Synthetic chemicals have been a part of daily living since the 1950s. Today, cleansers, detergents, pesticides, fertilizers, lacquers, waxes, and automotive fluids find their way into the environment at an alarming rate. How much do we know about the chemical products that come in contact with our pets? How safe are they? And what are the long-term impacts on both our furry companions and on the environment?
Here we’ll cover some of the basic categories of pet-friendly products and show you how organic and non-toxic products can help you provide a safe and healthy environment for your pet.
Products Used on Animals
Flea and tick season is in effect across the country. Products--from shampoos and sprays to pills, collars, and powders--are widely used on pets each season. How do you know which products are safest for your pet?
For dogs, you’ll find choices such as products containing only natural herbal ingredients like cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme. A second option is lufenuron—a dog-safe compound that prevents fleas from developing their “shell” or exoskeleton. Lufenuron can be found in brands like Program and Sentinel. A third option is Nitenpyram (or Capstar), a neonicotinoid that is given to dogs in pill form. It is effective against fleas and is safe for dogs. Spinosad is a bacteria-derived insecticide that is sold under the names Comfortis and Trifexis and is also safe for dogs.
For cats, products containing only natural ingredients like aloe vera, olive, and other essential oils may present the lowest toxicity, both to your cat and to the environment. (Note: Essential oils should be used with caution as certain concentrations, formulations and scents may cause unintended side effects.) Another cat-safe solution is “diatomaceous earth,” an all-natural product made from tiny fossilized skeletal remains of unicellular plants called diatoms. The tiny diatom fragments are a deadly hazard to fleas, but safe for cats and humans. Products (like flea collars) containing s-methoprene (a growth-regulator in insects) have also shown no toxicity in mammals. Spray products containing s-methoprene are sold under the brand names Zodiac, Zodiac Spot On, and Petaction. Citrus-derived products (like those containing d-Limonene) should be avoided in cats.
Baited lawn traps for slugs and flies should be avoided, as these contain compounds harmful if eaten by pets. Also avoid any herbicides containing coumaphos, cyothioate, diazinon, fampfhur, fention, phosmet, or tetrachlorvinphos. It is always recommended that you check with your veterinarian if you have questions about any of these compounds, ingredients, or products.
Products Used on Plants
Spring and summer are the seasons when outdoor pets are most likely to come in contact with common herbicides (weed killers) used in your garden. If you want to go the all-organic route, you can use home-made weed killers derived from household items like vinegar, salt, and even sugar. For weeds that emerge between flagstones or sidewalk slabs, a little boiling water will do the trick.
Some lawn fertilizers present an additional hazard to outdoor pets. If you’re concerned that the ingredients in your lawn fertilizer may be toxic, try corn gluten instead. Corn gluten is an organic pet-safe fertilizer and weed killer commonly used on residential lawns as well as school fields and golf courses. As a general rule, check labels and check with your veterinarian if you have questions.
Household and Other Products
For those concerned about the effects of pet products on the environment, there are many emerging alternatives to the old standards. Biodegradable cat litter, for example, can be broken down naturally by bacteria and releases no toxins into groundwater. There are even dog and cat beds made with organic stuffing (wood chips rather than synthetic fluff).
Also, you may want to check the ingredients on common household detergents used to wash clothes and bedding with which your pets may have contact. Product lines such as Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyers offer non-toxic low-impact alternatives to harsh detergents.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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