Thursday, October 1, 2009

Green Pet Care

Since we have adopted Cleo, we have been confronted with a hundred new choices a day. What food do we buy? Wet, dry or mix? How many toys does she need (a: a lot)? what kind? How do we train her? Crate or no? There is so much that has to be done right away, so many decisions, that how green the choices are doesn't even enter the equation at first.

Truth be told, keeping pets is not really a green practice, in the strictest sense, because you need to feed them and provide them with entertainment, all of which usually takes up energy. One of the main criteria for making decisions for you pets, however, is a big part of going green: health. All green programs contain a substantial portion about the health of people, and pets are people too.

When you choose food for your animals, you want what is good for them, and unfortunately that can be very hard to determine. Every source of information seems to conflict, and most of the advice you get is downright bad. We trusted a pet store clerk who swore by one brand of dog food, and foolishly did not read the ingredients before leaving the store. When we got home and double checked, the second ingredient was corn, followed by wheat.

Although dogs are omnivorous by nature, a much larger portion of their diet is naturally meat, so if some kind of animal protein is not the first ingredient the food is not good. After that protein (usually chicken meal) fruits, vegetables and some grains are okay, but many dogs have difficulty digesting wheat and corn, so grains should be rice, barley, or some other alternative grain. Soy protein is also a big red flag, as soy is no part of a dogs natural diet, and usually it is used instead of some other meat protein.

Toys are a big issue too. We heard (unverified) that the squeaky part of squeak toys can come out if the dog destroys the toy, and they can choke on it (plus squeak toys are annoying). But trying to find a dog toy that doesn't squeak is like trying to find bread that doesn't contain wheat (possible, as anyone who knows us knows, but hard).

Then we came across someone on the web who wrote about making toys from random junk in your house (I think Courtney read that at the Bark). Instead of throwing away old socks, knot them up turn them into chew toys. If you have old water bottles you can stuff them in those old sock (without the cap) as a pit stop before recycling. Of course you have to make sure that you aren't giving your dog something toxic, or something that will break into pieces that she can choke on, but this is just part of the creative process of turning trash into toys. The maker in me loves this idea. Although the person who posted these ideas was talking about saving money, it is also a green practice for all the reasons that I love the make movement.

It seems in general that the more you control what you give your dog, the healthier it will be (kind of obvious, once you state it). For that reason, we have been thinking about making our own food for the dog, a practice that seems crazy at first but makes more sense the more you think about it. Dogs have been with us for thousands of years, and prepackaged dog food has been around for less than a century. So for the thousands of years minus a hundred before that? We fed our dogs similarly to how we fed ourselves, and it worked out fine. We haven't committed yet, but if we do I will be sure to keep everyone updated.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea. Making toys is not only inexpensive and green but can be a great project for the kids. They love the pets as much as we do and it can be a wonderfully creative use of time to figure out with the kids what would make fun toys. As far as cooking for the dog, it reminds me of my Grandma whom I had the wonderful benefit of loving with for a couple of years after high school. Although it may seem a little fanatical at first, if you cut a portion of the meat you're about to cook for dinner, boil it and mix it with sone brown rice I bet it will be cheap, nutritious and super delicious for Cleo (great name by BTW). Please update us on the toys you make in detail and let is know if you have some recipies fir cheap, easy and delicious puppy food. What works better for dogs at different ages BTW? Great ideas all around.