What is the most important thing about bathing your dog, besides getting him to cooperate by getting into the tub? Of course you want to use a shampoo product that will get him clean, leave his coat soft and shiny, and make him smell fresh. But if you’re committed to using eco-friendly products for yourself, you will also want to extend this idea to caring for your dog.
So when it’s bath time for Fido, you can’t just use any old shampoo that’s labeled “dog shampoo”. It has to be friendly to the environment, as well as friendly to your dog.
Here are some tips to help you find just the right products that will make your dog look and smell clean. And they will be safe for him and the environment.
Look for natural ingredients like natural oils and vitamins. Just like with human products, stay away from products loaded with ingredients whose names are so long and complex that you can’t read them, much less pronounce them.
Look for ingredients identified as certified organic. What does certified organic mean? It means the ingredients advertised on the label meet some very tough requirements. These can include insuring that the ingredients were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers; that the production process was environmentally friendly; and that there are periodic inspections of the manufacturing plants to make sure these standards are maintained.
Look for products that are biodegradable. This means that the residue that washes down the drain will break down naturally. It won’t pollute the water supply or harm plants, fish or wildlife. Or your newly clean dog.
Look for products which are pH balanced. This means the product is manufactured to match the natural acid balance of your dog’s skin as closely as possible. When you use a shampoo that is pH balanced, there is much less chance of skin irritation or allergic reaction.
If your dog has a history of allergic reactions or sensitive skin, you will also need to find the right combination of ingredients for your dog. Look for products that also include the term “hypo allergenic”. These products are usually extremely mild, and can be tolerated even by dogs with highly sensitive skin.
If you can’t find products with these characteristics at your local pet store, or your groomer doesn’t carry them, you may need to shop online. Do a search for natural dog shampoo or organic dog shampoo and you should be able to find many sources to choose from. You’ll be making your dog and the environment very happy.
Leashes, collars and harnesses for dogs come in a lot of different materials. But many of them are not very environmentally friendly. Nylon is often made from petrochemicals. Leather is not very animal friendly, and the chemicals used to process and dye it can be quite toxic. Metal chains may seem environmentally neutral, until you remember the leather grip on the leash, or the high amount of energy needed to make metals.
So if you want to be environmentally aware, what are your choices when you are in the market for a new leash, collar or harness for your dog? Organic plant based materials are your best earth-friendly options. Dog accessories made of organic cotton or hemp are becoming easier to find. They come in a wide choice of styles and colors that are quite fashionable, too.
Organic cotton is the traditional earth-friendly option. Regular cotton is not considered to be environmentally friendly because it requires more pesticides and toxic chemica
ls to grow per unit than any other agricultural crop. These chemicals not only pollute the soil, air and water, but can also be irritating to sensitive skin. But organic cotton can be grown without the use of all the toxic chemicals that regular cotton requires. Organic cotton products tend to be more expensive to buy than regular cotton products (unless you consider the long term cost to the environment).
Organic hemp is becoming more available, and is one of the most eco-friendly and versatile plants on the planet. It is hardy, fast-growing, renewable, doesn’t need pesticides and is bio-degradable. And no, it is not the same kind of hemp that is used for medicine or “recreational” drugs. (The hemp grown for industrial use contains such small amounts of the psychoactive chemical present in medicinal marijuana that there are no physical effects at all).
Like organic cotton, organic (industrial) hemp can be used to make natural fabrics which are durable, comfortable to wear, and can be dyed to any fashion color imaginable. So organic hemp makes a perfect material to use for environmentally friendly dog accessories.
Organic cotton and hemp are great choices for your dog accessories if you like being on top of the latest trends. Your dog can be quite fashionable, wearing matching collar and harness in the latest fashion forward colors. And you can be carrying the matching leash. Not only will the two of you be happy to look great, but you will both be happy that you are supporting a healthy future for out planet.
You care about the planet so you recycle and try your best to minimize your carbon footprint. You care about your dog’s health, so you feed her natural or organic dog food. You make a special point of finding dog treats which are healthy and made from natural ingredients. Why would you let your dog sleep on a bed made with petrochemicals?
If you haven’t given it much thought before, here a few things to consider when looking for a safe and comfortable bed for your dog.
Organic fibers are important. You probably know humans who have sensitive skin, and have allergic reactions to synthetic dyes and chemicals in their clothes. You might even be one of those people yourself. Contact with the wrong fibers can give you a serious rash, or at least make your skin uncomfortably itchy. It is the same with your dog. Even if your dog is not particularly allergic, it is still healthier to let her sleep on a bed that is not full of toxins. So choose a bed with an organic cotton or hemp cover.
Many “green” dog bed fillings on the market today are made from post-consumer plastic fibers that come from recycled water bottles. These types of synthetic fibers are considered to be safe because the recycled plastic was originally used as food containers. There are mixed reviews, though, about the safety of any plastic material for long term use. There is growing evidence that plastic leaches into its surrounding environment. So beware that proof of the long term safety of all plastics is still up in the air, even if they are recycled.
Of course, filling is only an issue if your dog likes high-loft, pillow-like beds. If that is what your dog likes, and you don’t like the idea of her sleeping on recycled plastic, look for a bed stuffed with organic kapok. Kapok is a plant-based material, like cotton or hemp. It has been used for centuries to stuff furniture and pillows. So both you and your dog can rest easy that it is safe.
Some dogs prefer to sleep on a firmer surface, even the floor. If all your dog needs is a blanket to keep the chill off, you could choose organic cotton or hemp, which are also machine washable. If your dog requires firm stuffing, you can still use organic kapok, but make sure that it is densely packed to provide firmness that is comfortable for your dog.
Most dogs love treats. Unless you have a picky eater (yes, some dogs are very choosy about what they eat, but most are not), your dog is probably a lot like mine: he will gladly eat just about anything you offer him. Unfortunately most dogs can’t tell whether what they are eating is healthy or not. They can’t read the labels and they don’t do the shopping. So making sure your dog’s treats are healthy is up to you
Choosing healthy dogs treats is similar to choosing healthy food for you and your family. If you are already used to doing this, then you already know what to look for, and what to avoid, on the labels. Long chemical names are a big clue that you should probably avoid that product. And there are a surprising number of dog treats on the market that are made with mostly synthetic chemicals and additives. Even well known brand names often sell what is really junk food for dogs. So read the labels, even if you know (or think you know) the brand.
The easiest way to ensure that you’re buying healthy treats is to buy products that use natural or organic ingredients. Beef jerky treats, for instance, should indicate beef as the first ingredient. Not just “beef flavored” halfway down the list of ingredients. And the list of ingredients should be short, with very few or no chemicals added.
Look for treats that are made with no artificial flavorings or colorings. Some of the worst possible treats that you can give to your dog are those cheap, bargain bags of multicolored biscuits that are loaded with artificial flavors, artificial colors, and meat or poultry by-products. By- products can include all the parts of the cow or chicken that are thrown away when the animals are processed for human food. They are literally not good enough to eat. And if they’re not good enough for you and your family, why would you want to give them to your dog?
There are some additives that are actually healthy for your dog. Vitamins and minerals can all help your dog develop and maintain strong bones, muscles and teeth. Essential oils and fatty acids can ensure that he has a healthy coat and skin.
Natural or organic ingredients are always healthier and safer than synthetics. But made sure to read that label. Some manufacturers will include one natural ingredient just to be able to make the claim that the treat is natural. But the rest of the ingredients are pure junk. Your dog needs you to make sure that his treats are healthy.
Does your dog go through toys like your kids go through tennis shoes? It seems like you just bought a new one last week, and already it’s torn to shreds or buried somewhere in the back yard where it could take months or years to find. And dog toys are not cheap, especially the kind made from natural or organic materials. So why bother to buy those healthy, but expensive, dog toys when they’re likely to only last a week or two?
That is a fair question. But if there is room in your budget, you might want to reconsider the real cost of those cheap toys. After all, how does your dog play with his toys? Chances are, he doesn’t quietly sit in front of them and admire them. He doesn’t collect them and place them lovingly in a glass-fronted cabinet to save for future generations. He won’t carefully open their package, fold the wrapping and store the container in case he needs it later.
No, your dog mostly uses his mouth to play with his toys. He’s kind of like a toddler that way. All of his toys go into his mouth at some point. If he’s a retriever type of dog, he’ll carry them around for weeks or months, drooling all the way. If he’s a terrier type of dog he will chew on it and shake it around and basically work on it until it’s ripped to shreds. And of course, part of it gets eaten along the way.
So when you consider that the toys you are buying for your dog spend most of their lives in your dog’s mouth, doesn’t it make sense to make sure that they are not made of toxic materials? After all, would you let your toddler chew on poisonous toys? Of course not. Then why would you let your dog do it?
At first it does seem like it would be better for your budget to buy cheap dog toys. But that is short term thinking. Once you start having to pay vet bills because the cheap toys make your dog sick, you will wish you spent a few extra dollars for those dog toys made of natural materials, instead having to pay a few hundred dollars to the vet.
The trick is to know whether your dog is a chewer or a retriever, and then buy the right kind of toy in an organic or natural material. For a retriever, organic cotton Frisbees or soft toys will be safe for him to carry around in his mouth for months. For a chewer, buy organic cotton or hemp knotted rope toys. Your dog will love chewing and tugging on it, and it will last a long time. Knowing which toys to buy will make both your dog and your wallet happy.
You already know that you want your dog to be happy and healthy. So you feed her natural dog foods and use organic shampoo when you bathe her. Now what else can you do to pamper your dog? A happy and healthy dog is a must. A beautiful dog is a plus.
There are plenty of other organic and natural products you can treat your dog to when you want to provide a little extra pampering. Do you ever treat yourself to organic spa treatments for your skin and hair? Here are some tips on how your can do the same for your dog.
Aromatherapy can help both you and your dog relax and enjoy her spa day. For centuries, people have benefited from using the essential oils in certain herbs because of their ability to calm and soothe through scent alone. Stay away from invigorating scents, or scents that dogs don’t enjoy, like mints, citrus or eucalyptus. Use shampoos, conditioners and coat sprays with vanilla and lavender, which are known for their healing qualities.
Ear care is sometimes overlooked when the family has a hectic and busy schedule. But clean ears are important for your dog’s health. Choose natural products that are free from preservatives, artificial colorings and synthetic chemicals. The healthiest ear cleaning products will contain mild ingredients, like aloe vera, natural oils, witch hazel and herbs. They are designed to clean gently, and are most effective when used on a regular basis.
Paw care is often neglected. Dogs walk on them every day without complaining, over all kinds of surfaces from grass to gravel to carpet to asphalt. Most humans take for granted that their dog’s paws are operating just fine, unless he’s obviously limping. After all, aren’t paws built to take a lot of rough abuse? Well, yes and no. They develop protective calluses. But they can become cracked and raw, just like the heels on our feet. The best way to pamper your dog’s paws is with a natural product that moisturizes and soothes them. Choose products with shea butter for moisturizing and aloe vera for healing dry cracks.
Skin care is as important for dogs as it is for us humans. You know how uncomfortable dry, itchy, scaly skin can be. It is no different for your dog. Be sure to use coat and skin conditioning products that contain natural ingredients. Look for jojoba oil, aloe vera, nettle, seaweed and other organic herbs, vitamins and minerals that can minimize shedding and detangle your dogs coat to make brushing painless.
Let’s face it. If you have a dog, you will have to deal with pet stains sooner or later. Puppies create stains on a regular basis. But even older, well trained dogs can soil their surroundings if they get sick or eat something that upsets their systems.
Regular household cleaners just don’t do a good job of cleaning these kinds of stains or ensuring that the odor goes away permanently. And many of them are not safe for your dog to be around, or safe for the environment. So how do you find an eco-friendly pet stain cleaner? How do you find one that will do a good job, and be safe for the environment and your dog?
The most important thing you can do is read the labels of any products you are considering. They will tell you whether the packaging is “green”, and if the ingredients are earth-friendly. Here are some things you should look for.
First, look for plant based ingredients. Many safe cleaners are made from corn, coconuts, oranges or lemons. If it’s a fruit or vegetable, it’s probably safe (unless you, your dog or a family member is allergic to it). Avoid petrochemicals, and anything that says “petroleum-based”. These chemicals do not biodegrade, and they leave toxic residues that can, at minimum, irritate your dog’s eyes, skin and respiratory system. At worst, they could poison him. (And they have the same potential danger to humans.)
Natural enzymes are eco-friendly. These are organic additives that actually “eat” stains and odors. They sometimes need re-application, and may take a little longer to get rid of the stain and odor completely. But if you care about the environment and your dog’s health, it’s worth the extra effort.
“Non-toxic” is an important term to look for. This means the ingredients are not poisonous. You’re probably using the cleaner on an area that your dog walks on, and could easily lick. Some dogs are famous for licking and eating just about anything within their reach. (And some toddlers are the same way.) So you want to make sure the cleaner you use won’t be harmful to your family or your dog.
Last, look for recyclable or biodegradable packaging. Eco-friendly does not only apply to the contents. It applies to the containers, too. Make sure the package won’t add to the millions of plastic containers already overflowing our landfills. And remember that if the container is recyclable, it still needs your help getting into the recycle bin.