This is the Environmental Impact of Having a Dog

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Having a dog is very common in almost every single country in the world. There is a reason why they are often referred to as “man`s best friend”. For thousands of years, dogs have shown great loyalty and companionship with humans. This is why dogs are the most common house pets.

But having a dog comes with a cost. And I am not referring to the cost of buying food, taking the dog to the veterinarian, buying medicines and such. I am referring to the environmental cost of having a dog.

In late 2017, Gregory Okin published a study called “Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats”. This study includes a wide range of interesting findings of the environmental cost of having a dog.

Let`s start.

Why is it bad for the environment to have a dog?

There are more than 163 million dogs and cats that are fed animal products every single day in the US alone. You would probably have to multiply that number with 10 in order to get global numbers. Needless to say, this contributes to releasing a huge amount of various greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The report also concludes that dogs and cats count for 25-30 % of the total environmental impact coming from animals in the US. That is a quite shocking number. Two out of a million species counting for a third of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, the biggest environmental impact from our house pets comes through what they eat. This is not very different from humans. We know for a fact that our diet will play a very significant role in our environmental footprint. So that the dogs` diet will play an important role in measuring their “environmental paw” is not a big surprise.

Other interesting facts from the study that you should be aware of:

– Cat`s and dog`s eating pattern are releasing the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving 13.6 million cars every year.

– There are 77.8 million dogs and 85.6 million cats in the USA. Dogs have a significantly higher environmental impact than cats, mainly due to the size difference.

– The scientist who wrote this article does not believe that we should give up having house pets. According to the conclusion part in the study, pets “provide a a host of real and perceived benefits to people including companionship, increased physical activity, improved mental health and social capital”. However, he believes that we should have a deep dig into how we can make our dogs eat less meat and therefore have less environmental impact.

– In US, cats and dogs consume the same dietary energy as 62 million Americans. That is about 19 % of the whole country.

Are humans to blame?

Yes, we are. Let us make this scenario: tomorrow, it would be a ban of keeping a dog or a cat as a house pet. All of them must be released and “live in the wild”. Survival of the fittest.

Naturally, a lot of the cats and dogs would die pretty quick. But the ones that would survive would have a totally different diet pattern than what they had when humans surrounded them every day. In other words: what we feed our dogs today is not the best option – neither for them nor for the environment.

This statement is given pretty clear at the end of the report from Okin (2017):

“Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.”

In other words, feeding dogs with an environmentally unfriendly diet is a human thing. Dogs & cats have not chosen this. They have gotten used to this over the last years as a part of their evolution, but it is something that was forced upon them by us humans.

What can you do as a dog owner to reduce the environmental impact?

You might be sitting in front of your phone or computer and think: “No way, there is no way I will let my dog down by giving him worse food in exchange for a better environment!”

And that is a very natural way of reacting. We love our dogs. They are intelligent, caring and smart. But there are still a couple of things you should do in order to make your house pet more eco-friendly:

#1 What does it eat?

It can be hard to change the food habits of your pet. Not only for the pet, but also for you. I had this conversation with a lot of dog owners among my close friends and they very often tend to ask questions like:

1) “What if my dog starts to dislike me because I am not giving it enough meat?”
2) “Are you sure he is not going to starve from the vegetable diet?”
3) “Is changing a dogs` diet really healthy?”

And I can guarantee you that there is a bigger barrier in the head of the dog owner rather than the dog itself. That being said, most dogs should be fed meat every week. But it all comes down to how you can balance it in a better way. I just browsed through Amazon and could see that there are a lot of eco-friendly dog food companies selling their products online. Could be worth to have a look. If you click here, you will get redirected to the section where Amazon sell these environmentally friendly dog food products.

#2 Environmentally friendly Poop Bags

No, I am not joking. This will actually make quite a big difference. With more than 75 million dogs walking around in United States, a lot of plastic are produced as poop bags. Needless to say, plastic is not a very good material for the environment.

When you type in “eco-friendly dog poop bags” in the search field on Amazon, which I have done for you here, you will automatically find many products that you can choose from. The reason why they are environmentally friendly is simply because they are biodegradable and will not harm the nature in any way.

Conclusion

Having a dog will automatically pollute the globe. You simply can´t escape that fact. But if you are careful in the way you feed your dog and the equipment you buy (poop bags included), you can minimize the environmental footprint. That is a great place to start.

And if you are in the situation where you consider different types of house pets, I would recommend you to read this article about getting a tortoise. 🙂

Relevant questions:

Is it safe for dogs to eat ecological dog food?

Yes, that should be safe. Your dog is not in need for meat products. If you go to Google.com and search for “environmentally friendly dog food“, you will find a lot of great options. Believe me: I have tried. 🙂

Would it be more eco-friendly to get a cat?

It would. Cats are smaller animals, and therefore consume less food. The carbon footprint of a cat is significantly smaller compared to a dog.

However, I am not saying that you should choose a pet based on how much it pollutes. I just give you the answer to what people actually are searching for online.

2 thoughts on “This is the Environmental Impact of Having a Dog”

  1. Avatar

    Of course you are right, but people are going to cry and complain because “they love their dogs”. I see environmentalists who fly airplanes, have dogs and babies, eat beef and never plan to go vegan….it`s fine that you destroy our planet, but PLEASE DONT call yourself an environmentalist.

    Because you`re not.

    1. Avatar

      Hi Maga, thanks for your comment.

      First of all, I really understand that people love their dog. You can’t really find an animal that connects with humans the same what that a dog does. This is also why I would not start to point any fingers at people or say that “having a dog is bad, get rid of it!”.

      I just wanted to provide useful information about the environmental impact of having a dog. And I hope that I succeeded in doing that in a good way. 🙂

      Best,
      Amund

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