Go green! Conservationists everywhere tout the benefits of living a green life. Being environmentally responsible is healthier for the planet, for us, and for our pets. Since we want the best for our pets, we should include them in the go green movement.
Here are a few ways you can create a cleaner, greener home for you and your pet:
1. Reduce the impact eliminations have on the environment. This topic is no fun, but it’s an important one. Dogs and cats have to “go” and it’s up to us to monitor their bodily functions and to provide suitable outlets for nature’s call.
Dogs usually eliminate outside. If you live on vast acres of land, the environmental impact of a single dog taking care of business may be insignificant, but if you live in an urban area with a little or no yard, it’s a different story. And if you’re in a city where hundreds of dogs eliminate in a tiny green space, the environment really takes a hit.
“Look for environmentally friendly, biodegradable waste disposal bags.”
Responsible dog owners know how to “scoop the poop”, but may not be aware that their environmental responsibility doesn’t end there. Plastic waste disposal bags (both new and recycled) aren’t all biodegradable, which means that these bags linger in landfills for years before decomposing. So even though your dog’s feces is organic matter, it can’t break down when sheathed in non-biodegradable plastic. How can you take a green approach to eliminations? Look for environmentally friendly, biodegradable waste disposal bags. There are many varieties on the market. Some bags are even compostable, but you shouldn’t use compost containing pet feces around edible fruit trees or vegetable plants. Composting doesn’t heat up enough to kill bacteria such as E. coli which could be a dangerous food contaminant. If you have room, you might even consider an enzymatic septic system for pet waste.
Now for your cat’s biological needs. Cats acclimate to a litterbox quite well, but you still have to scoop the poop, so the bag issue is the same as with our canine friends. Also the type of litter in the kitty’s box needs to be carefully considered. Lots of litter is made from clay acquired from earthen mines. Mining can take a toll on the environment which is a primary insult to Mother Nature. Clay litter also introduces dust particles into the air when cats scratch and bury their stool. This clay dust can be irritating to both human and feline lungs. Thankfully, there are many biodegradable litters on the market made from a various recycled products. For example, kitty litter can be made from recycled newspapers and sawdust pellets. That’s a two-for-one green step!
2. Select eco-friendly collars and leashes. Your pet’s collar and leash may seem like a small thing, but avoiding synthetic materials even on this level can help the environment. Collars and leashes made from natural fibers like hemp and cotton are literally “green” since they start as green plants. They are especially green if the plants are grown organically. Hemp and cotton leashes (minus the metal or plastic clips) are biodegradable, yet durable. These natural fabrics are also comfortable and hypoallergenic.
3. Keep fun time green. Toys are fun! But they can be dangerous, too. Dogs and cats love to chew, so their toys end up in their mouths where they can actually ingest toxic components. Chew toys should be free of contaminants like lead, which can be harmful if ingested. Some dogs are actually allergic to chemicals in plastic, so selecting safe toys is particularly important for them. Again, you can purchase toys made from natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or provided your dog doesn’t have a specific sensitivity, recycled rubber or plastic.
Cats love to scratch more than chew, so in an effort to save the furniture, cat owners often provide them with alternative scratching surfaces. Scratching posts made from bamboo or recycled cardboard are more environmentally friendly than those made from carpet and glue.
4. Consider green sleeping quarters. Once play time is over, your pet may need a rest. If your pet doesn’t sleep with you, perhaps he will enjoy a good night’s slumber on a bed constructed of recycled material or organic cotton. If he sleeps outside, you can consider a dog house made from sustainable wood. There are even dog houses with roofs designed to grow green plants to reduce the amount of airborne toxins.
5. Deal with environmental pests like fleas and ticks. Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with fleas and ticks because sometimes a single method is not enough. Feeding your dog a diet that includes garlic may deter some insects, but in heavily infested areas, that’s just not enough. Using natural shampoos and herbal sprays may also help, but again, may not be enough. So, enough already! The risk of exposure to fleas and ticks may outweigh the risk of exposure to pesticides and chemicals. Vector-borne diseases like Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonella and more can be life threatening. So, talk to your veterinarian for help in choosing a safe, effective FDA or EPA approved product to keep the fleas and ticks at bay.
6. Food can be green! And that doesn’t mean your dog or cat only eats green veggies! Nutrition is a vital part of staying healthy so your pet’s diet must be nutritionally balanced. His diet must also address existing age or health issues. If you choose to feed your pet an organic diet, make sure it is balanced and meets USDA standards. Organic diets are comprised of sustainable meat raised humanely, fish from clean waters, and vegetables grown without pesticides. They contain no artificial preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically engineered ingredients. If you choose to purchase organic meat and vegetables and cook your dog’s food, make sure you consult your veterinarian first. Home cooked meals are not always nutritionally balanced for our pets so a supplement may be in order.
The Best Way to Go Green
One of the biggest things you can do to maintain a greener home for your pet is to bring a “recycled” pet home in the first place. Consider visiting a shelter or rescue organization, or ask your veterinarian about pets available for adoption. Then raise your dog or cat in a wholesome, environmentally-friendly manner that will benefit you both.
Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
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