The Truth About The Environmental Impact of Dogs
There are many things that we have to think about when we are trying to live a green lifestyle. One of the things that you need to consider when you are trying to protect the planet is the environmental impact of your pets.
Understand the Environmental Impact of Your Dog
Owning or adopting a dog has become increasingly popular over the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced most of us to stay indoors and minimize social contact with other humans. The desire for friendly interactions and the increase of people working from home led to a boom in dog ownership.
According to Forbes, 78% of pet owners acquired pets during the pandemic, with dogs proving most popular in all age categories. Social media-friendly breeds such as the Extreme American Bully, Pug, or French Bulldog have been particularly popular.
Although dogs enrich our lives in many ways, we have to address the elephant in the room, namely, the environmental impact of these lovable companions. One study cited by The Sierra Club shows that dogs and cats account for 1.5% of all methane and nitrous oxide emissions. This can definitely harm the planet.
You don’t have to give up having a pet altogether if you want to protect the planet. However, you do need to know what steps you should take to be an eco-friendly pet owner.
In this article, we tell all!
The Dog Waste Issue
One of the most obvious ways that dogs impact the environment is through their feces. Although placing the poop into a plastic bag for disposal is the right thing to do, it does have a harmful environmental impact.
You may think that leaving your dog poop to naturally decompose is an environmentally friendly solution. Wrong! Dog feces left to rot can damage ecosystems as they get washed into rivers and drains.
The dog waste bags that you deposit in dog bins typically end in landfill sites. In the US alone, dogs approximately produce the same amount of feces as 90 million humans, which equates to 5.1 million tons. Transportation and processing of waste on this scale require a significant carbon dioxide output.
Another problem with dog waste is that it can pollute nearby bodies of water. The USDA reports that it can deplete oxygen fish and other water-based life need to survive and lead to the growth of harmful algae.
The feces itself also contains a significant amount of methane, which is a pollutant gas.
The Dog Food Issue
According to Gregory Okin, a Professor at UCLA, the meat contained in dog food products is responsible for up to 30% of the environmental impact of American meat intake.
In pure meat terms, it is estimated that 32 billion pounds of meat protein are consumed by dogs each year in the US alone. Extrapolate this to the whole world, and that is a lot of meat consumption.
The meat found in premium dog foods is normally meat off-cuts designed for humans. Although many vets will recommend you use premium dog food products, as the meat used in these products typically enters the human meat supply chain, it contributes to a net increase in overall meat production.
Dogs benefit from the protein derived from poultry and beef cattle to build and maintain muscle growth. Meat protein is especially important during the growth phases and for highly active dogs.
However, the land, water, and food required to feed meat farming create a huge carbon footprint.
Most environmental scientists argue that reducing meat consumption is one of the most environmentally friendly steps you can take as a household. Unfortunately, owning a dog will make this shift very challenging.
The Dog Product Issue
Dog products, whether they be treats, toys, collars, bowls, grooming products, or beds, all require carbon inputs. For example, the extraction of raw materials, single-use plastic, or the carbon outputs in the processing and transportation of these goods around the world.
Many dog products are difficult to recycle so will also end up in a landfill.
Is there hope?
You’ve probably worked out that dogs are not great for the environment. But there are ways in which you can try to be eco-friendly while enjoying dog ownership.
This is a buzzword currently, but it applies well to dog owners.
Being a responsible consumer means taking more accountability for your purchases in terms of their environmental impact.
The more consumers purchase sustainable dog products, the more firms that are using unsustainable practices will either change or be driven out of business.
Luckily, awareness of the environmental impact of dogs is gathering pace. There is a growing range of sustainable doggy products for you to buy for your pup.
For example, biodegradable dog bags are commonplace and easily available, while many food manufacturers have shifted away from using meat proteins towards other sources of protein such as insects.
Sustainable Grooming Products
Grooming your dog is an essential weekly or monthly activity for dog owners. Historically, flea medicines and dog shampoo products have contained plenty of harmful chemicals which are not good for the environment.
There are now a wide variety of environmentally friendly grooming products available for consumers which have biodegradable packaging, organic ingredients and also remove harmful toxins.
Finding eco-friendly tick and flea treatments is more challenging, but consulting vets is a good first step as they can provide quality advice.
Make At Home
Another great way is to make products and foods for your dog at home. Think about products you can recycle, rather than purchase new, and you can easily reduce your carbon footprint.
Dogs can also consume human foods so you can simply extend your household cooking to your dog if you want to avoid dog food products with meat proteins.
As much as we love our furry companions, we have to acknowledge that in an era of climate change, dogs do have a detrimental impact on our natural environment. The feces, use of meat in dog food, and carbon outputs from the creation of dog products all lead to a sizeable carbon footprint.
However, all is not lost. We live in times where responsible consumerism is increasingly widespread, with dog product manufacturers changing their processes to make more sustainable products.
Likewise, you can alter your behaviors by making dog food at home and recycling rather than buying new.