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Healthy pet, health familyWe recently added a puppy to our family, and I quickly realized he brings a host of new eco-friendly choices to my life. I had finally figured out how to avoid phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA), and harsh cleaning chemicals in my home, and then in bounds Leo—along with an uncontrollable bladder, the threat of fleas, and chew toys galore.

Although dogs do come with some health risks, don’t let that deter you from getting a pet, says Holly Beckwith, a Portland, Oregon–based naturopathic family physician. “Animals can be an important part of your child’s life, and there are so many eco-friendly alternatives out there that it’s easy to have a healthy, chemical-free pet.” Here’s how to keep everyone safe:

Puppy problem: Accidents

Why you should be concerned

Chemical carpet and floor cleaners contain solvents that can be harmful to inhale and touch, which is risky for both your dog and your kid. “You might not be putting your face down on the carpet, but your child—whose brain, respiratory system, and immune system are still developing—will be,” says Beckwith.

Healthy solution

Try a do-it-yourself natural floor cleaner, suggests Christopher Gavigan, author of Healthy Child Healthy World and CEO of the organization by the same name. For carpets, first soak up the urine with a rag or paper towels, rinse the area with soapy water, and dry with a towel. Then sprinkle baking soda on and, after 15 minutes, vacuum the spot slowly and repeatedly. On hard floors, soak up the mess, and if a smell lingers, use a solution of white vinegar diluted with water—if dogs smell their previous mistakes, they’re likely to go in the same spot again. You can also look for natural enzymatic products that clean messes and neutralize odors safely.

Try this

Earth Friendly Products Pet Stain & Odor Remover uses a formula of lemon oil, natural ethanol, and biodegradable surfactants. ($5.50, ecos.com)

Healthy pet, health familyPuppy Problem: Flea Control

Why you should be concerned

A recent study found that flea collars contain carcinogens at levels 1,000 times greater than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable limit for children—and those toxins stay on pet fur even after the collar comes off. Flea-control chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, affect development, and cause respiratory issues like asthma and allergies, says Beckwith. Kids are particularly susceptible because they have no qualms about putting their hands in their mouths after playing with pets.

Healthy solution

Prevent fleas naturally: Once a week, vacuum, wash pet bedding in hot water, and use a flea comb to check for fleas. When you bathe your pup, leave the shampoo on for five to eight minutes. You can also add vitamin B or garlic to your dog’s diet, which may discourage fleas. Outside, keep grass and shrubs cut short. If you live in a warm climate where fleas thrive year-round, Gavigan suggests considering nematodes for your lawn: The tiny worms, found at garden stores, will eat flea larvae.

Try this

Cloud Star Buddy Wash is a botanical-based shampoo that’s free of alcohol and sulfates, which can dry out your dog’s coat and pollute waterways. ($10.50, cloudstar.com)

Puppy problem: Toys

Why you should be concerned

Pet toys may contain phthalates, BPA, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), lead, toxic dyes, arsenic, cadmium, and more, which have been linked to a number of problems in humans, including hormone disruption, behavioral issues, learning disabilities, and birth defects. Even though dog toys are meant for dogs, kids are likely to put them in their mouths, too.

Healthy solution

Choose toys made from natural rubber, rope, hemp, and organic cotton. Stay away from soft plastic toys unless they’re labeled “phthalate-free.” To avoid choking hazards for your kids and pets, make sure your dog doesn’t chew out internal bells or squeakers. You can also employ the toilet paper tube test: If a toy doesn’t fit down the tube, it’s safe.

Try this

The half-plush, half-tug Simply Fido Lolly Lamb Rope Toy is made from organic cotton and gets its color from plants and minerals. ($12.50, simplyfido.com)

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