4 Toxic Environmental Factors You CAN Control to Support Your Dog’s Health

toxic environmental factors

Toxic Environmental Factors that are Harmful to Your Dog

According to an article published by The Cancer Research Institute, cancer is the leading cause of death in domestic dogs. Most dogs who succumb to cancer are over 10 years old. You have to figure 10 years is pretty good for a dog!

Not when you consider that dogs used to live to be 17 in the 70’s though. Dogs have the highest cancer rate of ANY mammal on our planet.

I am personally no cancer expert, but one thing I am sure of is that ALL of us are being exposed to more and more environmental toxins, and things that haven’t been adequately studied to really know if they have ill effects on our health. According to the National Cancer Institute, 1.8 million new cases of cancer in humans will be diagnosed in 2020. Again, I will reiterate that I am an educator and not a doctor; but all of these cases cannot possibly be genetic.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to keep my dogs healthy beyond 10 years if I could. My dog Franklin was 8 when I lost him to cancer, and I SURE would have loved 5 or more years with him! I’ll never know exactly what it was, but I bet toxic environmental factors he was exposed to played a role.

At his last regular vet checkup a few months before he was afflicted with Hemangiosarcoma, my vet told me, “This dog is so healthy, he’ll probably live to fifteen!” (This was likely regarding his excellent bone and ligament health because of all the running jaunts we enjoyed together.)

Although some cancer types in humans and pets are genetic, there is no denying that toxic environmental factors and the things we’re exposed to every day are more harmful to us than we know. If you think about it, your pet’s body is much smaller than yours (in most cases). Humans can tolerate a larger toxic load than a dog, who may be one third of the size of us.

Following are some common household items that you DO have control over, both for your pet’s and your own health. Please be aware, I am not saying these items cause cancer, but they ARE toxic and have been known to cause other health issues, and some of them have been linked to cancer.

*Cleaning products are not included on this list, simply because the information is so exhaustive that it requires its own post.

1. Scented Candles and Air Treatments

Let’s face it, our dogs can get STINKY! It’s so unappealing to walk into the house and smell DOG. Many people choose to treat the air in their homes with candles or plug-ins. Many of these toxic environmental factors are formulated with synthetic chemicals and are harmful to our pets and to us. Your dog also spends most of his time inside breathing the air and potentially ingesting harmful particles near the floor where he hangs out.

Animal Wellness Magazine has created a list of harmful chemicals to avoid in your candles and air fresheners. These are toxic environmental factors you should avoid in your candles at all costs:

  • Paraffin: This is made from petroleum products and releases carcinogens when burned. Most candles are made from this.
  • Lead: some of the wicks have a metal core that may contain lead. When burned, it can be released into the air. Lead is harmful to our nervous systems.
  • Benzene: Also a carcinogen. It is released from the soot of some candles.
  • VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): acetone, ethanol, acetate can be found in many plug in air fresheners. They react with ozone in the air and can create more pollutants.
  • Naphthalene: A chemical that is known to cause cancer, tissue damage, and inflammation in the lungs of rodents.

These are some of the worst offenders. Chances are if you’re using mass produced air treatment products, they contain one or more of these toxic environmental factors.

You can still keep your home smelling pleasant and fresh without exposing yourself and your pets to harmful chemicals. These are some alternatives to the toxic environmental factors offered by candles:

  • Open the windows! I open some windows a crack for a period during the day. This is also a suggestion during what may be the height of a Covid-19 winter. Fresh air is best.
  • If you have allergies, can’t open the windows, or live somewhere that the air quality is not top-notch, invest in an air purifier. They can clear out allergens, dust and mold.
  • If you use candles, use 100% beeswax candles. Chances are, these are made with love and care by a small-business or craftsperson that would appreciate your support. They’re non-toxic and dripless too!
  • Diffuse essential oils. Do your research on these. Some scents ARE toxic to pets, and I always suggest using a high-quality brand like Young Living or DOterra. Some of the cheaper oils are cut with alcohol or sub-par ingredients that can be harmful.

2. Lawn Care Items

Those pretty green lawns are actually pretty bad for the environment and our pets. They use obscene amounts of water (in some places where water is scarce), don’t lend themselves to creating proper habitats because they are often cut so short, and consume more fertilizer than all of the agriculture in the US.

Fertilizer runoff in the area where I live in MI is allegedly contributing to an algae bloom that is turning parts of beautiful blue Torch Lake a dingy shade of brown.

A six year study conducted by Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found a connection between malignant lymphomas in canines and lawn pesticides. Another study found that some dogs who were exposed to common lawn chemicals had higher incidences of bladder cancer.

Dogs are especially sensitive to fertilizer chemicals because they walk and lay in the grass on their lawns for long periods of time. Sometimes they eat grass, and can directly ingest the chemicals. Dogs also lick their paws and can be ingesting lawn chemicals they have traipsed through. A good idea is to wipe your dog’s paws when they return from outside. This cuts down on the toxins and also on allergens that may affect your pet.

Finally, by all means, quit using Roundup! This is nasty stuff, and has been linked to cancer. Here is a friendly, non-toxic, weed killer recipe that works. (I’ve tried it!). A lush, green lawn is one of those harmful environmental factors that can go by the wayside for the better of all living things!

3. Your Water!??

This is a tough one! We all need water to live. Many of us have fluoride added to our municipal water supplies. Fluoride has been linked to cases of osteosarcoma in humans, and consequently, osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in dogs. Sadly, this is one of the toxic environmental factors that is invisible.

Fluoride is also prevalent in many of the proteins (meals) in highly processed kibble. Although it isn’t entirely possible to avoid fluoride altogether, there are some things you can do to limit your dog’s exposure.

  • If you have water from a municipal water supply, consider filtering your dog’s drinking water. Most Brita filters do not remove fluoride. However, such filters do exist and last a relatively long time. We found this one from Aquagear and use it for our drinking water too.
  • If you feed your dog kibble, avoid these ingredients as they have higher amounts of fluoride in them.
  • Chicken byproduct meal
  • Poultry byproduct meal
  • Meat meal
  • Meat and bone meal
  • Animal digest
  • Chicken meal

Look over the ingredient panel on your dog’s food closely. If it contains any of the above avoid them.

4. Flea and Tick Preventatives

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to vets and pet owners regarding side effects of the popular flea and tick preventatives containing a chemical called isoxazine (which is a chemical insecticide). The alert warned that neurological side effects could be seen in dogs and cats treated with the products.

Some pets affected have suffered from seizures and tremors. The FDA has requested that the companies change the labeling on the products to give information about the neurologic effects so pet owners can make the decision on their own. A quick internet or social media search will turn up so many stories of people whose pets have had horrific effects from what caring pet owners were sincerely using to HELP their pets!

Again, one of those toxic environmental factors that’s tough to avoid, but there ARE other options…

Of course, natural products require far more vigilance and more frequent application. (I guess they don’t have the brute killing force of a chemical pesticide with 30-day staying power!) We have tested out a couple of natural solutions on our more recent dogs, Wallace and Oliver. I will add that I am fortunate enough to live somewhere that pests don’t thrive year round, so are not as much of a problem.

One successful product were these garlic and brewer’s yeast tablets. They’re supposed to make your dog’s blood smell unattractive to fleas and ticks.

They worked for the most part on our dogs (we did find ticks on each of them early into use, but only one time), the only issue was running out of tablets in the middle of the season.

Project Paws Brewers Yeast

I have also made fairly effective sprays with fractionated coconut oil and high-quality essential oils. You do have to apply them to your dog pretty religiously for them to work, so the pain-in-the-butt factor is there.

At least every other day, possibly more often if you live in wooded areas or places there are more pests. This spray from Mercola also worked. We sprayed the dogs throughout the summer. I live in MI, and use preventatives about half the year. My dogs went through 2 bottles this season, so it does last and is less expensive than the pesticide flea control.

You can also make your yard an unpleasant place for pests by keeping your lawn trimmed and clean. To keep fleas out of the house, vacuum regularly, and wash your pet’s bedding to kill off unwanted pests. You can also stay on top of pests like ticks by checking your dog each day for them. Check your dog by petting them often, which also has the fine effect of making them stoked! Remove any with tweezers if you do find them.

The takeaway, do your research regarding flea and tick preventatives. Most dogs don’t like to eat the pills, even hidden in something savory like lunch meat (they know that stuff is bad!) There are many natural options out there, but they don’t work like the chemical pesticides, so you have to be consistent.

The Takeaway

More and more people are becoming educated and wise to the toxic environmental factors that surround us every day. There are options out there to keep your home fresh, your lawn green, or at-least decent looking, and your pet free of pests. All of them take additional vigilance and may be less simple than the mass-produced, big-box options. None of us want to get sick with something we can prevent. None of us want to see our pet get sick or suffer. We all want to cut down the toxic environmental factors we’re exposed to. Staying healthy is a job worth pursuing. Isn’t preventive medicine the best medicine?

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