As the world continues to fight climate change, we all need to make lifestyle changes. Riding a bike to work, using reusable shopping bags, and buying local produce can all help. But many people forget that they’re also responsible for their pet’s effect on the environment.
Thankfully, becoming an eco-friendly dog owner is easier than you may think. Here are five tips to reduce your dog’s ecological paw print.
1. Switch Dog Food
According to the Study of the Environmental Impacts of Food Consumption by Dogs and Cats, feeding our four-legged friends in the US alone “releases up to 64 ± 16 million tons of CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide.”
One of the best ways to reduce the impact of dog food is to look for varieties that contain by-products from the meat industry, such as organ meat and animal bone meal. These might not sound appealing, but can be healthy for pets and prevent unwanted meat ending up in landfill.
It’s also a good idea to avoid ingredients shipped from other countries. There is a high environmental impact to shipping foods over long distances, so look for foods that are made in your country.
In addition, try to buy in bulk whenever possible, as this reduces wasted packaging.
2. Get Creative With Toys
Dogs need lots of mental stimulation and playtime. Unfortunately, many dog toys are not environmentally friendly. With the global pet toy market set to reach $3.7 billion by 2027, it’s essential that people look at other ways to keep their dogs more sustainably entertained.
Aside from buying toys made from sustainable or recyclable materials, it’s also easy to create homemade toys. A good example is hiding treats inside cardboard boxes, as many dogs love trying to get them out. You can also tie up an old t-shirt for a simple tug toy. Just make sure that any toy you make only uses dog-safe materials!
Additionally, don’t throw unwanted dog toys away unless they are dangerously worn. Instead, donate to a friend with a dog or to a local shelter.
3. Rethink How You Poop Pick
Dog poop is bad for the environment, so it should always be picked up. If it gets into water bodies, it can pollute water with harmful bacteria that cause excessive algae and weed growth. It’s also potentially dangerous (and unpleasant!) for anyone who steps in it.
However, plastic poop bags are also a problem for the environment. Many bags that are marketed as biodegradable don’t degrade unless they are in specific conditions – and some fail to degrade at all.
To reduce the environmental impact of picking up poop, you should avoid throwing bags into trash that ends up at landfill. You also shouldn’t put poop into your regular garden compost bin, as it might contain dangerous bacteria.
Instead, try to use a separate dog-waste only composting bin. This can be used as a fertilizer for flowers and other non-edible plants, but never for anything you’re going to eat.
Alternatively, you may be able to flush the waste straight down the toilet, or in water-soluble bags. You’ll need a high-quality scooper to make this quick and convenient, so use this guide to help you choose. Make sure you check your local regulations before doing this, though, as it’s not always allowed.
When using a bag is the only option, ASTM and USDA Certified biobased specifications are the best ones to go for, as some products claim to be eco-friendly and biodegradable without any proof.
4. Make Your Own Dog Treats
Store-bought dog treats typically have a lot of plastic packaging, as well as some dubious ingredients, such as palm oil.
Palm oil can have a laxative effect on dogs, as well as causing an upset stomach, or even dehydration. It is also responsible for a huge loss of biodiversity and deforestation.
Making your own homemade dog treats is fun, inexpensive, and much more eco-friendly. You can tailor your recipe to suit your dog’s likes and dietary requirements, plus I make mine with what is seasonally available to cut down on their carbon footprint.
It’s a good idea to make a large batch of doggy treats that will last for several weeks. I fill up two glass jars, so no plastic wrappers are needed. With so many great recipes to try online, I have loads of new ideas to try out using sustainable, local ingredients.
Be careful what you put in your treats though. Many human foods are toxic to dogs, so check everything is safe before you begin.
5. Use Non-Toxic Routine Treatments
Flea treatments are a useful medical tool, but recent research suggests that many flea prevention products are damaging to the environment. This is because they often contain imidacloprid or fipronil, which are both potent insecticides. When these chemicals build up in the environment, they may harm important insect populations.
For this reason, it’s worth discussing your dog’s continuous flea treatment with a vet. Your pet may not need flea treatment in the winter, for example, as fleas are less common during this time. Or your vet may suggest eco-friendly alternatives.
Preventing home infestations, which is where the fleas live and breed, can also be effective. As with all medical decisions, it’s important to discuss any change in treatment with a veterinary professional, as all dogs are different.
There are many small changes you can make to become an eco-friendly dog owner.
Sourcing your dog’s food locally, making homemade treats and toys, and being more mindful about disposing of your dog’s waste can all make a difference. Once you get started, you’ll realise that there are almost endless ways to make dog ownership more sustainable.
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