The movement towards a healthier, more sustainable way of life has made people more mindful about the food they eat, the products they buy, and the resources they consume. Reducing one’s carbon footprint is not an easy task, and can in fact be quite prohibitive in terms of cost and access to alternative options. For those who do commit to this paradigm shift, being is its own reward, along with knowing that you contribute consciously to the care of our planet.

It goes without saying that pet owners who have committed to a greener lifestyle will want to make the same choices―whenever possible―for the animal members of their household. Fair warning: most of what is commercially available locally are products geared towards cats and dogs since these are the most common house pets. Owners of birds, small animals, and other less ordinary pets will have to explore online forums and local pet communities to source healthier alternatives.

Organic or Natural?

But first, let us define key words that will come up when seeking healthier options: organic and natural. All organic products are natural, but not all natural products are organic, especially in the United States and the European Union, where the “organic” label (and corresponding trademarked logo) can only be used by producers that have passed stringent standards for quality, including but not limited to:

• Products made without the use of toxic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, growth hormones, sewage sludge or irradiation;

• Products made via processes that pass animal welfare regulations and a farm-to-table audit;• Products made via processes that emit lower levels of pollution.

Most imported organic products available locally are imported from the United States, so it’s best to check if a product of American origin carries a USDA Organic seal.

Further information on these certifications can be found at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html and http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/index_en.htm.

Here in the Philippines, the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (http://www.occpphils.org/) is the only accreditation agency authorized by the Department of Agriculture to certify organic farms in the country.

There is currently no certifying body for other kinds of organic products―or, for that matter, no government regulations for natural products―so local products labeled thus follow their producers’ own standards. It is best to exercise due diligence and only buy from trusted suppliers.

Grooming Aids

We have a surfeit of local beauty brands that offer affordable natural alternatives to commercial soaps, shampoos, and makeup; commercial products, while affordable, may contain carcinogenic or other harmful synthetic ingredients. Luckily for us, our favorite brands have begun expanding their lines to include grooming products for dogs; better yet, they’re readily available from stand-alone kiosks, supermarkets, and environmentally conscious boutiques, or from individual direct-marketing resellers and online stores.

Human Nature (http://humanheartnature.com) collaborated with brand ambassador and former Bond girl Rachel Grant to create their Furry Kind line: Cocomutt Shampoo in Tangerine Treat and Sunshine Serum. The shampoo’s coconut base helps it rebuild and strengthen fur, while the leave-on serum’s infusion of sunflower, soybean, and sweet orange oil detangles and deodorizes to give dogs a smooth and silky coat.

Another trusted beauty line, Zenutrients (http://www.zenutrients.com.ph) also has a shampoo line for dogs. Best Friend Dog Shampoo has a virgin coconut oil (VCO) base, but comes in two variants: Acapulco and Pink Guava, chosen not just for their scent, but also for their anti-bacterial properties.

In addition to grooming, Giga Pet Organics (http://giga.com.ph) products also promise to drive away parasites and relieve minor skin conditions.

Flea Away Pet Cologne contains all-natural flea, tick, and lice repellents, while their Pet Balm soothes itches and irritations. Note that each of these products list VCO as a key ingredient.

Widely recognized as a “wonder” oil, VCO helps maintain furry coats’ strength, prevents premature skin aging, and treat yeast and fungal infections. Pet owners on a budget may want to try using VCO on their dogs and cats.

Eating Healthy

When it comes to food, the organic label is prized because of the quality associated with it: you know that the raw ingredients are top-notch. But preparation and appropriateness is equally important. Even the best ingredients, when prepared in an unhealthy manner, will still result in an inadequate meal.

Holistic veterinary medicine pioneer Karen Becker notes that among the many possible diets that owner can feed their pets, a balanced, raw homemade diet lies at the top end of the spectrum, followed closely by a balanced, cooked homemade diet, while an unbalanced, cooked homemade diet lands at last place; commercial brands lie somewhere in the middle, depending on quality.

Pet owners with time and resources can prepare their own food using organic ingredients sourced from local farmers and breeders, but should consult with their veterinarian. To discuss their pet’s dietary needs.

Sustainable Manila compiles a handy list of suppliers of organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, and free-range poultry (http://www.sustainablemanila.com/p/sustainable-shopping-guide.html).

A quick search in the Pet Food listings of MyPetFinderPH (http://www.mypetfinderph.com) will yield suppliers offering homemade raw ingredients and prepared meals.

For healthy, cooked treats, dog and cat owners can go to Whole Pet Kitchen Pet Deli and Barkery in San Juan and place an order for any of their savory biscuits, muffins, and “cakes”; their website (http://wholepetkitchen.com) also has an online shop. Chef Gianinna Gonzales creates her recipes in consultation with a veterinarian and uses human-grade ingredients for all of her products.

Super-premium and veterinarian-recommended pet food brands rank highest among commercial brands because of its all-natural label: high-quality, human-grade ingredients and no artificial flavorings, colors, and additives.

Bow and Wow―The All Natural Pet Store has the largest selection of natural and organic dog and cat food brands imported from the United States. Of the many brands that they carry, Nummy Tum Tum stands out because it can be fed to both dogs and cats, even rabbits. It only comes in two variants―pumpkin and sweet potato―and is often used as a nutritional supplement to promote healthy digestion.

An online pet store I Love My Pets (http://ilovemypets.ph) carries Doggyman Natural Organic dry food from China; an online search shows no negative product reviews and multiple pet stores carrying the brand across Asia and Oceania.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2016 issue.