Founder, Big Barker
Your dog spends more time sleeping every day than any other activity. In fact, the average dog sleeps between 12 to 18 hours per day! But what you may not know is that your dog could be resting on a toxic blend of lead, arsenic, and mercury that steadily poisons his or her body and actually exacerbates the very pain that their bed was supposedly designed to alleviate.
As someone that’s been in the dog bed business since 2006, I know that almost all of the foam-based dog beds sold in America use Chinese foam. It’s notorious for being cheaply made, and it usually can’t hold up nearly as well as American foam. But there’s a much bigger reason why Chinese foam is so concerning.
Chinese factories have been dumping toxic fillers into their foam for years.
It’s been a poorly kept secret that the Chinese factories have been dumping toxic fillers into their foam for years. These fillers give the foam a fake “fuller look” and “density rating” that makes the dog bed look like a great buy... until you get it home and it flattens and falls apart in no time flat!
Chinese manufacturers (and American brands that buy their beds from China) have been able to get away with this elaborate con on the American public for a long time. But that ends today.
Because until now - we’ve only been able to warn customers about the shoddy durability of the Chinese foam, but we never had irrefutable PROOF that these innocent-looking beds can actually be riddled with an alarming number of hidden toxins.
But now we do.
Thanks to a shocking study conducted by the non-profit Ecology Center in Michigan that l’ll detail for you, now there’s ample proof that the fears my colleagues and l voiced were well founded.
Worse, Chinese foam is actually even more dangerous for dogs than any of us dreamed!
Yes, believe it or not, evidence suggests that the dog bed your K9 companion may enjoy lounging on right now, could in fact be slowly poisoning them.
Of course, this is not the first time shoddy, careless Chinese manufacturing has given American pet owners sleepless nights.
In 2007, over 4,000 beloved American pets died because they’d eaten tainted doggie treats made in Chinese factories. These treats contained toxic ingredients that compromised their pet’s kidneys.
It didn’t stop there. There have been at least 17 additional pet food recalls in 2017 alone!1
Given this mind blowing lack of oversight and responsibility in pet food manufacturing, should we really be taken aback that other Chinese-made pet products aren’t up to snuff either?
After all, as awful and shocking as it sounds to American dog owners like us, the sale of dog meat for human consumption is still legal in China. Investigative journalism has shown over 10 million dogs each year are slaughtered for food. 2
The bottomline: China’s overall track record when it comes for caring for dogs is disturbing and deplorable.
Moreover, considering their shoddy manufacturing practices and their tendency to dangerously “cut corners” to save money, it’s no surprise that Chinese manufacturers are up to their old tricks.
This time, it’s in how they are manufacturing the dog beds that get shipped directly to American stores and pet outlets.
According to my industry sources, Chinese-made dog beds make up an estimated 98% of all dog beds sold in the USA. So it’s highly likely that the dog beds in your home—or, at the very least, their foam inserts—were manufactured in China. 3
In fact, the phrase “Chinese foam” has become a shorthand for foam that is very low quality - especially among those in the know.
Why? Firstly, because it tends to break down extremely quickly and is known to “flatten and fall apart” with only minimal use.
And secondly, because it’s often created in factories with precious few quality standards and a seeming obsession with making foam as cheaply as possible—even if it puts your dog’s health at risk.
The U.S. government is letting China get away with it
That’s unlikely. Here in the U.S.A., the government places no legal restrictions on the use of toxic fillers or chemicals in dog beds—despite the fact that the Chinese-made dog bed in your living room or bedroom could be illegal to manufacture on American soil.
The U.S. has clearly stated environmental and labor safety regulations on its books that protect U.S. workers from coming into direct contact with many of the substances that are used in Chinese manufacturing—and added to dog bed foam. 4
So American workers often are required to wear protective equipment before coming into contact with the very same toxic substances that are present in the offending Chinese-made dog beds sold in the U.S. - the very same beds your dog is sleeping on, rolling around on, and breathing in fumes from on a daily basis.
This leaves us with the urgent question - who is going to protect our dogs?
Tricks the Chinese Factories Play on U.S. Pet Owners
Unfortunately, there is close to zero regulation of purity or safety in the Chinese foam manufacturing industry. 5
To maximize profits, many manufacturers take advantage of this by adding unsafe fillers to their foam during the pouring process in order to produce beds that appear thick and feel heavy.
Dangerous fillers such as clay, stone dust, and lead create the false illusion of high-density foam, which commands a higher price. 6
If you are buying expensive “orthopedic” dog beds with the intention of lessening the suffering of a dog with arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or other painful conditions, it’s important to understand that substandard Chinese foam is unlikely to be protecting your dog even on day one; the low-quality foam most of these beds are made of does not and cannot protect a dog’s sensitive pressure points from secretly making painful contact with the hard floor below.
Equally, if you are having to continually replace these expensive beds because they flatten like pancakes, you are—unwittingly—throwing money down the drain on products that really can’t help your dog.
Is My Chinese-Made Bed Slowly Poisoning My Dog?
Many Chinese factories utilize banned or toxic chemicals as flame retardants and pest deterrents, and they are under no obligation to disclose their use of these hazardous substances.8
So, why is this dog bed scandal finally getting the attention it deserves?
It’s due to a landmark study conducted by The Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Michigan. In this study, which has remained largely overlooked until recently, a series of tests was conducted that revealed the full horror of what actually finds its way into Chinese-made dog beds.
This study became even more important since the The U.S. government doesn't require full testing of the chemicals that are added to most consumer products.
So the Ecology Center has become a leading independent voice and advocate for consumer health. And in this instance, animal health.
As the Ecology Center remarks on its website, a product will not necessarily be recalled or taken off of shelves just because it’s found to contain toxins:
Here’s some of the disturbing “toxic” dog bed findings from the analysis undertaken by the Ecology Center:
- Among the worst culprits was the NAP Pet Beds 19” x 22” green kennel bed. 9 Tests found lead levels at 786 parts per million. Meaning the bed’s lead toxicity was over 8 times higher than the current legal limit for children’s products. 10 Worse, the same bed tested positive for the poison arsenic at a level of 46 parts per million, which is almost double the amount that is allowed in children’s toys. The brand behind this bed is one of the best selling brands of dog beds on Amazon. We removed their name upon their request as a professional courtesy because they say they've cleaned up their act and no longer offer this product. If you'd like to know who they are though, you can always look them up in the Eco Center's data.
- One of the beds, the Petco International Pet Supplies multicolored bone dog bed, tested positive for chlorine—a shocking 136,579 parts per million. By comparison, the EPA allows no more than 4 parts per million of residual chlorine to consider drinking water safe.11
- Three of the dog beds studied tested positive for the toxic metal chromium, all of which exceeded the legal levels for children’s toys. Each of the offending beds was a pet bed sold by the brand mentioned earlier, and their chromium levels ranged from 3 to 9 times more than the amount of chromium that is considered safe for children.
- The foam in eleven of the dog beds tested positive for the toxic heavy metal antimony. Their levels ranged from 191 to 306 parts per million; the legal limit for children’s toys is only 60 parts per million. The following brands were found to be tainted with antimony: Cozy Pet, Pooch Planet, New Helicon Fido Fleece, Meijer, [redacted] NAP Pet Beds, Pet Closet, and [redacted] Quiet Time Deluxe Pet Beds.
- Bromine, which is poisonous and potentially fatal to dogs, was the most common contaminant found in the Ecology Center’s tests. 12 Of all the dog beds tested, a shocking 93 percent had detectable levels of bromine.
- Of the 69 types of beds tested, only 3 were completely free of any detectable levels of harmful chemicals.
Unless you know otherwise, your safest bet is to assume that your Chinese-made dog bed contains toxic substances that your dog is inhaling and absorbing through their skin on a daily basis.
And even if you see a “Made In The U.S.A.” label on a dog bed, you are not necessarily in the clear; in some (unethical) cases, that can mean the bed was assembled in America—but the foam inside could still be tainted Chinese foam.
The Poisons Found in Made-in-China Dog Beds
The following is a list of toxins the Ecology Center found in dog beds being sold in America:
- Antimony is used as a fire retardant. Breathing high levels of antimony for extended periods of time can cause heart problems, lung problems, joint pain, muscle pain, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers. 13
- Arsenic is a heavy metal that is used to kill insects. Overexposure to arsenic can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, staggering, blood in feces, unconsciousness, and weight loss. 14
- Bromine is a flame retardant commonly found in Chinese pet products. The symptoms of bromine poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, elevated temperature, increased reflexes, rigid muscles, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, and seizures. Large amounts of bromine can even kill a dog.
- Chlorine is another fire retardant found in Chinese dog beds. Chlorine exposure can cause significant respiratory irritation, as well as gastrointestinal, dermal, and ocular irritation or ulceration. 15
- Formaldehyde is a flame retardant chemical that is sometimes applied to dog beds produced in China. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Prolonged formaldehyde exposure can cause severe impairment of the central nervous system. 16
- Lead is used to add weight to the foam in dog beds. When Ecology Center tested 400 pet products in 2009, 25 percent had detectable levels of lead. The same tests showed that 7 percent of all the pet products tested had levels of lead that were higher than the level legally allowed in children’s toys at that time. 17 Lead poisoning can cause swelling and bleeding of the brain, kidney damage, loss of appetite, colic, vomiting, anxiety, muscle spasms, and blindness. 18
- Mercury is a preservative, and mercury exposure can cause blindness, abnormal behavior, compulsive chewing behaviors, lack of coordination, and convulsions. 19
- PBDE refers to polybrominated diphenyl ether, and it is added to the foam in dog beds to help the foam resist high temperatures. Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit environmental research organization that tested the blood and urine samples of 20 dogs. Test results showed the presence of 19 different PBDEs in the dogs’ samples, and the levels were significantly higher than those normally found in humans. PBDEs pose risks to the brain during development and disrupt thyroid function. 20
- Phthalates are plasticizers that are found in vinyl dog beds, and they have a strong odor. A more familiar term is PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. Phthalates are toxic agents that cause liver and kidney damage; animal studies have linked phthalates to an increased risk for liver cancer. 21
- Tin is a fire retardant that is easily absorbed by dogs. Tin exposure is associated with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 22
So, how can you stop your dog coming close to any dangerous foam?
Thankfully, consumers do have a solution.
Always being on the lookout for third-party CertiPUR-US® “Foam Certification” is key.
Dog beds are not regulated by the U.S. government, but a select few companies - like our company, Big Barker - do comply with voluntary industry standards.
Self-regulating companies often use the federal levels for children’s products or the European pet standards, but compliance is inconsistent. Standards vary among producers of pet products as well as the stores that sell pet products. 17
The most reliable way to choose a safe bed for your dog is to look for the CertiPUR-US® seal
Administered by a not-for-profit organization, CertiPUR-US® is a certification program for flexible polyurethane foam used in bedding and upholstered furniture. 23
All Big Barker beds have been certified through the CertiPUR-US® program
The majority of dog beds sold to US consumers are NOT certified by CertiPUR-US®
This may leave your dog at risk if they’re sleeping on a bed that contains lead, arsenic, or other harmful materials that have been found in non-certified pet products.
Enrollment in the CertiPUR-US® certification testing program is voluntary, and almost all of the participating companies produce or sell products for humans.
However, here at Big Barker — as the leading independent manufacturer of dog beds in the USA — we’ve made it a central part of our mission to meet the strict CertiPUR-US® standards for all the dogs we serve.
Therefore, the American made, certified flexible polyurethane foam used in all Big Barker products meets CertiPUR-US® standards for content, emissions and durability, and is analyzed by independent, accredited testing laboratories.
These criteria are exactly the same for pet products as they are for people.
That means that Big Barker products are:
- Made without ozone depleters that hurt the environment
- Made without PBDE flame retardants
- Made without formaldehyde, the controversial substance the American Cancer Society warns has caused cancer in laboratory test animals
- Made without phthalates, regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission over concerns that they disrupt child hormones
- Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million)
- Made without mercury, lead, and other toxic heavy metals 24
Big Barker beds only use American made foam that’s certified by CertiPUR-US®
Insider tip: a few unethical companies display the CertiPUR-US® logo on their websites without actually being verified by CertiPUR-US®! To make 100% sure that your dog bed is safe, please investigate by looking at the updated list of approved companies containing certified foam:
How To Protect Your Best Friend
If you’ve gotten this far, you now probably know more about the hidden dangers of America’s dog beds than many veterinarians!
Since your dog can’t tell you when he’s feeling ill or is in pain, and because the impact of toxic chemicals can be cumulative, choosing a safe and supportive bed becomes paramount to safeguarding a dog’s quality of life and ensuring his health over the long term.
Armed with the right information, you can give him a bed that is truly supportive and free of toxic substances.
Our Promise To You
American Made. Impeccable Safety Standards. Certified by CertiPUR-US®.
I trust this bed with Hank's health. Try it for a year. If you don't feel the same sense of pride that I do when you see your own dog resting peacefully on their new bed, let me know, and you won't pay a penny.
2 The Independent - “Netizens rally in defense of event that will see 10,000 cats and dogs slaughtered” by Jaime Fullerton
3 Atlanta Journal Constitution - “Selecting the Ideal Orthopedic Dog Bed for Your Dog” by Sabine Morrow
4 Mattress Inquirer - “6 Questions To Ask When Buying a Memory Foam Mattress”
5 Rocky Mountain Mattress - “American vs. Chinese Made Memory Foam”
6 Mattress Mythbuster - “When Savings Cost You More Than Money?”
7 Healthy Foundations - “Memory Foam Buyer's Guide”
8 Mattress Inquirer - “6 Questions To Ask When Buying a Memory Foam Mattress”
9 Ecology Center - “Archived Pet Supply Data”
10 Toy Industry Association - “Update on Changes to ASTM F963 - The U.S. Toy Safety Standard” by Al Kaufman
11 Environmental Protection Agency - “What are the EPA’s drinking water regulations for disinfectants like chlorine?”
12 Lost in Science - “Death by Chocolate”
13 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health - “Antimony Toxicity” by Shyam Sundar and Jaya Chakravarty
14 PetMD.com - “Arsenic Poisoning in Dogs”
15 Merck Veterinary Manual - “Chlorine Bleaches” by Dr. Sharon M. Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD
16 AllExperts.com - “Symptoms of formaldehyde exposure” by Dr. S. Bindu Anand
17 The Bark - “Beware of Lead and Toxic Dog Toys” by Lisa McCormick
18 Merck Veterinary Manual - “Overview of Lead Poisoning”by Dr. Barry R. Blakley, DVM, PhD
19 Merck Veterinary Manual - “Overview of Mercury Poisoning” by Dr. Barry R. Blakley, DVM, PhD
20 Environmental Working Group - “Polluted Pets”
21 Whole Dog Journal - “The Dangers of Vinyl Dog Toys” by Susan Weinstein
22 RightDiagnosis.com - “Acute Tin Poisoning”
23 CertiPUR-US - “Who We Are”
24 CertiPUR-US - “Foam That Feels Good and You Can Feel Good About”