Polluted pets

Research continues to reveal the extent to which high levels of toxic chemicals are contaminating our much-loved family pets.

Most cat and dog owners are aware that substances such as snail bait, rat poison, garden pesticides and human medications are toxic to our pets and need to be kept out of reach. However, fewer people are aware of the many other household and environmental items that can be just as toxic, and often fatal.

How much are pets being affected by pollution?

In the first study of its kind, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigated the degree to which our pets are exposed to chemical contaminants, both within our homes and in outdoor environments.

The testing conducted in the investigation was the most comprehensive ever published for companion animals. Unfortunately, the results of the study indicated that our pets are exposed to high levels of synthetic industrial chemicals on a daily basis, including many at levels higher than those typically found in people – a shocking result when you consider that the average person is considered to weigh around 70 kg and an average cat might only weigh 4 kg.[1] 

For both dogs and cats, the most prevalent chemicals detected were those from the Teflon family, plastic softeners (phthalates) and fire retardants. These are most commonly found in foam bedding, stain-resistant household furniture and carpets, contaminated house dust, non-stick Teflon pans, shampoos, and plastic dog food bags, containers, bowls, and toys.

Of the 35 chemicals identified in dogs:

  • 11 are known carcinogens
  • 31 are toxic to the reproductive system, and 
  • 24 are neurotoxins 
Of the 46 chemicals identified in cats:
  • 9 are known carcinogens,
  • 40 are toxic to the reproductive system,
  • 34 are neurotoxins, and
  • 15 are toxic to the endocrine system.

The EWG reviewed veterinary research literature published over the past three decades and identified numerous studies documenting illnesses linked to chemical exposures in companion animals.

Many people may already be familiar with “Teflon toxicosis” – a common cause of death for pet birds if they inhale the toxic fumes from overheated, non-stick pans. Lesser known, but just as deadly scenarios that have been reported include:

  • Horses dying after chewing on wooden fences infused with arsenic-based pesticides.
  • Bladder cancer in dogs exposed to lawn and garden weed killers and insecticides.
  • Lead toxicosis in dogs and cats in homes with lead-based house paint.
  • The development of nasal tumours and lung cancer in dogs exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Pets dying from the chemical contamination of pet food.[2]

What can we do about it?

Knowledge is power. Most pet owners go to great lengths to care for their pets, but there are numerous unseen health hazards to pets which are commonly overlooked, yet easily avoided. While we may not be able to eliminate all contact with toxic chemicals, we can reduce the risk to our pets by reading labels, being diligent and being informed.

Some approaches that pet parents can implement around the home include:

Around the house

  • Switching to natural, non-toxic household cleaning products like white vinegar, lemon juice and salt, baking soda or a “green” cleaner made from plant extracts.
  • If you need to smoke, do it outside of the home and away from pets (and children).
  • If you have new carpet, new furniture or freshly painted household rooms, aim to leave windows open for at least 72 hours and use a fan to bring in fresh, moving air. 
  • Replace Teflon-coated pans with safer cookware options such as stainless steel, cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron.
  • Manage fleas by regularly using a flea comb, washing pet bedding in hot water once a week and vacuuming regularly.
  • Avoid the use of plug-in air freshener, fragrance sprays, incense burners and scented candles.
  • If your home is prone to pest invasion, rather than using toxic sprays, try sealing off entry points for ants or rodents, keep food particles off the floor, and vacuum regularly.

Choosing toys

  • Research where your pet’s toys are made and what ingredients are used. Tests have found that 45% of pet toys had detectable levels of arsenic, bromine, and chlorine, which have been linked to cancer and liver toxicity. Additionally, many commercially available rawhide chews on the market today are manufactured with harmful chemicals, including lye, lime, bleach, arsenic, and formaldehyde.[3]

Diet and supplementation

  • Switch your pet to a more species-appropriate fresh food diet as much as possible. There are some great commercial raw food options available (such as Big Dog Pet Foods) that are nutritionally complete and balanced, use human-grade ingredients and are free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
  • Add a few drops of St Mary’s Thistle (also known as Milk Thistle) to your dog’s meals each day. Milk Thistle has traditionally been used to treat a range of liver disorders and to protect the liver against poisoning from chemical and environmental toxins.
  • Support your dog’s immune system with a blend of medicinal mushrooms (i.e. Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake) to improve their vitality and reduce the risk of chronic disease development and progression. Mushrooms are particularly beneficial alongside conventional cancer therapies.
  • Aid natural detoxification and the removal of heavy metals and other harmful compounds from the body by including a range of powerful super greens into your dog’s diet (i.e. chlorella, spirulina, moringa and barley grass).

In Conclusion

Our awareness of the dangers to human health of chemicals in our homes and the environment has increased dramatically over the past 15 years - now it’s time to make sure we are doing the same for our pets.

Above, we've linked to some key CanineCeuticals products to aid the protection of your dog's health and continued quality of life. Give them a look!


  1. Environmental Working Group. Polluted pets. 2008; Available from: https://www.ewg.org/research/polluted-pets.
  2. Rumbeiha, W. and Morrison, J. (2011). A review of class I and class II pet food recalls involving chemical contaminants from 1996 to 2008. J Med Toxicol, 7(1): p. 60-66.
  3. Heastie, C.E., An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to regulation of toxic chemicals in pet products, Assembly, N.Y.S., Editor.

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