January 17, 2011 in Features

Try to avoid stepping in eco-footprint left by pets

Terri Bennett McClatchy Newspapers
 
File photo

Don’t forget to pick up while you walk the dogs.
(Full-size photo)

We hear a lot these days about our eco-footprint and our carbon footprint – but what about the impact our pets make on the planet?

As a dog lover, I want to make sure my girl Missy is as green as she can be.

If you want to do your part for the four-legged members of the family, there are plenty of ways to start making a difference. When you consider that there are more than 70 million pet dogs in this country, every little bit helps.

Start with the basics of any dog’s life: their food, their supplies, and even their waste.

Americans spend billions on dog food each year but it may not be on the best kind. Dogs need a diet rich in protein and the first ingredient on the dog food label should be a meat or meat meal.

If you want that meat source to be free of unnecessary antibiotics or hormones then organic foods are your best bet. However, there are no laws governing organic pet foods; some companies use private certifications, so you will have to do a little legwork to find out what those certifications really mean.

Vets recommend pet owners choose foods labeled “complete and balanced,” which means the food is nutritionally complete and can be your pet’s main or only source of nutrition.

Then there are the things we put on our dogs, such as flea treatments and shampoos.

Flea collars, sprays and topical applications are often made with dangerous pesticides that can rub off on humans. Oral flea treatments are the safer alternative.

If a topical treatment is absolutely necessary, choose ones that are the least toxic. Use the product guide at GreenPaws.org to find the safest flea and tick treatments for your dog.

If you notice fleas on your pet, start by washing their bedding in hot, soapy water and thoroughly vacuuming the area. Use a powder or shampoo with all-natural diatomaceous earth to kill existing fleas on pets.

Many dog shampoos contain petroleum-based ingredients that can irritate your pet’s skin, create rashes and even cause cancer. Those toxins also go right down the drain and into our water supply.

Instead, look for shampoos that are free of artificial coloring, preservatives and fragrances. Shampoos infused with essential oils will help keep your dog’s coat looking and smelling great naturally.

And finally, don’t forget to do your part and scoop the poop.

Dog waste is considered raw sewage because it contains parasites and harmful microorganisms that can be transmitted to humans. When it rains, these parasites and bacteria can be washed into nearby storm drains and local waterways, eventually ending up in our drinking water supply.

Most dog owners consider their pet a part of the family. Do your part for their health and the environment by reducing the effect of their paw print on the planet.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and host of DoYourPart.com, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.


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