Are you giving “PET” to your pet? How about BPA? Follow these tips!
Living an entirely plastic-free life is incredibly difficult in the modern age. It is no different for our dogs. From water bottles, to food containers, to shampoo bottles, to toys, right down to their beds, your dog is exposed to countless plastics on a daily basis.
So with headlines screaming “Plastics cause cancer!”, what are the risks and what can we do to keep our beloved dogs safe and well?
What’s the problem?
There are concerns that plastic products can release potentially toxic chemicals and substances through leaching into contained foods or fluids, escape through breakage such as damage (for example, through cracks in products, the product being chewed) or on contact (such as through touching, licking). There are some concerns that certain products may simply release harmful substances into the environment in their normal state.
Exposure to certain chemicals and metals in plastics can interfere with how the body functions, for example, causing improper hormone expression and production, and causing chromosomal abnormalities. If left unchecked, such issues can lead to cancer developing.
This is for sure an area close to my heart as often, sadly, I find myself breaking the bad news of cancer to owners in my job as a veterinarian, always dogs and relationships I’ve come to be in awe of and close to. And, on the flip side of that, we spend most of our days working with the most passionate of dog owners across the world getting real-life results and mental health in their dog owning. We just can’t overlook physical health and prevention.
Pretty scary stuff!
How do we know what to look for?
“But it is all so complicated!” I hear you cry. With all the ethyls, ides, polys and ates, do you need a degree in Chemistry to keep your dog safe? Working your way through the myriad types of plastics can seem like a nightmare. How do you know where to start?
Have you ever wondered what the little numbers in the middle of the recycling sign stamped on plastic products stand for? These numbers indicate the type of plastic used in the product, based on the classification system for plastics developed by the Society of the Plastic Industry in 1988. Plastics are categorised into the seven most common types.
Types of Plastic
1: PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
2: HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
3: PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
4: LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
5: PP (polypropylene)
6: PS (polystyrene, or styrofoam)
7: Other (includes polycarbonate and polylactide)
So which plastics should we avoid?
- Category 1 plastics are often used in single use drinks bottles and other single use plastic containers. It is a common source of Bisphenol A (BPA) which has been found to impact on hormone production which can lead to cancer.
- Category 1 is most concerning due to its prevalence: single use plastics are everywhere! Not just an environmental horror story, these BPA containing plastics can have very real health implications for their users.
- Category 3 is another area of high risk. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) has been classified as a “major concern” in relation to cancer risk by the Environmental Protection Agency* with vinyl chloride being a known human carcinogen.
- As a double whammy, phthalate, which is used to make plastics more flexible and durable and is used to soften PVC, can also affect hormone production and use. That makes Category 3 particularly nasty so stay well clear!
- Category 6 is another one to avoid with polystyrene, that takeaway cup and packaging staple, being recognised as a possible human carcinogen.
- Category 7 – some plastics in Category 7 can contain BPAs. If the plastic isn’t also marked “PLA” (polymer polylactide) or with a leaf symbol, it may contain BPA.
With a seemingly never ending stream of warnings about the items we use in our daily lives and the risk they pose to us and our pets, it is almost tempting to retreat into a Wifi free cave. There are so many conflicting views, studies and findings that it can be difficult to know what to think.
There are some who say that all plastics are to be avoided at all costs and some who assert that there is no evidence of harm. Studies on plastics and their use continue all the time and as science progresses and our knowledge develops, hopefully there will be an increase in scientifically based information available to guide us in our choices.
For now, we can only look to the information currently available, use our knowledge and common sense, and try to take whatever steps we can to minimise any risk.
Top tips for the plastic savvy
1. Here are some practical steps you can take to minimise your dog’s exposure to potentially harmful substances:
2. Avoid single use plastics – have a durable water container and dog bowl for your dog when on your travels.
3. Keep plastic containers out of the heat and sun – a good one to remember at dog sport events and competitions – don’t leave your dog’s water bottle lying on the front seat of your car on a hot day!
4. Use glass or porcelain dishes if you are heating any food intended for your dog’s consumption
5. Look for dog toys that are marked as BPA, PVC and phthalate free.
6. Don’t let your dog lick or chew toys
7. Don’t buy cheap toys. They are cheap for a reason. No producers are immune from the worldwide increase in production costs and savings have to be made to keep profit margins – quality and safety can suffer.
8. Look for information rather than sales info on labels – what does “natural” actually mean?
In a world swamped with warnings, it can be difficult to find the balance between protecting those dearest to us and enjoying life. We will always be perfectly imperfect in our knowledge and we can only do the best we can.
Keep an open mind, consider any information offered, and make the best choices you can, but always, always seek to find the joy in each day with your dog. That’s what we are here for and why we are walking this road together.
Stay safe, have fun, live life to the full.