The modern world is full of toxins. From the food we eat to the air we breathe to every surface we come into contact with. They arise from transport, manufacture, gardening and cleaning. Toxins can enter our body and can affect the way that our bodies work. The problem is that most toxins are invisible and have no taste and no smell so we do not know that they are there. The situation for our pets is no different. They are also exposed to toxins and they could be building up inside your dog’s body.
We know very little about these chemicals. Scientists have no clear idea about what the long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals will be for humans let alone dogs. It may be many years before we are sure if they do, or do not, play a role in acute or chronic canine diseases. In the meantime, it makes sense to try to limit your dog’s exposure and to give them a detox from time to time.
If you have started to feel concerned about toxins in your dog’s life and would like to do something about it, read on.
Cutting Down on Toxins in Your Dog’s Life
There’s plenty that you can do to cut down on your dog’s exposure to toxins in the first place. Here are some ideas:
- Take care with toys. Many dog toys are made of plastic and most of them get very badly chewed up. Because they spend a lot of time in your dog’s mouth, it is reasonable to assume that some chemicals from the plastic will enter their bloodstream. You can help by swapping to toys made from natural fibers. If you must use plastic, look for items that are BPA and phthalate free.
- Food and drink bowls. The bowls that our dog eats and drinks from and the mat that we place the bowls on are also often made from plastic which could leach toxins. You could swap these for stainless steel versions and buy a mat that is free from chemical toxins.
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- Doggy odors. Many owners try to mask a doggy smell with artificial room fragrances that contain toxins. Instead, try to remove the smell with regular cleaning. If that doesn’t work, use a natural fragrance such as essential oils in preference to an artificial product.
- Watch out for pesticides. Pesticides that you use in your home or garden can be dangerous for pets. Dogs can be more exposed to them than humans because they are closer to the ground and they lick surfaces. Pesticides can build up to dangerous levels in the body and cause what is called a cumulative effect. Try to cut down on how much you use them.
- Food and treats. Select foods and treats that are based on natural products and that don’t have any artificial additives. You can even make your own healthy treats by using nutritious vegetables.
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Detoxing Your Dog
Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be some toxins that enter your dog’s body. It is best to avoid these building up to levels that could cause a problem. Here are some great ideas for helping your pooch to detox.
Fasting Like a Wild Dog
Adult dogs in the wild will naturally fast because they can go a couple of days without making a kill. On the days that they are not eating, they use a substance called ketones to make energy. Ketones are produced when body fat is broken down. They are used by muscles and organs when there is no glucose available. This is thought to be good for a dog’s metabolism and is great for healing. The brain shows particular benefits.
Never fast a puppy because they need regular nutrients. However, after checking with your vet, you could lightly fast a fit, adult dog one day a week to replicate what would happen in the wild. They need a constant supply of fresh water during the fast.
There is no need to starve your dog completely. They can have meat and vegetable broth and huge raw bones to chew. To break the fast, give them a light meal of poultry before reintroducing their normal food.
Cleansing the Liver with Supplements
The liver is the organ that has the job of sorting out toxins in the body. It removes them from the body and then breaks them down (or attempts to break them down) into simpler substances so that they can be eliminated. Toxins can therefore build up in the liver and it can become sluggish.
There are several liver formulas that can be used to support this vital organ. Always speak to your vet before giving supplements to your dog.
- Silymarin, alpha-lipoic acid and B complex. These help the liver to get rid of toxins by removing oxygen species (a very reactive chemical that contains oxygen and acts as a toxin).
- Dimethylglycine (DMG). Detoxifies the liver and supports the repair and renewal of damaged liver cells.
- Glutathione. Removes xenobiotics (molecules that don’t belong in a body) and chemicals. It helps the body get rid of chlorine, heavy metals like antimony and mercury and plastic residues like BPA.
- Taurine. An antioxidant that makes cell membranes stable and more resilient to attack by the free radicals (a very reactive molecule that can damage the body) produced by toxins. Taurine levels are quickly depleted in dogs who are stressed or who have intestinal problems. It is vital for neutralizing toxins and in getting rid of xenobiotics from the body.
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC fixes onto heavy metals and makes it easier for the body to get rid of them.
Rather than giving particular supplements, you could try a natural detoxifier after you have discussed it with your vet.
Curcumin is found in turmeric and is a powerful antioxidant that helps the liver to detox. It also helps to combat inflammation and fight cancer. Green tea cuts down damage to DNA and so combats cancer. Milk thistle removes oxygen species from your dog’s body because it contains silymarin. It also helps liver cells to take up glutathione and helps them to regenerate.
Help the Kidneys to Flush Out Toxins
The liver may be able to take toxins out of the bloodstream but it is the kidneys that excrete them from the body. Without the kidneys, the body cannot effectively detox. You can add some simple, natural ingredients to your dog’s diet to support the kidneys in this important function.
The most useful ingredients are parsley and cilantro. Parsley is considered safe for most dogs in a dried or fresh form or can be given to your dog as tea. However, always check with your vet and never give your dog parsley seeds as they are toxic to dogs. Parsley is packed with vitamins and chlorophyll (green pigment) and increases the production of urine so toxins get flushed out of the kidneys. To make parsley tea for your pooch you just mash up a tablespoon of fresh parsley and pour boiled, purified water over it in a glass bowl. Let it steep for 20 minutes and then strain it. It can be given to your dog once a day.
You can also help your dog’s kidneys by always making sure that they get plenty of purified water so always filter the water before you put it in their bowl.
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Support Friendly Bacteria in the Gut
Just like humans, dogs have friendly bacteria in their intestines which help them to break down food and which keep the gut healthy. If anything happens to damage the populations of these bacteria, it can cause a lot of problems for your dog’s health.
Look out for a commercial dog food that supports the intestines. If you get into the habit of reading ingredients lists, you will soon learn to spot probiotics. They will be somewhere near the end of the list and will have a Latin species name. Lactobacillus is a typical example. The probiotic cultures can be destroyed by heat so some dog food manufacturers add them after the cooking process. The food often contains other ingredients that support the gut bacteria such as chicory.
Digestive conditions are quite common in dogs so be on the lookout for food allergies. This is something that you should talk to your vet about. Common allergens are grains such as wheat and corn, soy and even dairy products. The allergens can upset the gut and this can affect the friendly bacteria. It is always best to avoid meat by-products if possible and steer clear of artificial additives in foods. The more natural the ingredients, the better. Ideally, the ingredients list should contain items that you would not mind eating yourself!
Look After Their Coat
You may not think that your dog’s coat has anything to do with toxins but you would be wrong! The skin is a huge organ and plays an important function in maintaining your dog’s health. Their coat is a good indicator of their general health. A shiny, strong coat is a sign that all is well. A dry and brittle coat indicates that there could be a health problem.
Grooming and bathing are important in maintaining a healthy coat. Remember that dogs groom themselves and so they will lick and swallow any toxins that have landed from the air onto their coat. This is why animals that live in households where the humans smoke are more likely to develop health issues.
Invest in a high-quality brush with natural bristles. Get your pup used to grooming from a young age by making it a fun way for you to spend time together. Groom your pooch once a day to remove dead hairs and skin cells. Let your dog swim in fresh water (rivers and lakes) as much as they want to. The occasional bath is also a good idea but don’t overdo it. If you bath your dog too often using harsh shampoos, you will strip the natural defenses of their skin and this will allow environmental toxins to do more damage. Pick a shampoo that is made from natural ingredients that will work in harmony with your dog’s body.
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A Lifestyle Choice for You and Your Dog
More and more people are recognizing that we are surrounded by toxins and that they can impact not just our health but the health of our pets. A dog is a companion animal and will be exposed to the same chemicals as the humans that they live with.
When you make a lifestyle choice to avoid as many toxins as you can, this extends to your four-legged friend as well. In the same way as you can detox your body by fasting, using supplements and drinking herbal preparations, it is possible for your dog to detox too.
However, it is important to remember that a dog’s metabolism and biochemistry is very different to a human’s. It is not safe to use human medication on dogs and the same is true for many natural remedies. Before you start a detox regime with your pooch, it is vital that you discuss your plans with your vet and seek their advice. Some detox tips are not suitable for dogs of certain breeds, ages or life stage.
Eliminating toxins from your home and from your garden is always the preferred option.
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