All-natural vs. Manmade: The debate’s not as simple as some may think.

It’s all-natural; so, it must be safe – right?  Not necessarily. 
Ebola, rabies, arsenic, radon, and curare are all-natural; however, none of them are “safe.”  Even though nature provides us with excellent nutrition, livelihoods, therapy, recreation, and much more, some of the world’s most powerful toxins exist naturally.  Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that’s commonly found in soil, produces one of the most deadly neurotoxins ever known.  The Box jellyfish, death cap mushroom, foxglove, and blue-ringed octopus are just a few more examples of the plethora of nature packing a deadly punch.  Lesser known or publicized, yet with potentially the same final outcome for those effected, are situations in which people or animals are given or exposed to seemingly “safe” natural products.  Grapes and raisins are simple and all-natural, but they can cause renal failure and death in dogs.  Yard clippings seem pretty harmless, yet feeding them to a horse may result in a fatal colic.  Imbalanced or unnecessary supplements can also cause problems such as overdosing your dog with vitamin C could result in it developing urinary stones.  Thus, to blindly equate the term “all-natural” with the notion that it must be safe and good for you is a naïve and potentially fatal mistake.

The manmade stuff is bad – isn’t it?  Not necessarily.  Just like substances from nature, it depends on which “stuff” you’re talking about and how you intend to use it.  Plus, a lot of the manmade stuff is modified natural stuff.  Try to imagine your life without plastics.  While some might initially grin at the prospect, the reality is that plastics are extremely important and vastly utilized.  You’re using plastics right now if you’re viewing this electronically.  If you’re reading this on a hard copy, then several manmade products were utilized – paper, printer components, and toner or ink depending on your setup.  With all the benefits of plastic, society just needs to recycle it more.  Similarly, many of the medications helping people and animals on a daily basis are manmade as are many disinfectants and pesticides that are vital to the prevention and control of diseases and harmful pests.               

Six things everyone should know regarding products (all-natural or manmade) that they use with or around their animals 

1.  Almost anything used in the wrong way or in the wrong amounts can be bad – regardless if it’s all-natural or manmade.  If a product that you intend to use has a label, you need read and follow it – including species specific claims and warnings.

  • Macadamia nuts are great when used in cookies; however, feeding macadamia nuts to dogs can cause our furry friends to get a severe pancreatitis like syndrome.
  • Giving monensin containing feed, which is labeled for cattle, to horses can kill them.
  • Using flea and tick control products labeled for dogs to control the pests on cats may kill the cats subjected to it.

2.  Look beyond the hype – educate yourself about the true benefits and risks of substances (including household chemicals, pesticides, yard products, foods, supplements, medications, etc.) to which you, your family, and your animals are exposed.

  • In addition to reading the label, ask your veterinarian and physician questions you might have about the product’s safety for your animals and family respectively.
  • If you still have questions, contact the manufacturer and research the items online, including searches of the item incorporating the terms “adverse events,” “reactions,” and “recalls.”

3. Find out if there are safer alternative products that provide the same benefits.

  • Ask your veterinarian and physician.
  • Check out the EPA’s program, Designed for the Environment (DfE), at www.epa.gov/dfe and search for potential alternatives that are environmentally safer products.

4.  Before subjecting your animals to new products (supplements, treats, diets, shampoos, parasite control, disinfectants, etc.), check with your veterinarian. 

  • While the product you’re considering may be a good one, it may be problematic in some cases depending on the species, health status, conditions, and medications of your animals.
  • Adding supplements to an animal’s already balanced diet could do more harm than good, especially if it disrupts the Ca:P ratio, results in hypervitaminosis, or interferes with the bioavailability or absorption of other key nutrients.

5.  If you suspect a problem because of something you or your animal has been exposed to, get help it immediately! 

 6.  After you’ve sought help, report the problem to authorities.

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