The words “toxic” and “toxin” get thrown around a lot; from toxic waste to pop star lyrics, they’re often overused and misunderstood. But the truth is: toxins can cause, worsen, or accelerate numerous health problems in your pet. And since these toxins are often hidden in our pet’s food, air and environment, it can be difficult to pinpoint how many they’re actually receiving.
Our pets are in an extremely difficult situation because of their size and their inability to communicate. We may affectionately call them our little friends, but the truth is that “little” moniker can be a big problem. Since they’re smaller, small amounts of toxins can have a greater impact on their health. Plus, they can’t say to you, “This water is making me sick,” or “You’re going to spray the lawn with what?!” so we can’t know everything that’s effecting them.
Thankfully, there’s help! With a little primer on what toxins are most likely hurting your pet, and some easy to follow steps on how to stop them, you and your furry friend will be well on your way to living a healthy, toxin free life!
Tracking Your Pet’s Toxins
Toxins get into your pet through several means; including eating, licking, breathing, touching, and even normal biological processes. Outdoor toxins like weed killers, pesticides, automotive exhaust & motor oil, and chemical road or sidewalk de-icers get into our pets when they breathe them in, eat chemical-laden grass, lick dust or residue off their paws and fur, or absorb them through their paws. Household products like cleaners, air fresheners, laundry products and other chemicals can invade where your pets sleep and lounge. Toxins in drinking water, commercial food and treats, and medications are usually directly ingested by your pet. Finally, some toxins, like ammonia, are produced within your pet’s body, either through their own metabolic processes or by microbial activity, most often bacteria and/or yeast in the GI tract.
The Ill Effects of Toxins on Your Pet
In a healthy body, toxins are rounded up and eliminated quickly through the organs of elimination, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin. Our pets’ wild counterparts have very efficient toxin elimination systems that have developed over centuries to handle the natural toxins they encounter. But in the modern world, our domesticated pets are bombarded daily with an overwhelming number of toxins, most of which their bodies have not had enough evolutionary time to adapt to.
In the short run, our pet’s bodies react to toxins like ours do: the immune system ramps up processes like inflammation, mucus production and diarrhea to help an army of cells resolve the problem and purge the offending “invaders” from the system. But when the body is overwhelmed with too many toxins, it is forced to store them until there is an opportunity to eliminate them at a better time. For many pets, the better time never arrives, and these toxins will accumulate indefinitely, causing symptoms like lethargy, fatigue, and proneness to infection. Ultimately, toxic overload can impede the work of your pet’s immune system to the point where tumors and cysts may form, and serious health conditions may develop as organ function is impaired.
Detoxing Your Pet
1. Upgrade Food & Treats – Improving the quality of your pet’s diet is the best thing you can do to improve well-being and longevity. Stop giving your pets any grocery store or pet store chain foods & treats; you are feeding them chemical additives, artificial colors & flavors with every bite. Along with these toxic indigestible ingredients, they are filled with poor quality proteins and fillers that tax your pet’s digestion and increase the toxic load in their bodies. Choose natural, high quality food and treats. Only Natural Pet Store offers only the best in highly digestible, additive-free natural dog foods & natural cat food and natural dog treats & natural cat treats.
2. Filtered Water Only – While the water that flows through your household pipes may be technically “fit to drink,” it is filled with toxic minerals, metal levels, chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, and even trace amounts dangerous prescription drugs. Your pets deserve better! Water filtration units are readily available and you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good one. Pet fountains from Drinkwell and Pioneer Pet Water Filters not only filter the water, but entice pets that don’t like to drink water: a great benefit to their kidneys. It’s well worth the investment and, after all, what’s more valuable than your pet’s health?
3. Add Nutraceuticals and Cleansing Herbs – Nutrient supplements that contain “greens” and cleansing herbs can help your pet tremendously. Greens supplements add a wide variety of nutrients commonly missing from even the best pet foods, including full spectrum amino acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, trace minerals, and essential fatty acids. Cleansing herbs have unique properties that support the health of essential organ systems and are extremely easy to administer. We offer many excellent greens and cleansing herb supplements.
4. Eliminate Household Chemicals – Along with obvious products like bug killers and cleaning solvents, beware of things like perfumes, air fresheners (including scented plug-ins), and laundry products like dryer sheets These are laden with chemicals unregulated and untested by US health protection agencies, and many of them are known to cause or worsen respiratory conditions like asthma. Choose 100% natural cleaning products. Check out our selection of natural, biodegradable cleaners, or make your own natural cleaner. There are many online resources for making effective cleaning products from ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.
5. Exercise Every Day – Your pet needs exercise as much as you do, and daily workouts have many benefits for protecting your pet from toxins. Exercise improves the movement of waste materials through the digestive tract, reducing the toxic effects of a too-sluggish bowel. Exercise also improves circulation of blood and lymph fluid, two primary means of eliminating micro-toxins and cellular debris from the body. Exercise also improves respiration and helps remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract. Don’t let a dog’s bad walking behavior or a cat’s boredom prevent you from giving your pets the exercise they need. Walking harnesses can curb your dog’s pulling tendencies, making walks easier, and outdoor walking harness for cats allow for safe outdoor exercise. Plus, some interactive toys for dogs & interactive toys for cats will keep your pet’s muscles toned from “hunting prey.”
6. Improve Air Quality – Indoor air pollution can come from household chemicals, cigarette and cigar smoke, gaseous chemicals emanating from new synthetic household items like flooring, carpeting, and furniture, and even dust. If you have new household items that are giving off that tell-tale “new” smell, be sure to keep these areas of the house well-ventilated, keep pets off and out of these areas and consider using window fans or leaving windows open for some fresh air while the items are exuding high levels of volatile organic compounds. Use bathroom fans to reduce chemical residues from spray-on cosmetic items like hair spray and perfume. And consider purchasing an air purifier to continually cycle and filter your house’s air.
7. Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Pollutants & Chemicals – Pets that spend time outdoors will undoubtedly encounter chemicals used for pest control, weed killers, fertilizers and more. If your dog likes to munch on grass, keep a close eye on them when you walk near neighbors’ yards and in public places like parks, where use of chemicals is common. Adding greens to the diet may help curb this tendency in both cats and dogs to graze on grass outside. For cats, a great solution is the SmartCat Kitty Garden, which lets you grow a healthy assortment of grasses free of contaminants.
8. Keep Conventional Meds in Check – Toxic compounds are plentiful in conventional flea and tick products, heartworm medications, and many conventional drugs, including vaccines. While chemical treatments and conventional medications may be needed, it pays to be mindful of the frequency of dosing, and to look for natural alternatives when they are appropriate. We offer many natural flea and tick control products, as well as natural remedies for common pet health conditions that offer safer alternatives to their conventional counterparts; check with your vet about natural remedies that may be of benefit. We also suggest carefully considering the misguided notion that every pet requires annual boosters for vaccines. Read our article, “The Truth About Pet Vaccinations,” for more information on this critical topic.
9. Support the Liver – Your pet’s liver does the lion’s share of eliminating of toxins. Antioxidants assist the liver in this process, and many detoxification remedies have herbs like milk thistle that are of great value to your pet’s liver. While young, healthy pets are unlikely to require daily liver support, older pets and those taking medications may benefit from regular use of liver support products. As always, consult a holistic vet to determine whether and how liver-supporting remedies may be of benefit to your companion. Read more about liver support in our article, “Taking Care of the Liver,” by our consulting holistic veterinarian, Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM.
10. Provide Immune Support – Your pet’s immune system works in tandem with the elimination organs to flush toxins, and supporting immune health keeps your pet’s liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin healthy so they can do their detoxification work. For healthy pets, daily immune support is found in a quality multivitamin & mineral supplement. Extra immune support, especially important for older and active pets, is provided by antioxidant supplements.
11. Skin Salvation – Your pet’s skin and coat is the first line of defense against toxins, and a regular brushing regimen will help your pet’s skin “breathe” and facilitate this process. Regular grooming also removes dust and debris that may contain toxic residue, making personal grooming far less worrisome. Consider the quality of your pet’s bath products, and choose natural grooming products that skip the toxic ingredients, preventing your pet from absorbing fewer toxins at bath time. Natural skin health products and natural shampoo & bath products support healthy skin and are just as effective as their toxic counterparts.
12. Support Healthy Digestion – Most eliminated toxins pass through the colon, and a healthy digestive system keeps them moving through before they damage the intestinal walls or are reabsorbed. A sluggish bowel (constipation), or an irritated one (diarrhea) suggests a microbe imbalance, which complicates elimination of toxins. With constipation, toxic materials can be released back into your pet’s bloodstream before they pass through. Plus, microbes out of balance (for example bacteria and yeast) can produce their own toxins. Look for products designed to help your pet’s digestion which contain probiotics or digestive enzymes, or complete gastrointestinal support formulas that contain both.
13. Support the Kidneys – The simplest thing you can do to support health kidneys is ensure your pet drinks an ample amount of filtered water every day. Toxins are highly concentrated in chronically dehydrated pets and can damage the kidneys’ filtration system. Likewise, mineral particles can form when urine is highly concentrated, resulting in the formation of dreaded stones that are painful, cause blockages and set the stage for recurrent infections. If your pet doesn’t drink much water, consider a pet fountain and provide more liquids with meals by adding broth, gravy, or water to their food and using canned food to provide extra moisture. For pets with urinary tract issues, consider remedies for urinary tract and kidney support.
14. Keep It Clean – Studies show that the home environment generally has far worse air quality than the outdoors. Much of the toxic material found in our homes, however, blows into our houses from dust and outdoor pollutants. Keep your home free of dust with regular dusting and vacuuming; this greatly reduces toxic particulate matter that our pets breathe and ingest. Another place to be strict with cleaning is your pet’s food and water bowls. Change water daily and wash your pet’s bowls, as dust and germs accumulate here in abundance.
15. Gently Detox with Herbs & Homeopathics – Because our pets live with us and ingest many toxins in our shared environment, even the healthiest cats and dogs can benefit from regular intervals of gentle detoxification. We carry several excellent pet detoxification formulas with herbs like milk thistle, red clover, dandelion, and astragalus that support your pet’s organs and help eliminate stored toxins.
Keeping Your Pet Toxin Free
Keep in mind that as the body is eliminating toxins, it is not unusual for there to be a brief “healing crisis,” in which a cat or dog may develop symptoms like a runny nose or changes in bowel function or appetite. Such symptoms usually subside in a few days. As always, observe your pet closely and stop any remedy if concerning symptoms develop. Always consult with a holistic veterinarian for appropriate guidance. Please see our article, “Administering Remedies to Your Companion,” for additional suggestions.
The good news is that for most pets, their bodies are remarkably well-equipped to handle disease, eliminate a reasonable amount of toxins, and restore their own organs and body systems to health – with your help. When a natural diet and clean environment are combined with adequate nutrients, rest, exercise and joy, your pets are capable of a level of health you never thought possible.