Confessions of a clean-aholic

My favorite TV show is Hoarders. Why? Because I am a clean freak. Not an obsessive-compulsive disorder (I get the irony) kind of clean freak, but a minimalist, organized, clean, zero knick-knacks kind of clean freak. It’s probably karma that a dog like Reggie came into my life with allergies that require a diligently clean environment to keep him healthy.

So what’s my point? True to my nature, over the years I have researched- for Reggie of course- numerous things relative to cleaning to find things that are pet friendly and actually clean surfaces, not just give the appearance of clean (or smell like clean).

As we approach the new year we clean and purge, and start afresh. I bought a new vacuum, and I’m revisiting my cleaning products to keep my house safe and dust mite free for Reggie.

Ingredients To Avoid
Look at labels and avoid products with ingredients of phenol, isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde, phthalates, and perchloroethylene.
Phenol is more harmful to cats than dogs, but in either case is harmful to the respiratory system and caustic to mucous membranes.
Isopropyl alcohol poisoning occurs most often from inhaled vapors, and is very common in cleaning solvents. Some dogs like the toilet bowl, what do you clean it with?
Formaldehyde is used in products such as carpet, furniture, building materials, and insulation. If you have extreme sensitivity, and new carpet for instance, the off-gassing of this material could be a problem. Formaldehyde is still used in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia as a food preservative so check where your pet food and treats come from!                                                                  Phthalates are that vinyl smell in plastic items. This isn’t a cleaning item necessarily, but phthalates keep the vinyl soft and pliable. As it leaches into the environment it becomes dry and brittle over time. It can be absorbed into the skin, or inhaled. The damage is to kidney and liver, and the reproductive system. No more vinyl dog toys for Reggie!                                                                The last one is less common for most probably, perchloroethylene, and is found mostly in dry cleaning, rug and carpet shampoos. If you do this yourself be aware that your pets are lower to the floor and breathe at a faster rate than we do.

What To Use Instead
Look for cleaners that utilize essential oils as cleaning agents. However, pine and citrus are toxic to pets so avoid these as main ingredients. Eco-Care has a great stain and odor remover that’s ok if your pets lick the surface. Method, Target’s brand of eco-friendly cleaning products, has many items in it’s line that I use and LOVE.

A Word About Floors
I just bought a new vacuum. One of Reggie’s allergies is dust mites and he had a hard time this past year with reactions. My house is majority hardwood floors, but I do have a couple of area rugs. Bagless vacuums are where it’s at right now, but after researching, I found that HEPA filter bag vacuums really trap and seal the dust and debris the best, and remove (depending on what you buy) 99.9% of allergens. I also looked at steam mops, because I have majority hardwood. It makes sense, right? Hot water, no chemicals, clean surface, perfect for kids and pets. Not so fast. The majority of steam mops run continuous steam at about 160-170 degrees, with steam bursts at higher temperatures which vary by manufacturer- most at around 200 degrees. Most steam mops also claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria…kind of true. At 160-170 degrees you can kill dust mites and you can clean spills or a soiled floor. To clean bacteria (like a spill in your kitchen, or a pet accident) such as listeria, salmonella, e.coli, influenza, etc., the steam has to be 212 degrees for at least 90 seconds.
Bottom line? Steam mops can be great depending on manufacturer and if used properly. I will stick with my new German engineered vacuum and wood floor cleaner.

Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

Allergies in dogs

Reggie’s Adoption Day

Within three weeks of adoption Reggie exhibited signs of excessive scratching, licking, and chewing. It was discovered that he had allergies. After almost a year of food trials and an allergy test it was determined that he had both environmental and food allergies. He is allergic to beef, chicken, turkey, carrots, potato, yeast, ragweed, marsh elder, dust mites, and Bermuda grass. Whew!

If you, your child, or your pet has allergies you understand how frustrating having a reaction and dealing with the aftermath can be. This is especially frustrating for a pet because they can’t tell you what hurts or itches.

From environmental allergens Reggie has had ear infections, has rubbed his muzzle raw, licked the fur off of his paws, had hot spots that develop into sores, and most recently chewed the pad open on one of his toes (that one required a bandage, plastic boot, and a cone on his head). He has frequently been on steroid courses, and takes Zyrtec on a regular basis. His food allergy reactions have caused extreme dandruff, ear infections, skin infections, and mucus membrane infections. He has been on steroid courses for this as well.

So what is the solution to controlling such a precarious situation? Well, for the environmental allergies, check and see what the allergy “forecast” is for your area. The first step might be avoidance for the particular allergies your pet has. Second, avoid walking your dog in areas that are known to have weeds and grasses that your dog is allergic to. Also, if your dog is allergic to grass- like Reggie is- wipe their paws every time they come in the house with a medicated anti-microbial wipe. This has really helped cut down on the number of his reactions during the season. Remember- allergy season lasts until the first hard frost!

During the time of his diagnosis, the melamine in the food from China was going on and being a bit of a worrier….I researched EVERYTHING. Selecting human grade food made in the USA that had a zero recall record was important to me. Also, finding a combination of food that he could eat was a challenge! Reggie also has digestive issues (canine irritable bowel) that means he eats wet food and dry food; he can’t eat dry food alone. This also means that treat labels have to be carefully looked at for questionable ingredients. The verdict was Wellness Simple Duck & Rice (recently changed to Duck & Oatmeal). Wellness has been a great brand for both his food allergies and his digestion.

One note about food, your pet, and other people. People love to offer dogs treats and snacks, often even table food. They’re so cute, they even beg for the food how can you not give it to them?? Table food should be off limits even if your dog does not have food allergies. Many common things people may give to their pets can be dangerous for dogs. The high salt content in mini-franks can cause pancreatitis, grapes can damage the kidneys, and macadamia nuts affect the nervous system and these are all small items people may use for training treats. Your friend at a party may give Fido a chip with guacamole or salsa on it but those avocados can cause vomiting and diarrhea and the onions and garlic can damage red blood cells. If you smoke and your dog happened to be naughty and ate your cigarettes, depending on the weight of your dog and the number of cigarettes he/she ate, the nicotine could cause death. For a list refer to Drs. Foster and Smith Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Dog.

What have your challenges been with environmental or food allergies? What are your solutions or “tricks-of-the-trade”? Allergies are a lifelong problem, requiring evolution and modification of care, please share your stories!