Why Dogs Are Harmful to the Environment

Dogs and cats are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S.

Dogs are adorable, but they’re just like us - they produce a lot of carbon pawprint! Image by Jenny Yoon.

I’m guessing you love dogs or even own one if you’re reading this right now. I mean, no one can resist petting cute puppies when they see one, am I right? I’m also guessing you’re interested in sustainability, or at least aware of the term “global warming.” By now, you may be wondering where this writer is going with these two very unconnected terms. Sorry to break it to you, dogs contribute nothing good to the environment. In fact, they contribute to global warming, the controversial issue everyone talks about.

These are the type of dog foods you can find in average U.S. grocery stores. As you can see here, most of them contain meat since protein is crucial for dogs to earn certain nutrients, such as vitamin A and D. Image by Jenny Yoon.

Now let me tell you how. It’s not that they walk too much and burn fossil fuel during transportation. They’re not like cows that fart methane gas into the atmosphere. However, they DO produce a pretty significant carbon “pawprint” (haha, get it?). If you didn’t get the joke, it’s fine — I’ll explain. According to Oxford Languages, a carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc. The “pawprint” is the footprint produced by dogs since they have paws instead of feet. So now you may ask, “but how do dogs make that much carbon?” It’s the food they eat. Professor Gregory Okin claims that based on his calculations, the meat-based food Americans’ dogs and cats eat (and the waste they make) generates “the equivalent of about 64 million tons of CO2 each year”. That’s about 13.6 million cars driving for a year. In simple words, dogs and cats are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S. Through livestock production, a substantial amount of greenhouse gas is emitted.

Dogs are omnivores just like us. They eat plant foods, but their diets are mostly composed of meat. Dogs need more protein than humans do to survive, and giving them a vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to inadequate total protein intake. For dogs, certainly vegetarian diets can be done, but they MUST be done very carefully. Dogs can easily go vitamin A and D deficient because they cannot make those vitamins in their skin. Taurine deficiency is also very common in dogs who are being fed a vegetarian diet since they need to be provided with the right building blocks through dietary protein to make them.

Make sure to consult with a veterinary nutritionist who can analyze your commercial or even home-made vegan/ vegetarian pet foods before you start feeding them. Image by Jenny Yoon.

I’m not here to tell you to change your dogs’ diet to completely vegan. For cats, not feeding any meat will be harmful since it can lead to heart and eye problems from the lack of taurine. I’m just here to inform you that this is what’s happening. If you’re really into going vegan and live for sustainability, talking to a professional and planning out your dog’s diet can sure become real! Just make sure to include all the necessary vitamins and proteins. We don’t want any dogs to be harmed here!

Passionate for environmental and chemical engineering. Writer at The Innovation, Climate Conscious, and Age of Awareness. Love recycling and composting!

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