very merry, mellow and pleasurable Christmas from everyone at Pooch and Company.