My cat Midnight has been suffering the last few years from an over-active thyroid. The vet could never tell me what might have caused her condition. A recent study suggests that pets like mine and maybe yours are being contaminated with high levels of some of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have found in people. No wonder green pet care is becoming a priority for many pet owners.
Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Working Group (EWG) studied 20 dogs and 40 cats. The researchers discovered that the animals were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested. Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in companion animals than is proportionally typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain-and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to the average levels the CDC and EWG found in the people they studied.
How do our pets get exposed to these toxins? They walk across lawns that harbor pesticide residues. They breathe in indoor air pollutants. They lie on furniture or carpeting that’s been treated with fire retardants. Pets play close to the floor, often licking the ground as well as their paws, a habit that greatly increases both their exposures to chemicals and the resulting health risks. And because their lifespans are compressed – dogs develop and age seven or more times faster than children — pets also develop health problems more rapidly.
For pets as for people, the result of seemingly harmless actions is a body burden of complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Health problems in pets span high rates of cancer in dogs and, as with my Midnight, skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats.
How can green pet care protect your pet?
· Avoid lawn chemicals. Stick to organic fertilizers if you maintain grass. Keep your pet off lawns that have been chemically treated. Replace your own lawn with native grasses, stones, and other groundcovers that require nothing other than local climate conditions to grow.
· Eliminate products that pollute indoor air. Replace aerosol air fresheners and fragrance-based cleansers with fragrance-free options. Substitute non-toxic bug repellents for chemical pesticides. Open windows to air out rooms. Simmer cinnamon sticks and cloves in a small pot of water to refresh your home.
· Clean furniture and carpets with vegetable- based soap and water. Avoid industrial- strength floor cleaners whose left-behind ‘shine’ contains chemicals that could compromise your pet’s health. Ask professional carpet cleaners to use certified eco-friendly cleaning products.
· Buy an organic cotton towel or throw rug for your pet’s bed and for your furniture. Protect your pet from the fire retardants found in most upholstery and carpeting with organic fabrics you can launder in biodegradable detergent.
Choose safer toys. Muttropolis sells toy flowers for cats made from recycled plastic and certified organic catnip. Olive Green Dog sells toys made from non-toxic plastic for dogs, as well as shampoos, soaps, cookies, and more.