Memory Foam – Is it a Danger to Dogs?
What is Memory Foam?
Memory Foam was first developed by NASA in the late 1960's. It's primary function was to improve aircraft and spacecraft seating. However, it started to become popular and widely available during the 1980's for a wide range of other applications.
Memory foam uses body heat to soften and mold to shape. This provides both support and comfort. Once pressure is removed, memory foam will bounce back very slowly to it's original shape and hence the name. It is also an excellent shock absorbing material.
What does Memory Foam contain?
The main ingredient of Memory Foam is polyurethene – a petroleum by-product thatis extracted during the refinement process of crude oil.
During the manufacturing process,additional chemicals are added to produce the final product. These include Polyols (a petroleum-based binder or bulking agent), Carbon derivatives which create the foaming reaction and Diisocyanates – a reacting agent.
Memory Foam can contain a wide range of known harmful substances. These may include Benzene, Chlorine, Formaldehyde, Toluene, Trichloroethane, Methylene Aniline – chemicals which have been linked to a range of illnesses from headaches, nausea, asthma, muscle pain, skin irritation, nervous system disorders, fertility and developmental issues through to cancer.
In addition, Memory Foam is extremely flammable. To help reduce flammability, Memory Foam is treated with additional chemicals which may be added during the manufacturing process and / or applied afterwards in the form of flame proofing sprays or dips. These treatments include a further set of potentially harmful chemicals including but not limited to Chlorinated tris (TDCPP), Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE's) and Decabromodiphenyl oxide.
So how would all this affect my dog?
A dog bed is probably the most used and abused piece of furniture in your home. It is scratched, pummelled, chewed, dragged around, subjected to damp conditions and variances in temperature and perhaps not cleaned as regularly as your mattress and bedding.
Even if the dog bed were not used, a physical process takes place called off-gassing where VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds can be released in in the form of odour, dust mites and chemically derived gasses. The hard life a dog bed endures exacerbates this issue. Moreover, the gasses are released indiscriminately throughout your home.
Chemicals can further be released by ingestion as your dog grooms and licks himself.
So why is Memory Foam still made?
Some potentially good news is that awareness of the dangers of Memory Foam is growing. Some governments have banned the more overt carcinogens but regulation is still very limited.
At the same time, consumer awareness is growing with an increased demand for non-toxic, eco-friendly, natural alternatives to Memory Foam.
However, Memory Foam has three key advantages which make the product increasingly in demand. a) It is cheap b) it is easy to cut, shape and pack making it a dog bed manufacturers dream product and c) it undoubtedly can be highly effective at providing comfort and support for your dog.
Regrettably, many dog bed manufacturers and retailers are driven entirely by the ticket price of the bed. It becomes a race to the bottom and foam and it's components can easily be imported from international sources offering the cheapest possible unregulated products and raw materials. Beware of the very cheapest Memory Foams – particularly those sold in crumb or off-cut form. These greatly enhance any possibility of off-gassing and provide virtually no effective support for your dog.
Adding marketing terminology such as 'Orthopaedic' to a dog bed usually means being able to charge more with little independent scrutiny of the claim.
Excluding the health-related issues, Memory Foam is not necessarily the optimum solution for dog bedding – in particular, it can be slow to react to movement during colder weather and it can be uncomfortable for long haired breeds due to overheating.
So what should I do?
If you are still looking to invest in a Memory Foam Dog Bed ensure that you do your homework. What's in the bed, where does it come from, is there any independent regulation of the components in the bed?
By all means look at a more inert alternative dog bed filling such as blown polyester fibre but better still explore the growing market in more natural, eco-friendly dog beds. Dog beds made in the UK from sustainable sources using natural ingredients such as wool, cotton, hemp, coir or organic latex which are free from flame retardant treatments.
Check out how the bed is constructed to ensure it is built to last, ask if it has a warranty and ask to speak with the maker to find out how their beds are made and discuss the best bedding solution for YOUR dog.
Here's a quick link to see how we make OUR orthopedic dog beds - https://www.berkeleydogbeds.co.uk/products/orthopedic-dog-beds