GIMME SHELTER- Pets gone green: Environmental ways to care for critters

Dr. Richard Freedman
V.M.D., Albemarle Veterinary Health Care Center


Q: I feel like we've made a real effort to care for the environment around our home, but I worry about all the waste our pets produce.  What are some ways to go "green" with our pet care?  

A: In order to care for your pets in a green way, two of the most important things you can do are to ensure you are recycling everything possible and to look for environmentally friendly products.  

The easiest thing to do to decrease the waste your pets produce is to make sure you're recycling all pet food cans and bags. Another thing you can recycle is all the dog or cat hair you get from brushing your pets. Rather than throw the excess hair out, you can put it outside for birds to use in their nests.

Cat litter is also recyclable and usually environmentally friendly as well. Sand or clay-based litter can be composted or used to fill a hole in your yard, and both are good for the environment.  

Picking up after your dogs can also help reduce contamination, and using recycled plastic bags cuts down on waste. Even pill vials that you receive from your vet can be recycled!

If you bathe your pets frequently, be sure to look at the labels and be sure to buy environmentally friendly shampoos. Medicated shampoos, however, are not good for the environment and cannot be so due to the nature of the product.  

Flea and tick treatments are generally safe for the environment, with the exception of outdated flea dips. Dips leave lots of harmful runoff and are also bad for your pets. Any approach to parasite control must be multi-modal as fleas are becoming more resistant to products. Topical products used by vets are safe because of the amount of product applied and the minimal runoff produced. Newer oral parasite controls are also environmentally friendly, and collars for tick control are fairly safe for the environment.  

In general, most products you use on your pets really are not all that harmful to the environment.  Looking for green products and recycling most of the waste your pet produces can help minimize the impact.

Editor's note: this is a "Best of Gimme Shelter" re-print.