April 20, 2012

Here are some green pet tips from The Honest Kitchen for Earth Day. Even adopting just a couple of these tips can help you and your animal family to be healthier, a little greener – and save money, too!

1. Eliminate pesticides and herbicides from your yard

Weed & insect killers can adversely affect your pet’s health and have a detrimental effect on wildlife, too. A wonderful alternative is to introduce natural predators to the bugs you want to eliminate. You can purchase beneficial predator insects to release in your yard or encourage them by growing plants with small flowers rich in nectar. Mix up your plants so those that attract beneficial insects are nearby those that need protection. Place plants close together to provide a moist, shaded environment for beneficial insects who dehydrate easily.

2. Reduce chemicals in the home

There are so many toxic chemicals present in products we use around the home as well as in our yards. It’s no wonder so many of us end up with chronic headaches and our pets become plagued with unexplained itching. Not only are these chemicals bad for our dogs and ourselves, they wreak havoc on the environment too.

Pay particular attention to the detergents you use for your dog’s bedding (as well as your own laundry!). Reducing the chemicals in your companion’s immediate living space can help to combat contact allergies when he sleeps on surfaces that have been cleaned with chemical products. Itchy feet and a red belly can be a sign that something in the immediate environment is aggravating your pet.

Use environmentally safe products to wash your pet's bed (and try not to shrink it in the process).

Environmentally safe products like those from Method (www.methodhome.com) are non-allergenic, non-mutagenic and non-carcinogenic. They’re much safer and less likely to cause health problems like dermatitis and inhalant allergies – not to mention being less toxic if you have an especially inquisitive dog who likes to taste things that aren’t meant to be eaten. They are often more concentrated too (which means less packaging and a reduced carbon pawprint) and made with an array of natural and safe ingredients.

3. Limit vaccinations

Many vets recommend annual booster shots for a wide variety of diseases but did you know, many pets already have protection from their puppy shots and over-vaccination can actually be detrimental in the long term? Some conventional vets even admit that they question whether these annual boosters are actually essential – but rely on them anyway, as a means to get clients into the office and generate some revenue. The annual exam itself is a good idea, but nixing the vaccines is a wiser choice for most dogs.

Invest in a titer test to determine if your dog still has immunity from any previous shots (or his own immune system). The titer can help you decide which vaccines, if any, to give and which to eliminate. Ideally, consult with a holistic veterinarian to get a second opinion about which diseases your pets are really at risk from, based on your geographical area, your pet’s lifestyle and local legal requirements.

4. Take a walk

If your dog likes to join you running errands, try walking instead of hopping in the car. You can save money on gas, reduce your ecological paw print – and you’ll both get some much-needed exercise. You may even meet some new human and canine friends, along the way.

Take a hike, too – heading out to the trails in your local area is a great way to explore natural habitats, and benefit your health, plus spend quality bonding time with your hound – and it’s usually free of charge, too!

Taking your dog along for bike rides can be great fun too – but consider some sessions with a trainer to make sure you’re both safe when you venture out. A comfortable, good quality bike with great breaks is a must. (www.publicbikes.com)

(Our C.O.O. on one of our office bikes)

The pet obesity problem in this country has reached epidemic proportions and weight problems (along with their associated health implications like diabetes and bone & joint pain) are among the top reasons dogs are taken to the vet. Keeping your dog trim by getting active in the big outdoors can help reduce the risk of obesity, and lead to a longer life expectancy, too.

5. Feed good food

Invest in good food for your animal companion. Downgrading to a cheaper diet may seem like an obvious way to save money, but it is almost always a false economy. Lower grade pet foods are laden with by-products, chemicals and fillers, which take their toll on your dog’s liver, kidneys and other organ systems. Cheap foods filled with grains like wheat, corn and soy can also trigger off allergies in sensitive pets – like itching, ear infections and GI Upset – that warrant trips to the vet for treatment and end up costing more in the long run.

A good quality whole food diet is probably the single most important influencer on total health over the long term, and well worth the investment because it can save money in vet bills over the years.

Dehydrated foods are also more compact and nutrient dense – meaning a savings on excessive packaging, as well as reduced fossil fuel usage because you aren’t paying to ship the water-weight that’s included in cans.

6. Bathe your dog less

Weekly baths aren’t necessary for the vast majority of dogs! It can be hard to refrain from lathering up your pup so frequently, when you’re in the habit, but the benefits are plenty. Firstly, the natural oils in the coat will be allowed to replenish themselves, which can result in less itchiness and sensitivity. One bath per month is usually optimal for most pets, and many dogs only need to be bathed three or four times a year.

Invest in a good quality natural shampoo when you do bath your dog. Natural, high quality bathing products tend to have fewer chemicals like sodium laureth sulfate and parabens. Natural shampoos and conditioners like those form Happytails (www.happytailsspa.com) are made with healthier ingredients like oatmeal, which help to nourish the skin and coat. Cheap shampoos are very often a false economy, because they contain substances that aggravate the skin and cause itching – which in turn creates a need for other products to calm the skin.

Fewer baths will help you save water, which reduces your water bill and the planet will thank you, too! Many regions of the United States contend with water shortages every year and as populations continue to rise and snow packs lessen with the effects of global warming, water becomes a more and more precious commodity.

With the money you save, you could still pay a visit the local pet wash and support them by purchasing a new herbal tincture, supplements, natural food or some juicy raw beef marrow bones.

7. Don’t use chemical flea and tick medications

These topical preparations are laden with pesticides that can harm your dog in more ways than one. They deplete the immune system and compromise over all health. In fact they’re so toxic that people shouldn’t come in contact with them at all – plus, they cost a lot of money. They contain chemical pesticides that leach directly into your dog’s body and can cause terrible long-term damage to the liver and other organs.

Try adding brewer’s yeast and garlic to your companion’s meals, or use an essential oil combination to repel unwanted bugs. Pennyroyal is an excellent herbal repellent but should never be used around pregnant pets or peeps. Boric acid is a great product to help reduce flea infestations in the home. Dogs who eat a healthy, whole food diet are also much more resistant to flea infestations, too.

8. Buy local

Support your local pet store and shop in your own neighborhood! This not only keeps your money in your local community, but helps to reduce pollution by reducing miles driven in your car. Your pup would love it if you took him with you to the local pet store to stock up on supplies.

If you do have pet supply (and other) items shipped to you, try to plan ahead and make use of lower rates on ground shipping. This not only saves money but is considerably more eco-friendly, too. Having items shipped to you by air-freight costs much more and results in a much bigger carbon footprint for the item you bought.

9. Save power

If you feed a frozen raw diet such as Primal Pet Foods (www.primalpetfoods.com), consider turning down the thermostat on your freezer by a degree or two if you can. Many households operate their freezers and refrigerators on the coldest possible setting and often, the temperature could actually be raised slightly without any detrimental effects – helping to reduce electricity usage quite significantly.

The same goes for household heating and cooling. Your dog’s health & skin condition will be better without extreme heat and air conditioning, and moving the thermostat 3 degrees down in winter and up in summer can prevent the emission of nearly 1100 lbs of carbon dioxide per household, annually.

What about turning out the lights and TV once in a while, and enjoying a peaceful evening with your pup or kitty, by the light of a lantern or candle (placed out of harm’s way) to save a little electricity?

10. Make your own treats

Invest in some good quality ingredients (or use some that you already have on hand) and prepare some homemade cookies for your dog! Not only does this save money on unnecessary packaging, but homemade treats are usually healthier for your too!

Ollie enjoys some home-made birthday treats

By making your own treats, you can tailor the recipe to suit your dog’s particular food sensitivities or dislikes – and you’ll know exactly what’s in them. Plus, homemade treats are infused with love and good intention – and will be so much more appreciated by your dog; you’ll know it by the way he sits and gazes at you while you’re mixing and baking for him. Dogs have an uncanny way of intuitively knowing something is for them! Check out our recipe section for ideas to make yourself.

Check out some other articles with green pet tips:
Green Choices in Pet Care
Tips to be Healthy, Green and Save Money
12 Tips for Beating Fleas Naturally

© 2013 Lucy Postins & The Honest Kitchen This article may only be copied with prior written permission from the company. Reproductions must include credit to the author and a link to this website.