So, you got a new dog? You’ve picked out his or her name and are now working on your Christmas list for your four-legged friend.
You could just head to the pet store and pick something out. But are you sure that all of the pet products on sale are safe and sustainable?
It’s easy to see that the majority of pet products on the market are made from plastic. Not only do we have the global issue of plastic pollution creating devastating problems for our oceans, wildlife, and drinking water, but ingredients commonly found in plastics are harmful to health — yes, that includes our canine companions’ health, too!
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Plastic Is Bad for Dogs and the Environment
A common chemical used in the production of plastic is bisphenol A, also known as BPA. We’re sure you’ve heard of it. Studies have shown that BPA affects the reproductive systems of laboratory animals, suggesting it disrupts hormones.
We know that plastic doesn’t break down completely — you only have to look at your dog’s post-toy-assassination poop. So when your dog has gotten bored of that particular toy, you’ll dispose of it. Since it can’t be recycled, it will just end up in a landfill for hundreds of years.
Raising a Plastic-Free Dog
You can also offer cardboard boxes as playthings. You’d be amazed at how creative you can get with a cardboard box.
Purchasing a Durable Product
The other thing to check when you purchase is how durable the product is.
You want to make sure it is safe, that it doesn’t have small parts that can be chewed and swallowed. Squeak toys are the worst. Dogs instinctively want to get to the squeaker, but it’s easily swallowed and can cause an obstruction. You want an item to last, so if your dog is a toy assassin, then it’s just a waste of money buying one you know your dog will destroy in a matter of seconds.
While toys are often gifts of choice, chews and treats are firm contenders too. But these can be even more of a minefield for dog owners.
Inspect Treat Labels
It pays to look at the labels of chews or treats. Make sure you recognize all of the ingredients listed. Ideally, the first ingredient should be a meat protein.
View chews and treats like you would when searching for a new dog food. While it’s a complementary addition to their diet, it still needs to be beneficial to their health.
Read the label to see where the product is made. Purchase items that are made as close to you as possible. Also, whenever possible, avoid plastic and opt for packaging that is totally recyclable or biodegradable, like cardboard.
If you choose natural chews, they often don’t even need packaging. The same is true for bulk treats, which are increasingly available made with healthy ingredients. Just take your own reusable bag to the store.
Grooming Products That Make Great Presents
If you are considering buying grooming products for a pet, again reduce plastic where possible. Shampoo bars are becoming increasingly popular. Look for brands that are cruelty free and do not contain parabens, phthalates, or sulfates. If you’re buysing scented shampoos always be aware dogs are sensitive to some essential oils. Most shampoo bars come in recyclable paper packaging.
Educating Others About Sustainable Pet Products
You may be trying your best to buy safe and sustainable pet products. But what happens when friends or family buy for your dog?
Many of us have accepted gifts knowing they will soon end up in the bin. This is sad for a number of reasons.
The sale has already taken place, so the manufacturer is encouraged that there is demand for the unsustainable item and will likely continue manufacturing it. Also, it’s another item destined for the landfill. Consider setting up a wish list of safe and sustainable items for your dog. Also, you can start buying these products for friends and family and explain why you are excited about them. Hopefully, they’ll also see the benefits and change their purchasing habits next time they buy a pet gift.
We can help encourage positive choices through our purchasing choices, as Bernadette Jiwa suggests:
“… in a world where it’s easy to be cheaper and faster than the competition, we now recognize the limitations … humans are wired to do what feels good and what feels good to customers right now is to use their choices and purchasing power to support the building of a better tomorrow.”
About the Author
Editor of All Things Dogs, dog lover John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America, and a dog-parent to two rescue dogs.
Feature image by congerdesign from Pixabay. Originally published on December 4, 2019, this article was updated in December 2022.