Eco-essentials for your pet

Entertainment,Jenny Rough

I love my neighbors. Annie, next door, likes to drop by daily for a friendly hello. And Charlie, around the corner, is always looking for a running partner. Even Fifi, while sharp of tongue, has a spunky side. These are my peeps -- er, my pups -- who I see every day while walking my own dog, Callie.

During the past few years, I've been on a personal lifestyle overhaul -- switching from conventional foods to wholesome organic meals, stepping up my recycling efforts, and walking around town instead of driving -- but I haven't paid much attention to reducing my pet's carbon pawprint. According to dog trainer, Hilary Bolea, of Alexandria, there are changes pet owners should make to ensure their furry friends will live long, happy, healthy lives while also protecting the planet.

More Information: Bring your furry, feathery, scaly or slimy creatures to these local pet stores for top-notch products and resources, such as biodegradable poop bags, eco-fashion clothing and hypoallergenic bedding. Bark This Maryland store offers a variety of nutritious pet foods, eco-friendly toys and locally made products. 16822 Georgia Ave., Olney. 301-774-1944. Pet Sage Looking for information on the best diet for your dog? Stop by Pet Sage and talk with its knowledgeable staff. 2391 S. Dove St., Alexandria. 703-299-5044. The Big Bad Woof Pick up some locally produced food or learn more about supplemnts, herbs and holistic at this store, which frequently hosts rescue operations. 117 Carroll St. NW. 202-291-2404.
Be cautious about chemicals: According to the Environmental Working Group, pets are polluted with higher levels of the same toxic chemicals that are typically found in humans, such as pesticides from lawns, flame retardants from rugs and furniture, and processed chemicals from food scraps. "Remember, your floors are your dog's dinner plate," Bolea said. "When you bring a pet into your life, you have to change the way you do things." She advises switching from household chemicals to green cleaning alternatives, avoiding room sprays, and staying away from ant, mice, or rat poisons, which are made to smell sweet and tempting.

Turn away from toxic toys: "The first time I saw organic dog toys, I thought the world had gone mad," Bolea said. "I grew up on a farm and tend to be pretty laid-back, but I tightened my standards after I found an entire clicker in my dog's poop." (If you want to scare yourself silly, Google "dog stomach X-ray"). After thinking about it, Bolea realized eco-friendly toys made sense. Stuffed animals, tennis balls, Frisbees -- whatever your pup prefers, it'll probably spend a lot of time in your dog's mouth and may get swallowed. Bolea says to stay away from anything painted, toys with small parts, or toys made in countries deemed to have unsafe exports.

Feed your pets friendly foods: Nutrition is at the foundation of health. Switching your dog's diet to one that contains fresh ingredients may make a difference in protecting your pet from immunity problems, obesity and allergies. When it comes to mealtime, Bolea recommends using ceramic dishes because the chemicals in plastic dishes can leach into food. "Also, plastic is porous and can trap bacteria," she said. "Another thing dog owners may not think about is that dogs need to use their back molars to crush. My favorite solution for this is whole carrots, fresh or frozen. It gives them the crunch feeling, it's healthy, and it won't damage their teeth the way hard plastic can."

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