I can’t stress enough how important it is for dog owners to keep a “healthy home.” Dogs, some much more than others, are very sensitive to surface and airborne chemicals found in many household and pet products. If you wouldn’t expose a small child to something, you probably shouldn’t expose your dog to it. Eliminating harsh chemicals from your home requires only a little bit of research and effort.

The toxic chemicals that float through the air from plug-in air fresheners, actually stick to the surfaces in your home, including your dog's bed, food, water and fur. They may smell something like lavender, but there is nothing natural about them. They also make it more difficult for your dog to communicate with his environment through scent. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a neutral smelling home, but if you still crave scents in the air, try a natural scent ball that uses essential oils.

If you need an alternative to artificial scent laden fabric sprays, make your own:

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 10-20 drops of your choice essential oil

Wash pet beds in natural, unscented laundry soap such as Bio-Vert or Seventh Generation or the very economical Pink Solution. Do not hang pet beds outside to dry, rather hang them indoors or put them in the dryer. But forgo dryer sheets, as they contain scents and chemicals that can irritate your dog’s skin. If you take the beds out of the dryer just before they are completely dry, they'll be static free. Side Note: Bio-Vert, Seventh Generation & Pink Solution are also make safer surface, glass and bathroom cleansers.

Disinfecting your floor? Why? The residual chemicals left behind from these harsh cleaners don’t disappear when the floor dries. But they do make their way into your dog's system when he eats something off the floor or licks his paws after walking through the house. Instead, wash your floors with water and vinegar (the vinegar odor disappears when it dries). If you like, you can even add a few drops of essential oil, like citronella or grapefruit. But don't over do it.

Ecoholic Home, by author Adria Vasil, offers you all the alternatives to harmful cleaners, soaps and detergents. Everything from safe commercial options, to home made solutions. But when in doubt, avoid any products with these symbols:

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.59.06 PMCanine Nutriton ServiceScreen shot 2013-01-20 at 12.56.05 PMCanine Nutrition Service

Do not smoke in your house. This should be obvious. Your dog’s lungs are a fraction of the size of yours and they’re not immune to the aftermath of second hand smoke inhalation, including cancer.

If you have a lawn, consider how harsh turf builders and fertilizers are. You don’t want your dog inhaling them, walking on them or doing grass angels on them. For natural gardening advice, the CBC’s Ed Lawrence has all the answers.

A lot of pet food companies use chemicals and dyes to colour their kibble so that it looks “cute” to humans and to ensure the same bright oranges and reds from batch to batch. Skip these products – one such offender is Beneful by Nestle Purina, and the result is very sick dogs.

Flea collars are another product to avoid. Imagine wearing a ring of pesticides around your neck 24/7. To avoid fleas naturally, feed a high quality diet, vacuum frequently, bathe your dog regularly and wash pet beds every week or two. There are many other natural ways to prevent fleas. To that end, avoid monthly pesticidal flea/tick treatments. The are not safe, and drastically increase your dogs toxic load.

Speaking of bathing, use unscented, hypoallergenic shampoo (I like Earth Bath Clear Advantage) and take this shampoo with you if you take your dog to a groomer. Instruct them not to use anything else such as finishing sprays on your dog.

If you even suspect mould in your home, call in a professional like I did last year, when I saw a few tiny black spots near the laundry tub in my basement. Sure enough, it was mould. Not enough to send us packing while it was being removed, but enough that it needed to be removed before it could spread any further. Within a week, my beagle's tear stains disappeared. They began four months prior and I assumed it was a food allergy, but an elimination diet offered no evidence of this. The humans in the house did not experience and mould related health problems, but as previously stated, dogs can be much more sensitive.

Your dog will appreciate these changes and you'll both be healthier for them. Happy detox!