10 Steps To Protect Your Pets (And Your Home!) From Toxins

Let’s face it: despite hairballs, litter, shedding and all, we adore our furry family members.

So why then, do we neglect to keep toxins away from Fido and/or Felix? It’s no surprise that pets are affected by household toxins; in fact, a recent study by the Environmental Working Group shows that they are more affected than humans.

So let's take a moment to honor the health of our pets, our homes, and ourselves, by considering the ways we can avoid toxins. Here are a few tips to reduce your pets’ carbon footprint while adding health and vitality to their nine (plus) lives!

1. Avoid artificial fragrances.

While powerfully scented carpet powders, candles and sprays are quite effective at masking pet odors, they also contain chemicals that your pet breathes in. Plus, they fill your home with toxins, and affect the air you breathe in, too!

Baking soda is inexpensive and environmentally friendly, and contains no harsh chemicals or irritating fragrances. As a natural deodorizer, sprinkle it onto rugs and carpets and vacuum after 10-15 minutes. Add a drop or two of essential oils before shaking onto carpet for a natural scent.

2. Play organically!

Most pet toys are made with polyvinyl chloride, which releases dangerous dioxins into our air. And want to hear a scary fact? The breakdown products of four chemical softeners called phthalates (used in plastic toys and medicines) were discovered at higher levels in dogs than in the majority of (human) Americans tested.

So protect your little guys from this stuff, and look instead for certified organic toys that are 100% non-toxic with natural dyes from plants and minerals.

3. Choose healthier pet food.

Believe it or not, most commercial pet foods contain rendered animal by-products (EW!). In addition to these byproducts, traditional pet foods are full of chemical additives, preservatives and dyes, all linked to food allergies in both dogs and cats. Plus, these companies aren't the most mindful about decreasing their carbon footprints.

So it's up to you to choose mindfully for your pet, and for the environment. Look for pet foods without the chemical preservatives BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin and make sure to vary your cat’s diet to limit exposure to mercury in seafood.

4. Use filtered water.

In the first study of its kind, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that pets absorb the pollutants in tap water, on lawns treated with pesticides, and in the air at higher levels than humans.

So what do you do about it? Try using a faucet-mounted or pitcher filter to fill your pet’s water bowl. And try to skip plastic, which cannot be sterilized (not to mention the fact that tiny particles can migrate into the food or water). Instead, choose stainless steel, bamboo or ceramic instead and be sure to wash it daily.

5. Replace foam with an organic pet bed.

Many of us know by now that foam isn't the greenest material there is. Unfortunately, many pet beds are made of foam, which may be comfortable for your pets, but not so good for anyone in the long run. Especially once they get old, foam pet beds tend to crumble and release flame retardants that can negatively affect your pet’s health.

So try organic pet beds that keep moisture at bay and prevent mildew, or shredded natural rubber or wool that will conform to your pet’s shape and reduce their pain pressure points.

6. Vacuum with a HEPA-filter and micro-manage your floor.

You can lessen your pets’ exposure to toxic chemicals in household dust simply by removing your shoes at the door and vacuuming with a true, medical grade HEPA-filter vacuum. Pretty simple, right?

Sweeping your floor merely pushes the dust around. Corn-derived sweeping cloths catch the dust, and since they’re compostable and biodegradable, you can simply toss the cloths in a compost bin when you are done.

7. Keep your lawn green.

Sure, grass is naturally green, but it can be even greener with a little extra TLC. Care for your lawn without using insecticides or herbicides, which may cause nervous system damage in pets that walk on the treated lawn, eat the grass, or breathe in the chemicals. Also, ingestion of even small amounts of certain plants can be harmful or fatal to a pet. Note that members of the lily family are especially toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure within 72 hours.

8. Use plant-based litter.

Avoid non-biodegradable clay cat litter and use litter made from plant sources like naturally processed wheat or whole-kernel corn which are clay-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.

Clay-based kitty litter is strip-mined, causing extreme environmental damage. Additionally, many cat litter companies also use silica gel, which works as a drying agent by trapping cat urine in their small pores while allowing the excess water to evaporate.

Well, did you know that silica is also classified as a human carcinogen? Prolonged exposure to silica dust can pose severe health risks to both animals and humans causing irritation and in some cases, permanent damage of the mucous membranes of the lungs and upper respiratory tract as well as leading to silicosis and lung cancer.

9. Use biodegradable and compostable waste bags.

Responsible owners pick up after their dog, but in doing so, put waste that is 100% biodegradable into plastic bags that can take more than 100 years to decompose.

Get biodegradable, compostable doo-bags for when you go on walks with your pooch — or just reuse bags like plastic newspaper wrappers.

10. Avoid flea collars.

Not only are flea collars generally ineffective, they’re also a source of constant toxic exposure for your pet and family. Instead, vacuum often and thoroughly, bathe your pet regularly.

Take off your pet’s flea collar and keep him/her flea-free (and healthier!) by feeding him/her brewer’s yeast in powder (mixed in food) or tablet form as a natural flea collar.

Got a favorite tip? Let us know in the comments below.

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