Owning a Greener Pet

April 1, 2012

Earth Day is upon us and recycling is at the forefront of conversation. I am happy to announce that Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital as begun a robust recycling program. It took a while for Charleston County to include our street on their pick-up route, but now that they do, we are taking full advantage. We are also applying for Bicycle Friendly Business status from the League of American Bicyclists. The Bicycle Friendly Business program recognizes employers’ efforts to encourage a more bicycle friendly atmosphere for employees and customers, even if they are four legged.
So, I was feeling pretty good about Bees Ferry’s efforts to help protect our environment, until I was reminded by authors Robert and Brenda Vale that it is my very patients that are bad for the environment. In their book: Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living, the Vales suggest that our carnivorous pets soil our water supply, use tons of plastics that end up in landfills and our pet’s meat based diet requires a lot of land to provide their foods.
So, what can we do to help reduce our pet’s carbon pawprint? I’ll use some “recycled” ideas from last year’s article on the same topic, but I will also throw in some new ideas for you to consider.
First and foremost, adopt a needy pet. In other words, get a recycled dog! This doesn’t mean you can’t have the breed of your dreams, it just means you have to search a little bit longer to find your perfect match.
Next, be sure to have your pet spayed or neutered. Unwanted puppies and kittens burden our society and the environment just because of their sheer numbers.
And then there is the inconvenient truth that dogs and cats poop, and their excrement is not good for our soil or water supply. Thus, we need to pick up our dogs feces. I use the newspaper bags for this purpose, but if you don’t use recycled plastic bags to pick up poop, I’d recommend that you buy biodegradable bags.
Now to the subject of what to feed your pet. Although there are some fairly balanced vegetarian pet foods out there, as a veterinarian, I do not recommend vegetarian diets. Instead of asking your carnivorous pet to go vegetarian it might be better to use organic foods. There are plenty on the market now. Keep in mind that packaging is a huge stress on our landfills. Try to buy foods in bulk and store them in your own re-usable Tupperware containers to keep them fresh.
You also can make your dog’s food with fresh organic products. Ask your veterinarian for help with a recipe if you choose to do this. Make sure the mixture is balanced with the proper vitamins and minerals. Poultry and rabbit farming have a lower environmental impact than beef, so chicken or rabbit diets are a little greener than beef or pork based foods. You can definitely make your own pet treats. Fun recipes abound on the internet.
Those plastic toys, litter boxes and brushes all end up in our landfills. Try to buy sustainable toys like Loofah pet toys by Olive Green Dog Company or Cosmos Balls by Orbee-Tuff.
We all want to keep our lawn and gardens free from chemicals, insecticides, herbicides and pesticides. You can help with this effort by keeping your pet on a veterinary approved flea prevention year around. This can help you avoid the need for strong chemicals in the house and the yard.
There are literally hundreds of ways you can turn your pet green. There is a great blog out there called raiseagreendog.com that can help you come up with fresh new ways to own a dog without overly stressing the environment.

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