Pets Going Green: Healthier Options for Your Furry or Feathered Friends

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio

The craze for natural and organic products doesn’t stop with humans. More and more companies are offering healthier alternatives to standard pet products, including better foods, natural treats, and more eco-friendly bedding, toys, supplies, and even holistic health remedies. Before you get stuck in the same old dog food rut, consider the more natural and organic ways to help your pets go green.


If you could increase the number of years your pet is with you by purchasing a better food, would you do it? Veterinarians and trainers often tout the benefits that natural pet foods offer, with the most important advantage being the probability of a longer lifetime for your pet. Holistic foods contain better nutrients for your animals, helping them to stay healthier on many levels.

“Pet foods are the biggest ‘green’ category and the most important thing; you use them every single day,” says AJ ElChaar, general manager of CHAAR, a pet and livestock supply store in the Lehigh Valley. The biggest impact on a pet’s health is using a good, natural pet food, made from good ingredients, not fillers or byproducts, or artificial preservatives. You don’t want that in your own food, why give that to your pet?”

ElChaar advises that pet dogs and cats are not really meant to have grains in their diets. He says pet food manufacturers have realized many customers are privy to the key filler ingredients, like corn, so they are finding creative ways to continue selling pet food made from fillers and low-grade ingredients.

“The most important thing is to read the real ingredients in the food, not just what it says on the front of the bag,” he says. “It’s just an advertisement; if you really want to know what’s in the food, you’ve got to turn the bag over and read the official ingredients in the food. You don’t want corn, wheat, or soy; stay away from byproducts. Stay away from those big three. The most important thing is to continue educating yourself about your pet’s diet as if it were your own diet, read things, talk to people, and try different foods for your dog or cat.”

If you like your dog to have chews from time to time, consider the all-natural chews known as Bully Sticks. ElChaar recommends these treats as an alternative to rawhides as they are naturally preserved from free range cattle and provide a much healthier substitute for standard dog chews.

Leader of the Pack Canine Institute, a doggie daycare and training facility in Allentown, recently started selling Canine Caviar, an all-natural dog food that is known as the only raw, dehydrated meat diet available in dry kibble form for canines. The food is available in chicken, lamb and top-of-the-line venison. This premium holistic dog food contains no corn, soy, wheat, or byproducts and is all natural and allergen free.

When in doubt about your pet’s food, simply speak to your veterinarian.


A wide variety of eco-friendly, natural, and holistic pet products are available so pet owners can help the environment while also improving quality of life for their pets. Experts in the pet industry agree that most times consumers must read packaging closely to determine the most natural, green options.

“It’s completely subjective and depends on how far down the supply chain you want to go in determining a product’s ‘greenness’,” says Chaar. “Is the product green? Is the packaging green? Is the plant that makes it green? Is the truck that brought it here green? Is the truck that delivered the raw materials to the plant green? Were the raw materials harvested in a ‘green’ fashion? There’s no way to quantify all of those things and determine if, or how much of, a product is truly green. The most important thing people can do is stay informed by reading about, talking about, and trying different things. Everyone also needs to understand what their own expectations are for green or natural products, and how far they’re willing to go to get them – in terms of principle and in terms of cost.”

CHAAR sells countless green products for pets, including bedding especially for horses and livestock, natural pet foods and horse feeds, eco-friendly pet toys made from recycled materials and all-natural chews. The store also sells organic shampoos and conditioners for dogs or cats, natural remedies for fleas and ticks and cleaning products for pet messes in the house. Many of CHAAR’s wild bird supplies are natural as well.

“People nowadays are coming up with ingenious ways to make eco-friendly products,” ElChaar says. “There are so many different ways to come up with an eco-friendly product – at the end of the day, benefitting the earth as well as your dog or cat.”


Wright Veterinary Medical Center, PC in Bethlehem has its own Animal Therapy Center that offers acupuncture, aromatherapy, rehabilitation, and herbal medicines for pets. The therapy center has a custom designed, heated in-ground therapy pool with ramp access, standard and incline underwater treadmills, gymnasium with low impact flooring and three individual therapy suites to help pets rehabilitate from their conditions. Most of the therapy clients are dogs and cats (though there has been one bird!) with pain management needs  including: cancer, arthritis, seizures, behavioral issues and post-operative mending. Various therapies have been used in conjunction with Western medicine to treat diabetes and Cushing’s disease (a chronic overproduction of hormones that regulate proteins, carbohydrates and fat metabolism).

With a special focus on holistic medicine at Wright Vet, Dr. Danielle Dulin, MVB, CVA, specializes in acupuncture and reiki for pets while also applying techniques from Chinese and Western herbal modalities. Physiotherapist Beth Kenny specializes in rehabilitative medicine, particularly physical therapy for dogs. Dr. Pamela Mueller, DVM, PhD, is Wright Vet’s rehab veterinarian with advanced training in canine rehabilitation and a focus on nutrition and exercise.

“We’ve done particularly well with senior pets, dogs with arthritis, neurologic problems and those having trouble walking,” says Dr. Danielle Dulin, MVB, CVA. “Most of what we do in rehab is animals with mobility issues, post-surgical rehab, knee surgery, and back surgery after blowing out a disc. We have done quite well with dogs going from paralyzed to helping them walk again, getting function back in their legs.”

“Senior pets are older and have trouble with stairs and cars, etc., and we get them doing stretching massage, strengthening, and water exercises,” she adds “A lot of these dogs really improve. Owners assume with age they are on a downhill, but we can get them better or help to maintain and prevent them from getting worse. Some dogs even have weight loss; we help get the weight off with swimming. When they lose weight, pets have more energy and can walk better.”

Mueller assists dogs and cats with rehab, which generally includes specific exercises that are made into “tricks” with rewards, targeted work, walking on a leash and stretching, to name a few.

“Many times owners think the dog is just old,” Dr. Mueller says. “It is so exciting to show that we can do things for these pets. With a younger dog, people expect you can fix it; we can’t always fix everything. It’s quite a niche market for senior pets.”

Mueller looks forward to treating more performance dogs in the therapy center. She has two performance dogs, a terrier and a border collie, competing in agility. In addition to holistic foods and products, good old-fashioned exercise is also vital for your pet’s health. In general, pets that are fitter tend to live longer, she says.

“A holistic veterinarian treats the whole animal taking into account environment and lifestyle as well as physical factors,” says Dulin. “Integrative or complementary medicine offers a variety of modalities including but not limited to acupuncture, herbal therapy, reiki, aromatherapy, etc., to treat illness, relieve pain and maintain overall health and well being of our pets.”

Visit for a Liver Bread recipe your dogs and cats are sure to enjoy.

Wright Veterinary Medical Center, PC
Animal Therapy Center
3247 B Wimmer Road
Bethlehem, PA 18020

1635 Airport Rd
Allentown, PA 18109

Leader of the Pack Canine Institute
6346 Farm Bureau Rd.
Allentown, PA 18106

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