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Common Household Toxins

We live in a gross world, let's be honest! Between poor quality food, air pollution and toxins in the average households, are dogs ore up against A LOT!

We can do everything in our power from a nutrition and training standpoint but if we are still exposing our dogs constantly to household toxins then we really aren't doing our best! There are a few common items in almost every home that can be switched for a more-holistic version and keep toxin exposure in our homes to a minimum.

Some very common items that expose our dogs to chemicals and toxins

  • Laundry Detergent/Dryer Sheets

  • Scented Candles

  • Air and Fabric freshener sprays

  • Plug-in scent diffusers

  • Floor cleaners

  • Plastic food/water dishes

  • Lawn chemicals

  • Second Hand Smoke

What do the majority of the things on this list have in common? They all contain chemicals that are linked to endocrine disruption in our dogs (and us, of course).

First, what is the Endocrine System?

The endocrine system consists of a group of tissues that release hormones into the bloodstream for travel to other parts of the body . Most endocrine tissues are glands (such as the thyroid gland) that release hormones directly into small blood vessels within and around the tissue.

So, what is an Endocrine Disruptor?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that, at certain doses, can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products, including some plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.

Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals are slow to break-down in the environment, which makes them dangerous after repeat or long exposure.

As people, we are exposed to endocrine disruptors through what we eat and drink (and drink out of), pesticides applied, and cosmetics used and occur through diet, air, skin, and water. The same goes for our dogs.

Exposure through Food

Ethoxyquin is an endocrine disruptor and is still added to pet foods as an antioxidant to reduce rancidity.

Aflatoxin B1—yet another endocrine disruptor-from the mold on corn and other cereals, is often found in dry dog foods which are recalled too late to save many dogs from acute toxicity and death. Aflatoxins, dioxins and other endocrine disruptors, estrogen mimics, carcinogens and obesogens have harmful consequences in extremely low concentrations in the diet over an extended time period with possible synergism operating where one contaminant increases the toxicity of one or more others.

BPA or Bisphenol A is a chemical used to line metal cans and is in polycarbonate plastics. “In rodents, BPA is associated with early sexual maturation, altered behavior, and effects on prostate and mammary glands. In humans, BPA is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and male sexual dysfunction in exposed workers. Food is a major exposure source.”

The most common exposure to these toxins come from storing dog food in poor quality storage containers, eating out of cheap plastic bowls or eating a canned diet.

The study referred to in this article from TruthAboutPetFood showed that dogs eating a canned diet with cans (both with admitted BPA and a no BPA claim" had shown BPA levels in their blood samples after just 2 weeks.

What you can do about it

Store your dog food in a BPA-free, air tight storage container - the Vittles Vaults are good options for kibble feeders. This is what I have for Stevie. It is steam disinfected and completely dried after each bag replacement.

Feed your dog a high quality wet food. It's no surprise that the low quality brands have the highest levels of BPA.

Feed your dog in a ceramic or stainless steel bowl (or better, hand feed!) and sterilize daily.

Exposure in the Air

The other main source of toxin exposure for our dogs are in the air fresheners we use so often.....because they smell great! So why not?

First, consider just the scent alone. Science estimates that our dogs have up to 100,000 times more ability to detect scent than we do, so if that candle smells strong to you, IMAGINE what that is like 100,000x stronger for your dog. You likely wouldn't like the smell on that powerful of a concentration. Yet, we light up candles and spray dog beds with Febreze like it's our day job.

Both scented candles and some aerosol or plug-in fresheners release organic compounds as well as toxins like lead, naphthalene, formaldehyde, and phthalates. Synthetic fragrances and carcinogenic dust/soot can aggravate conditions such as asthma and allergies in pets.

Watch a detailed video on the dangers of scented candles by Dr. Karen Becker here.

Along with an over powering scent, Phthalates (a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable) are released from burning candles and have been implicated in causing endocrine system disruption leading to diabetes, birth defects, and cancer.

In most of these products there is an extra level of danger in the form of volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. This causes these compounds to easily turn into gasses or vapors from a solid or liquid form. This transformation is called volatility. In other words, volatility is just how air fresheners are meant to behave: dissipate into the air, thereby changing its scent.

VOC's have been linked to

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation

  • headaches, loss of coordination, lethargy and nausea

  • damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system

  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Read about how companies can hide VOC's in the ingredient labels here.

In humans, it is clear that VOCs disrupt hormones and reproduction which subsequently affects the development of offspring – it’s not a push to suggest this could happen with our pets, so it’s advised to be even more mindful with pregnant bitches, litters of puppies and when you bring your new puppy home!

What you can do about it

  • Unplug and toss any synthetic air/fabric refreshers

  • Opt for natural, safe candles and scents for dogs. You can browse some options here!

  • Switch to an all natural laundry detergent and fabric softener. Some great brands include

I also love using Wool Balls with a few drops of Lavender Oil in place of my dryer sheets!

If you absolutely NEED an air freshener or spray, consider using natural ingredients like baking soda and pet-safe essential oils

An easy recipe for a room/air spray is

  • 1 spray bottle full of warm distilled water

  • 5-10 (depending on how much smell you want) drops high quality essential oils (I would recommend the AnimalEO line

  • 2 tbsp baking soda

  • Mix all together and shake well

  • Lightly spray into air or onto surfaces as needed

There is, like everything else in the dog world, a debate on oils being safe or unsafe for pets. The general consensus is to avoid the following for dogs:

  • Cinnamon

  • Citrus

  • Clove

  • Juniper

  • Pennyroyal

  • Peppermint

  • Pine

  • Sweet birch

  • Tea Tree

  • Thyme

  • Yarrow

  • Ylang Ylang

However, it depends on the dog and how the react. I do diffuse very diluted peppermint and lavender in my home and have never had an adverse reaction, or reaction of any kind. Ensure your dog is never trapped in a space with a diffusor and never use undiluted oils on or around your pet. They are strong for us, imagine it for them!

It's important to know that adverse reactions to essential oils can range from stomach upset to neurological symptoms like incoordination. The quality of your oils is important!

Exposure through the Skin

One of the top exposures comes from lawn products, and this is why you should always be careful of the grass you let your dog play on. If it has been "treated" in any way, it's best to find a new spot.

A 2012 study that examined the application of lawn care products found that dogs that were exposed to professionally applied lawn care products had a 70 percent increased risk of developing canine malignant lymphoma. This type of lymphoma in dogs is used as a model for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.

Chemicals in lawn care products have also been linked to bladder cancer in dogs in several influential studies over the past 25 years.

A study from Purdue University compares Scottish Terriers with and without chemical-treated lawns. They found:

  • The dogs exposed to herbicides (weed killers) had 3 1/2 times greater risk of bladder cancer.

  • The risk doubled (to over 7 times more likely) when the dogs were exposed to both herbicides and insecticides.

  • A group of chemicals, known as phenoxy herbicides, were of highest concern.

Floor Cleaners

We all want a clean home and after days of muddy paw prints, it is so nice to see clean, shiny floors, if only for a second (until they come back inside Lol). Many people jump to common disinfectors like Lysol or Pine Sol but these harsh chemicals should be swapped out as there are many ways we can achieve the same level of clean without leaving chemical residue on our dog's paws. Just think of them walking across a freshly cleaned floor and then licking their paws!

Popular cleaning agents that have known levels of Phthalates are

  • Lysol

  • PineSol

  • Tide

  • Simple Green (yup even "green" companies can be bad!)

  • Glade

  • Febreze

The BEST thing you can switch to is a Steam Mop! Not only is it completely natural to use, it is sanitizing as you go! This is what I have and I love it! Second to that, a spray mop is perfect for using your own dog-safe floor cleaner.

An easy safe floor cleaner recipe is

  • 2 gallon hot water

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 5-10 drops Lemon Essential Oil

I can attest that the vinegar (disinfectant) smell goes away once dried and you are only left with a light lemon scent! But like I said, steam mop all the way!

You can also make a similar mixture in a spray bottle for your surfaces around the house!

All Purpose Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup distilled vinegar

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (you can also google how to make a mix with the peels but it takes longer)

  • 2 cups hot water

  • 10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil (Optional)

  • Shake well and spray onto surfaces as needed

Last thing I want to touch on for this topic is second hand smoke.

Like humans exposed to tobacco smoke, dogs are also susceptible to the negative health effects of second-hand smoke. Long-nosed breeds are at higher risk of developing nasal tumors than short or medium-nosed breeds due to carcinogens collecting in their nasal passages.

Short and medium-nosed dog breeds have higher rates of lung cancer because their shorter noses don’t trap carcinogens found in second-hand smoke, allowing the inhaled smoke to travel to their lungs.

Second hand smoke is a big one for me because it is something we can control 100%. You can ALWAYS make the choice to not smoke around your dog, as you would a baby or child, and you never need to be okay with someone smoking near your dog.

When I was working at my very first vet clinic a man brought in his Newfoundland because he was coughing....lots of appointments later, long story short this dog got put down. We watched this man smoke inside a closed vehicle with this dog before and after every appointment in the parking lot. We ended up doing a necropsy on the dog and I'll never forget when we looked at the lungs how black they were. This dog suffered and his life was cut short because of his own human's selfishness. His dog died of lung cancer.

I have never forgotten that dog and I ALWAYS speak up when I see someone smoking in a car with a dog.

I am sure you've found a few things on this list that are a habit, but I would really encourage you to look at more natural options in your daily life, not only for the sake of our dogs, but for yourself as well ❤️

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