You may be the queen of green—or at least making an effort—but are you eco-smart when it comes to your pet? From plastic chew toys, to chemical-laden grooming products, to the pounds of cat litter tossed out every year, how we care for our furry friends can have a major impact on the environment. “Pets as well as people put a huge carbon footprint on our planet,” says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, CA. The good news is that more and more eco-friendly products are filling the aisles of pet stores, giving earth-conscious owners plenty of choices. When selecting health care items, toys, and accessories for your pet, you should always put safety first. If you’d like to green up your pet’s routine with natural and eco-friendly products, be sure to read labels carefully and check with your vet before introducing them to your dog or cat. “Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective or safe,” Cruz says. “Animals can be hypersensitive, and it is important to consult a vet before using a product.” Here are our top picks for eco-friendly pet products that are safe for your best friend and the planet.
Vet’s Best Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo
Bath time probably isn’t your pet’s favorite occasion, but at least choosing an eco-friendly and effective shampoo doesn’t have to be a stressful production. Give your pet a soft, lustrous coat with this natural cleanser packed with moisturizing aloe vera and vitamin E. Not all green shampoos are necessarily safe for your four-legged friend: You should avoid any products that contain tea tree oil, since this substance, although natural, can be toxic to dogs, says Cruz. "When considering an eco-friendly shampoo for your dog or cat, first consult with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has any skin conditions. Cats rarely need regular bathing unless recommended for a specific medical condition. Then be on the lookout for any allergic reactions," says Rene Carlson, DVM, president-elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "If you notice continuous scratching, a rash, or dryness, check with your veterinarian for other hair-care recommendations."
Purr & Simple Biodegradable Cat Litter
($14.88 for a 20-lb. bag, amazon.com)
You and your pet can both breathe easy with this eco-friendly kitty litter. Made with nutshell byproducts, this low-dust and silica-free litter is biodegradable and can go straight into your compost bin. "Dust-free litter is especially important for respiratory health," Carlson says.
Harry Barker Bamboo Dog Bowl
($10 to $14, harrybarker.com)
Here’s some doggy food for thought: The Harry Barker Bamboo Dog Bowl is not only made from sustainable substances like bamboo fiber and rice husks, it’s lead and cadmium free, so you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your canine’s food and water.
BioBag USA 100% Compostable Dog Waste Bags
($11.99 for a pack of 50, petco.com)
A reliable doggy bag is every owner’s best friend—unless it’s plastic. Keep it clean and earth friendly on your next walk around the block with these dog waste bags. They’re 100% compostable and biodegradable, so they won’t linger in a landfill for eternity after you toss them.
Pet Dreams Plush Eco-Friendly Bumper Dog Bed
($49.99 to $99.99, petsmart.com)
Your pooch will sleep soundly on this planet-conscious dog bed. The plush platform from Pet Dreams is stuffed with material made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles. Choosing an eco-friendly bed isn’t just good for the environment, but also for your dog’s health. Some conventional beds, like those with strong cedar scents, can irritate your pet’s skin and lungs, Cruz says.
West Paw Design “Hurley” Dog Toy
($8.80 to $14.96, westpawdesign.com)
No matter if your pup’s a Pomeranian or a Doberman pinscher, this 100% recyclable chew toy is sure to withstand Fido’s chompers. We not only love the Hurley for its guaranteed durability and unique shape, it’s also free of harmful chemicals like BPA, PVC, and phthalates. You can choose among three sizes and bright colors to fit your pet’s size and personality.
(starts at $17, ecopupdogclothing.com)
You don’t have to sacrifice style to go green. Eco-friendly clothing retailers are popping up all over the place—for pets as well as their owners. From rocker hoodies to frilly dresses, Eco-Pup has all the latest sustainable styles. Each absolutely adorable outfit is made with certified organic and recycled materials. (Now that’s what we call fashion forward.)
Originally published in Prevention Magazine, November 2011