5 Ways to Reduce the Lead in Your Dog’s Home Environment

In honor of National Lead Poison Prevention Week, we're listing ways to get the lead out of our dogs' lives.


National Lead Poison Prevention Week was last week. The joint goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is to raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning, considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet approximately half a million U.S. kids have blood lead levels high enough to raise concern.

This week, we’re shining the lead-free spotlight on Spot. Lead intoxication is no longer just a concern for parents of human children — now it’s something for pet parents to think about preventing as well.

Not only are dogs the new kids, they’re also often much smaller than their cute noncanine counterparts, and therefore even more vulnerable to lead intoxication. Here are five pointers to keep in mind if we want to create a lead-free home environment for all our loved ones. And, if you suspect that your dog may be suffering from lead poisoning, please rush to the vet without delay.

1. Pet-safe paint

If there’s any part of your home with peeling paint of unknown vintage that you suspect may contain lead, don’t let your dog anywhere near it. As we all know from first-paw experience, dogs explore everything with their tongues, so they’re more likely than not to lap up those paint particles and succumb to lead poisoning.

If you’re the homeowner and your budget permits, definitely undertake a lead abatement project with a professional contractor to eliminate this toxic risk from your home. (And if any area of your home needs a quick paint touch-up, try Mythic Paint, which is completely non-toxic and VOC-free.)

2. Fido-friendly furnishings

Does your decor feature furniture that’s painted, but you didn’t paint it yourself? It’s very possible that the paint used in the item’s manufacture contains lead, which poses a problem for pups who gnaw on the corners or legs of certain home furnishings. If you can’t replace or repaint these items, use a taste deterrent to keep Spot away from them — simply squeezing the oil from an orange rind usually does the trick, as pets don’t love the scent of citrus, or try Grannick’s Bitter Apple.

3. Toxic toys

Many toys designed for pets’ enjoyment are, as we’ve all been warned, manufactured in China and contain dangerous levels of lead. If you’re unsure about a certain product, look it up on the excellent web site Healthy Stuff, which maintains lists of kids’ and pets’ toys, equal oppawtunity-style, disclosing dangers of innocent-seeming yet poisonous products.

Remember, too, that many toys designed for children can also contain lead, so don’t assume that just because a toy is marketed to human kids, it’s safe for pets.

4. Wet-Stuff Warning

You probably use a water filter to improve the taste and safety of the tap water you drink every day. Kindly extend that courtesy to your best friend and furry family member, especially if you reside in an older home with lead pipes. A good water filter will remove lead in addition to numerous other hazardous substances that threaten to toxify our water supply. Meanwhile, although it’s fun to give Spot sips from the garden hose, be aware that many hoses contain hazardous levels of lead, so please don’t do it.

Frankenstorm Footnote: Floodwater left behind by Hurricane Sandy looks dirty because, well, it is. Among the possible contaminants this “rainwater” contains are lead, arsenic, E. coli, and hepatitis A. If you’ve walked your dog through floodwater, give him a bath, or at the very least thoroughly wash his paws with emollient, non-drying soap so he won’t lick at them and ingest lead and other toxins (and do keep his paw-pads moisturized with some sort of balm, to prevent toxins from seeping in through cracked skin).

5. Bowled over

Equally as important as the quality of water you serve Spot is the type of bowl you serve it in. Believe it or not, the glaze on that attractive ceramic bowl Spot’s been dining or sipping his water from could contain dangerous amounts of lead — and that means the toxic substance is leaching, daily, into the food he’s eating and the water he’s drinking. For safety’s sake, provide food and water for your dogs in a bowl that you know to be lead-free, ideally one made of high-quality stainless steel.

Did we leave anything out? Got some tips for getting the lead out of Spot’s home environment? Please share in the comments!

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