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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lead In Tennis Balls And Other Pet Products

A very interesting study was just released showing a potentially serious danger with some pet products. According to, numerous pet products had noticable amounts of lead.

"Pet Products – tested over 400 pet products, including beds, chew toys, collars and leashes. Since there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it is not surprising that alarming levels of toxic chemicals were found. One quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead, including seven percent with levels higher than 300 ppm – the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for lead in children's products."

A particularly startling finding was that almost 50% of tennis balls sold for dogs had lead in them, and that tennis balls designed for dogs had far higher lead content that "normal" tennis balls.  Surprisingly, sports tennis balls had no lead at all.  Considering how many people buy tennis balls for their dogs and how many dogs like them, this is a very big concern, and one that had me raising my eyebrows when I read it.

Why the concern?  As most people are aware, lead toxicity is serious.  It can cause anemia, gastrointestinal symptoms, and neurological problems.  Because the toxicity is not always detected early, pets can become severely ill and even die.  Lead also accumulates in the body, meaning that continual low-level exposure can be as bad as a single high-level exposure.  The take-home point is that lead is bad, and any products that contain it should be avoided.

Frankly, as both a veterinarian and a pet owner, this has me concerned.  There are no standards for lead content in pet products like there are in human products, yet the risk is the same.  We rarely see true lead toxicities, but it seems that this dangerous metal is more common than previously suspected.  Hopefully this data will shake some things up and have the pet product manufacturers watching more closely or face legislative action to control this health danger. has a pet section where you can look up the products tested and see the specific brands.  Anyone who has purchased pet products recently or plans to should double-check to make sure the risk is low.