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Synthetic Materials and Your Pets

Synthetic Materials and Your Pets

This post is written by our sustainability researcher, Jaclyn Howden who is a student of Environmental Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. 

When it comes to our pets, we have a strong sense of responsibility to keep them safe, happy, and healthy, just like we do for children. However, corporations, even our government, do not see our pets the same way that we do. 

Our pets are exposed to way more synthetic materials and chemicals than we are. The regulations for pet products are not as strict or enforced as much as they are for humans. It can even be difficult to trust the products that you are buying for your pets. 

FIVE ways our pets are continuously exposed to toxins

Pet Food

There are some pet foods that have microplastics right in the product itself! The meat products that are sent to the facilities to be ground up and turned into dog food potentially have tags from when they were livestock attached while they are processed. It takes additional time to remove these tags and they can sometimes end up processed along with the rest of the meat by-product. It is a mistake easily made when these tags do not get removed. But the materials on the tags, ranging from plastic to metal, are then ground up and included in your pet's food. As well with canned food, the cans on the inside are coated with resin that contains BPA, which can leach into the food over time. 

It is unclear which pet food companies are participating in this practice, but it is important that you search the brand of your pet’s food, to check if the company has had any past problems with the quality. If there have been any reports of plastics or metals in the food that they have sold, it’s probably best to avoid that brand of food, and avoid canned pet foods altogether.

Food Containers

We do not like to have an easily accessible pet food bag open that can be spilled, so many people opt to store their dry pet food in plastic containers.  These containers while they keep the food sealed and critter-free, they may be leaching chemicals and plastics into your pet’s food.  Many plastic bins are made with BPA. Another common tool that is often used is a plastic water dish or bowl, which can also contain BPA that can also leach into the food and water being contained. 

Pet Toys

There have also been studies done that show that your pets are exposed to phthalates and BPA when they are playing with the plastic toy that you may have bought them. The phthalates and BPA are used to make the plastic tougher and more durable for your pet. As soon as these toys start to break down, many dogs are at risk of fully ingesting these synthetic and harmful substances.  It is important that once there is any visible damage that the toy is disposed of immediately.

Artificial Turf

Even though artificial turf looks great all year long, and is resilient to your pet’s waste, that does not mean that it is the better choice. Artificial turf or artificial grass contain many chemicals and carcinogens that can be harmful to your pets. 

Even though real grass can sometimes be difficult to maintain and break down with digging or urine burns, there are grass types that can be relatively easy to maintain.  There are variations of grass that are even resistant to burning from dog urine:

- Zoysia Grass (urine resistant)
- St. Augustine CirtaBlue Sod
- St. Augustine Floratam Sod
- St. Augustine ProVista Sod
- Bimini Bermuda Sod
- Argentine Bahia Grass (urine resistant)



Another exposure to our pets are textiles that are made from synthetic materials. They can also have the same effects on our dogs that it does on us (which is more talked about in “How Toxic Are Synthetic Rugs To Us And The Environment''). Our pets are exposed more than us as they are continuously in contact with the pads of their paws, which is like walking around barefoot all the time.  Studies show that even children have  more exposure to microplastics and synthetic materials than adults are in their own homes. If your pet chews on furniture, or rugs, or even digs to make themselves a more comfortable spot to lay down, with each of these actions, they are gradually being exposed to more and more synthetic substances.

Our pets mainly get exposure to chemicals through ingestion, but they can also get it through any exposed skin, like their paws, ears, nose, etc. Like a human, animal bodies will try to naturally expel any substances that are unwanted in their bodies.  However, their bodies must work harder than our bodies do since they are a lot smaller than us and we have larger organs than they do. 

There is evidence that our pets are exposed to more chemicals than they should be. In both cats and dogs, there have been PBDEs found in their blood and microplastics found in their feces. They are suspected to be exposed to BPA primarily through canned food. 


What are the effects of exposure?

The effects that these chemicals and/or microplastics that our pets are exposed to could be similar or the same as the ones listed in the previous blog post mentioned (“How Toxic Are Synthetic Rugs To Us And The Environment”), which are not limited to:
- cancer
- endocrine disruption
- reproductive system disorders
- heart disease
- nerve damage

The added exposure to BPA in pet products can also add the risk of
- thyroid disease
And PBDE in pet products can add the risk of
- brain damage
- reproductive system damage
- liver and thyroid disease

It is more important than ever that we pay attention to what we purchase. We recommend that we verify the products we are purchasing and bringing into our homes and allowing our pets to be exposed to them. Limiting their exposures, by buying products with more sustainable materials. Some options are opting for natural fibers wherever possible, avoid buying plastic products for anything coming into contact with their food or water, and even though it may be Fido’s favourite type of toy, try to find toys that are not made up of plastic materials.

Abbreviation Definitions





Polybrominated diphenyl ethers



  1. What pet toys are best?

Instead of buying hard plastic toys for when your puppy is teething, try a bully stick to see if your dog likes that better. Or buying toys made from natural fibers instead of synthetic.

  1. What materials should I be looking for when buying food containers?

You don’t have to look for a different type of material. Just instead of maybe dumping the food into the storage container, keep the food in the original bag and put the whole thing in the container.
When it comes to food bowls, buy ceramic, metal, or glass. 



Material Innovation Initiative. (n.d.). Impact of Synthetic Materials on Animals. 

Sparkman, L. (2023, November 3). Pets and Plastics: The Hidden Danger. Earth Day. 

Donnellan, A. (2018, June 18). Animal ear tags among plastic and metal rubbish being ground up and put into pet food, insiders confirm. ABC Australia. 

Zoeller, R., Bansal, R., & Parris, C. (2005) Bisphenol-A, an Environmental Contaminant that Acts as a Thyroid Hormone Receptor Antagonist in Vitro, Increase Serum Thyroxine, and Alters RC3/Neurogranin Expression in the Developing Rat Brain. Endocrinology, 146(2), 607-612. 

Wooten, K., & Smith, P. (2013) Canine toys and training devices as sources of exposure to phthalates and bisphenol A: Quantitation of chemicals in leachate and in vitro screening for endocrine activity. Chemosphere, 93(10), 2245-2253. 

Pet Safety Crusader. (2024, March 19). Absorbed Poisons: Dogs & Cats. 

Only Natural Pet. (2022, November 7). How To Detox A Dog Or Cat Naturally. 

Bayne, E. (2022, June 6) How Microplastics Can Affect Your Dogs and Cats. Wag!. 

Zhang, J., Wang, Lei., & Kannan, K. (2019) Polyethylene Terephthalate and Polycarbonate Microplastics in Pet Food and Feces from the United States. Environmental Science and Technology, 53(20), 12035-12042. 

Beynen, A. (2017) BPA in canned pet food. 

Environmental Defense. (2022, March 31). Plastic grass isn’t green: the problem with artificial turf. 

Everglades Equipment Group. (2022, July 25). 6 Best Grasses For Dogs. John Deere.,who%20live%20near%20the%20beach 

 Brazier, Y. (2023). How does bisphenol A affect health?. Medical News Today.

Wang, Y., & Qian, H. (2021) Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health. Healthcare (Basel), 9(5). 603.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2017). Public Health Statement for PBDEs.,at%20higher%20doses%20with%20decaBDE.


Photo citations
Petmax. (n.d.). Bulk Buying Pet Food: Is It Worth It?. 

The Hom Depot. (n.d.). PawsMark Automatic Self Dispensing Gravity Pet Feeder and Waterer for Cats and Dogs. 

Massey, N. (2021, October 5). Gifted dogs able to remember names of a dozen toys. Yahoo! News. 

Luxe Weavers. (2021, July 2). How to Choose the Best Rug for Your Cat. 

Purina. (n.d.). Can cats and dogs be friends?. 


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