EarthTalk: What are some tips for keeping my
dogs and cats healthy?
—Kim Newfield, via e-mail
ingest pollutants and pesticide residues and breathe
in an array of indoor air contaminants just like
children do -- and since they develop and age seven
or more times faster than children, pets develop
health problems from exposures much faster.
© Hemera Collection
it or not, our pets may be exposed to more harsh chemicals
through the course of their day than we are. Researchers
at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found
that pet dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial
chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher
than those typically found in people.
as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns
residues or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants,
so do their pets,” reports EWG. Since they develop
and age seven or more times faster than children, pets also
develop health problems from exposures much faster, EWG
levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets
than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels
of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals)
in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats,
and more than five times the amounts of mercury, compared
to average levels in people,” reports the group. Their
2008 study looked at plastics and food packaging chemicals,
heavy metals, fire retardants and stain-proofing chemicals
in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37
cats tested at a Virginia veterinary clinic.
dogs, blood and urine samples were contaminated with 35
chemicals altogether, including 11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals
toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins,”
adds EWG. This is particularly alarming given that man’s
best friend is known to have much higher cancer rates than
humans. A 2008 Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center study
found that dogs have 35 times more skin cancer, four times
more breast tumors, eight times more bone cancer, and two
times more leukemia per capita as humans. And according
to researchers from Purdue University, cancer is the second
leading cause of death for dogs, with about one in four
canines succumbing to some form of the disease. Meanwhile,
hyperthyroidism—a condition which many think is on
the rise in felines due to chemical exposures—is already
a leading cause of illness for older cats.
its Pets for the Environment website, EWG lists dozens of
ways for pet owners to ensure that dogs and cats are as
safe as possible in this dangerous world we inhabit. Among
other tips, EWG recommends choosing pet food without chemical
preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin, and looking
for organic or free-range ingredients rather than by-products.
As for drinking water, EWG suggests running tap water through
a reverse osmosis filter—either faucet-mounted or
pitcher-based—before it goes into a pet’s bowl
to remove common contaminants. Also, replacing old bedding
or furniture, especially if it has exposed foam, can prevent
pets from ingesting fire retardants. From avoiding non-stick
pans and garden pesticides to choosing greener kitty litter
and decking material, the list of tips goes on.
steps to ensure a safer environment for pets—some
63 percent of U.S. homes have at least one—will mean
a safer world for humans, too. EWG concludes that our pets
“well may be serving as sentinels for our own health,
as they breathe in, ingest or absorb the same chemicals
that are in our environments.”
Pets for the Environment
NEW SET OF ANSWERS IS FEATURED EACH WEEK!
EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National
Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March
—Melissa P., Burlington, NJ
Wildlife Week is March 18-24 this year. The theme
is “Branching Out for Wildlife,” with
a focus on how wildlife depend upon trees for survival.
Pictured: A pair of Northern Cardinals on a tree
Week is a program of the non-profit National Wildlife Federation
(NWF) that is designed around teaching and connecting kids
to the wonders of wildlife. Each year, the group picks a
theme and provides fun and informative educational materials,
curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to
use with their kids.
This coming March
18-24 (2013), the theme of National Wildlife Week is “Branching
Out for Wildlife” with a focus on trees. Participating
kids will learn about the parts of a tree, the role of trees
and how wildlife depend on trees for survival. They can
also participate in environmental service projects addressing
climate change, healthy habitats, reforestation and connecting
with the environment.
coaches and parents can sign up with NWF and get a wide
range of free resources—lesson plans, posters, trading
cards, etc.—to help spread the educational messages
of National Wildlife Week into school curricula, after-school
and even at-home activities.
2013 marks the
75th year NWF has run National Wildlife Week, making it
the group’s longest running educational program. To
mark the milestone anniversary, NWF has adopted the goal
of planting 75,000 trees across the country. School and
youth groups can apply to host a tree planting event with
NWF, which will provide native trees adapted to the local
climate, as well as tree guards, shovels, mulch, watering
supplies and gloves.
Wildlife Week, all year long NWF will feature detailed information
on their website about different types of wildlife that
live in or are dependent upon trees across the country.
Young people are encouraged to stay on the lookout for wildlife
near them throughout National Wildlife Week and log their
sightings accordingly—and can share them online via
NWF’s interactive Wildlife Watch Map.
Out for Wildlife Mega-Poster is comprised of smaller sections
that each graphically display the different parts of a tree—roots
and soil, forest floor, trunk, branches and leaves/fruit/flowers—and
the wildlife that frequent them. At five and a half feet
tall, the complete mega-poster is a real attention grabber
in any room. Anyone can print out the sections for free
as they are all available via the NWF website as PDF downloads.
is not the only way NWF educates kids and inspires a lifelong
love of nature. The group has worked with teachers for decades
to get kids learning outdoors. Recently NWF launched a campaign
to get 10 million more American children out of their indoor
habitats and into the great outdoors over the next three
years. And its Eco-Schools USA and Schoolyard Habitats programs
harness the power of teachers and students to green thousands
of K-12 schools across the country. And the group’s
Earth Tomorrow campaign is a multi-cultural youth environmental
program that creates opportunities for underserved youth
to learn about their world and contribute to the ecological
health of their communities.
National Wildlife Week.
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