Fact Check

Dog Deaths from Chewing Stuffed Toys

Dogs die after eating children's stuffed toys that contain flame-retardant materials?

Published Mar 27, 2010

Claim:   Dogs die after eating children's stuffed toys that contain flame-retardant materials.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2010]

Last night at agility class, a vet, who is a fellow agility student was telling us about a case she had this week. The dog ate a child's teddy bear and was very sick. When she opened the dog up to remove what she thought was an intestinal obstruction she found a huge gelatin type mess inside and the dogs intestines were black and the tissue dead. The dog will die no surgery can fix him up there was no living intestine left from stomach to colon.

This was not an obstruction..... so she called the manufacturer of the Teddy Bear on a quest to find out what the gel was and what killed the dog. Turns out the stuffing in children's toys contains ingredients for flame retardants and mite control! It is designed to become a gel. It is highly toxic. Now you would think a child's toy would be safe because it is for children, but they don't expect a child to eat the stuffing of the toys... huummmm that seems a bit scary too. But we all know dogs demolish stuffed toys.

So do not give or buy your dog any children's stuffed animals... some people get them at goodwill etc. The vet will be posting a warning and story and I will send any other facts as needed and as I learn more. Maybe some children's toys do not have this ingredient, but better to be safe then sorry. So meanwhile, make sure all your dog toys are for dogs. Please pass this on... it is a horrible death she described and one that can be avoided.


Origins:   This item about the potential deadliness of stuffed children's toys for the four-legged friends who live in those households began circulating on the Internet in late March 2010.

As to whether there's anything to the story, we contacted Sandra Tuominen, a veterinarian in Virginia, Minnesota, who is named in some of the e-mailed forwards as the vet who handled the case. She replied:

Several years ago, I had a young Lab come in that was very sick. X-rays revealed what appeared to be an obstructive pattern in the intestines. Being a Lab, I expected to find a toy or other such foreign body lodged in his intestines. Instead what I found was the entire length of intestine was black and dead! I opened up the stomach and found a large amount of clear gelatinous material. Upon questioning the owner, I found the dog had chewed up and eaten a toy made for a baby. We contacted the manufacturer of the toy and found that the polyfil, which would digest into the clear gel, is treated with a chemical to discourage bacterial growth. This chemical, while harmless to the babies chewing on the outside of the toy, if ingested is extremely toxic to the intestines. The dog did not survive.

Since then, I have seen one other case with similar symptoms, with the only known ingestion being the insides of the owners' comforter off of their bed. While this one was not confirmed, it stands to reason that the inside of a comforter would be treated with the same type of chemical.

This most recent case was a young dog that ate a teddy bear. Again, not confirmed, but the same symptoms, same appearance on exploratory surgery. It is still alive now, but we are not sure he will survive.

While the e-mail being circulated identifies the pet-deadly culprit as flame retardants (materials that inhibit or resist the spread of fire) used to treat kids toys, in the vet's account the finger is pointed at chemical treatments that render fabrics less hospitable environments for the growth of bacteria, fungi, and the like.

Before this claim about deadly stuffed toys is asserted as "true," we need to consider that correlation is not the same as causation. It's possible each of the dogs had something

wrong with them that antedated their making meals of bedding or toys, with the connection to bedding and toys being made only after the vet asked each owner what their dogs had been up to prior to becoming ill. If treated fabrics used in bedding and kids' toys are the danger to pets they're being represented as, other veterinarians are sure to soon weigh in with their tales of animal patients who displayed the same symptoms after chomping down on teddy bears and the like.

Regardless, dog owners should keep in mind that dogs have powerful jaws and stuffed toys vended as children's playthings aren't generally manufactured to stand up to the chewing and rending any typical pooch would give them. Cautious pet owners will therefore remove such items from their animals' use and substitute play items made specifically for pets.

Barbara "stalk 'n' trade" Mikkelson

Last updated:   29 March 2010