Little dog maltese and black and white cat eating food from a bowl in home

Think your pets aren’t being affected by toxic chemicals in your home? Think again. What if I told you that dogs and cats are polluted with higher levels of some of the same synthetic industrial chemicals found in people? The most comprehensive (and first of its kind) investigation conducted by scientists at EWG, “Polluted Pets,” measured the levels of toxic industrial chemical contaminates in companion animals.

The results were shocking.

Sammy the Greyhound Dog.
Image courtesy of Brian Tomlinson.

In dogs, scientists detected 35 chemicals on average (including plasticizers, grease-proof chemicals and fire retardants), 11 of which were carcinogens. Thirty-one were toxic to the reproductive system and 24 were neurotoxins. These chemicals were found at 40 percent higher levels than in humans.

Notably higher levels of fire retardants, plasticizers and grease-proofing chemicals were found in cats. Forty-six chemicals in total were detected at 96 percent higher levels than found in people. Nine were carcinogens, 40 were harmful to the reproductive system, 34 were neurotoxic and 15 were damaging to the endocrine system.

It goes without saying that reducing your pets’ toxic exposure begins at home with you. In addition to healthy food and avoiding nonstick cookware, here are seven surefire tips to get started on the right, um, paw.

1. Water & Bowls


Are you serving up tap water for your beloved furry friends? There are countless chemical and biological pollutants in tap water, many untested and untreated by your municipal water department.


Implement an inexpensive faucet-mounted filter or filtered pitcher to reduce contaminants.

Also, pass on the plastic when it comes to bowls since the plastic chemicals can break down and migrate into food and water. Look instead for stainless steel, ceramic or bamboo alternatives. Bamboo Bowls are made from renewable resources — 100 percent natural plant dye, bamboo and cooked rice husks. Plus, they’re biodegradable and dishwasher-safe.

2. Toys


Many dog toys are made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and phthalates (synthetic chemicals used to soften the plastic). The breakdown products of four types of phthalates were discovered at higher levels in dogs than found in the majority humans tested. Even plush toys can contain synthetic pesticides and toxic dyes.


Simply Fido is a wonderful brand that offers certified nontoxic and certified organic plush toys that use low-impact dyes, free of toxic chemicals.

3. Pet Beds


Most traditional pet beds are made from petroleum-based foam, which can contain flame retardant and grease-proofing chemicals.


Pamper your pooch with safe, organic materials. My favorite is the Kingston Luxury Dog Bed which offers optimal pressure relief and support via a shredded natural latex memory foam with washable cover. Also, the Simply Fido Organic Cotton Crate Mats are great for travel. They’re certified nontoxic, chemical-free, colored with nontoxic, low-impact dyes and made from certified-organic cotton.

4. Floors & Cleaners


Keep in mind that pets are close to the floor. They absorb the dust down there (which can contain arsenic, lead and DDT). As cats meticulously groom themselves, they lick off accumulated dust that studies reveal are contaminated with the neurotoxic fire retardant PBDEs and reproductive toxins (phthalates). Also, remember to use a natural floor cleaner and avoid harsh chemicals to mop.

Dog lying on floor
Image courtesy of Jenny Downing.


In addition to removing your shoes at the front door, regular wet mopping and damp dusting are advised (read: How To Defeat Dust At Home And Breathe Easier) I also suggest the Dyson Groom to capture hair and allergens from dogs between groomings.

5. Pesticides & Flea Collars


Avoid toxic herbicides and insecticides inside and out (read: Bug Off (Naturally)! 7 Nontoxic Pest Control Remedies. Traditional pesticides can cause nervous system damage. Pets walk across lawns and track chemicals indoors. Flea and tick collars can be another dangerous source of toxic exposure.


6. Cat Litter


Avoid clay cat litter which can contain silica dust and is not biodegradable. Opt instead for litter made from plant sources like naturally processed wheat or whole-kernel corn. Both are clay-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.


World’s Best Cat Litter is a whole-kernel corn option that is flushable and septic safe. Or, try natural sWheat Scoop which is made from wheat. Traveling? Try the KatPak; a disposable litter box made from recycled paper. No liners, scooping or changing litter required. It’s 100 percent biodegradable.

Remember, pets are part of the family. With their compressed life spans, they’re affected faster than humans from toxic exposures. It’s up to us to protect their health. Take it one step at a time and please share your favorite tip in the comments below.

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."