Dogs: Worse for the Environment than SUVs?

By Julie Knapp, MNN

If youíre a dog owner and call yourself eco-conscious, guilt might set in after reading the new book Time to Eat the Dog? The real guide to sustainable living by Robert and Brenda Vale, which reveals dogs are worse for the environment than SUVs.

The authors, who designed the first sustainable settlement in the United Kingdom in 1996 and are architecture professors at Victory University of Wellington in New Zealand, measured the environmental impact of our lifestyles from the food we eat to how we travel to sports, hobbies and pets based on the Ecological Footprint technique created by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees.

Bottom line: Our pooches cost the Earth more than a Toyota Land Cruiser. According to the Vales’ research, a medium-sized dog has twice the impact of driving the luxury SUV 10,000 miles. Why? “Basically dogs are bad for the environment because they are large carnivores, so it takes a lot of land to provide their foods,” says Robert Vale. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to get Fido out of the doghouse.

Put your dog on a diet

Since your canine’s carnivorous diet is the biggest factor in his environmental impact, start by looking at what goes in the dog bowl. Most dog food isn’t produced in an eco-friendly way, and the heavy bags of kibble or cans of wet food have to travel miles to get to your door.

Dr. Viv Harris, veterinarian and author of Natural Remedies Dogs and Cats Wish You Knew: A Holistic Care Guide, suggests making your own dog food using locally grown or organic veggies. Your vet can help you work out the perfect mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins to meet your dog’s needs. And with all of the tainted pet food scandals in recent years, your dog may be better off eating homemade meals anyway. After all, many dog foods that claim to be natural still contain byproducts or low-grade meats.

If the do-it-yourself doggie diet sounds like too much work, look for smaller, locally made dog food brands. Or select chicken or rabbit based-kibble, which have a lower impact than beef.

Do your doodie duty

If you ask the Vales, dog poo isn’t such a big deal compared to what goes in the other end. However, if you don’t scoop up the poop, it can contaminate our waterways. If you’re a city dweller and use plastic bags to clean up, choose biodegradable poop bags.

Shop smart

Just like when you shop for yourself, think about the impact of the products you buy for your pets. Choose dog shampoos that are free of sodium lauryl sulfate. For toys and dog beds, avoid plastic and synthetic products and look to natural fibers like organic cotton or hemp as well as products made from recycled goods. We love SimplyFido’s hemp plush collection, West Paw’s Eco Nap dog bed made from recycled plastic bottles, and Planet Dog’s balls made from post-production material that would otherwise be discarded.

Use birth control

Spaying and neutering your dog might sound inhumane, but it’s the eco-conscious thing to do. “Reducing the overpopulation of dogs is crucial,” Harris says. If your dog alone creates an impact bigger than an SUV, just think what its accidental litter of puppies could do!

Choose safe flea and tick treatments

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), some flea control products pose a cancer risk to children up to 1,000 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agencyís acceptable limits. Keep these chemicals off little fingers and your pet’s fur by talking to your vet about safer treatments or by choosing from the NRDC’s list of safer flea control choices.

You can also make natural solutions at home. In her book, Harris suggests creating a DIY flea wash. Start with a base of castile soap and add 10 drops of lavender, five drops of eucalyptus, five drops of rosemary and five drops of cajuput oil.

Consider other pets

We’re not suggesting you part ways with your pooch right now, but if you don’t have a dog yet or are considering a second pet, you might want to think outside the dog box. According to the Vales, a goldfish is equal to the impact of just two cell phones; two hamsters or four canaries can be compared to a plasma TV; and a cat is only as bad as a Smart Car. Even smaller dogs are better than big dogs.

Change your own habits

Just like you can buy carbon credits when you take a long-haul flight, you can try to balance out your dog’s impact by making some changes of your own. If you don’t want to give up Fido, maybe you should give up meat or your car instead. Of course, smaller changes or buying carbon credits can help, too.


Chrissie R
Chrissie R25 days ago

Thank you for posting.

Renya S.
Renya S3 years ago

You can't compare a living, breathing, loving soul to a car. Reducing your dog's carbon paw-print is a good idea but do it without disrespecting these beautiful creatures.

Vanessa Wolfe
Vanessa Wolfe5 years ago

I think the point of the article is really to make us all aware of how we live our lives and give us pause to stop and think. This kind of research enables us to make informed decisions so we can choose for ourselves where we can make a difference. The details are not as important as the big picture. Remember commercial dog food is big business, profit driven and most of them not at all healthy for your dog it's just convenient. Just making this one change can have a huge impact. Cook a little extra when you cook your own, they love it.

Jose L.
Jose L.5 years ago

When it comes to dog poop i always purchase my dog poop bags from

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson6 years ago

Well I knew about dog food manufacturers being bad for the environment but I know more about it now. I am still keeping my little lab mix puppy

Marjaana V.
marjaana v6 years ago

wow! what a bizarre article and off the wall "research". [who paid for That?]

let me see... the kid's dad had a stroke, so he's expendable. one of my grandkids has tourettes, so maybe she should be tossed to the scrap heap, too. they just take up space and use up valuable resources for .........WHOM exactly?

if we start with dogs, where will we end with this?

you will drive your SUV a LOT further than 10 000 m.

good grief.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan6 years ago

No Dam Way. If that is the case then so are humans, mainly the GOP & Teabaggers

Howard C.
.6 years ago

I am not sure if this post is intended as joke or a provactive remark. A dog (a living being) is more harmful than a SUV (a manmade item), oh come on! There are lies, damned lies and the worst lies of all ...... statistics!!! Let's look at these two entities (dogs are entities - SUVs are machines but for this purpose), dogs eat things that would otherwise go to waste, basically the bits of animals that we slaughter for our own consumption, bits that we wouldn't eat and would otherwise go to land fill (and give out methane whilst they decompose). SUVs, or any other motor vechicle for that matter, consume (utilise) carbon that was laid down in far distant history. If you posted this to provoke thought Julie then I salute you; if you actually believe it then ...........

Barack Baboo R.
Barack Baboo R.6 years ago

It’s an absolute annoyance, but your dog’s waste can pose a huge threat to the sanitation levels in your surroundings. You can’t have your pet’s poop sticking on your shoes, messing up your backyard, your neighbors’ lawns, or even park grounds. The smell of doggy doo can turn anyone’s stomach, attract flies, germs, and even pollute the nearby water supply. That’s why you need to have a steady supply of Biodegradable Dog Poop Bags on hand. Dog poop bags are the best answer to your dog’s leavings, and while many people make do with ordinary plastic bags, think what that’s going to do to the environment. A single plastic bag will take a minimum of 500 years to disintegrate! Biodegradable dog waste bags, on the other hand, will ensure you can ditch your dog’s poop without hurting the earth in the process. With these sanitary doggie bags, neat disposal of your pet’s poop is as simple as scooping it up, tying the poop bags closed, and throwing it in the trash. You won’t even have to fret about escaping odors. Biodegradable dog poop bags come in scented and colorful rolls that, amazingly enough, add personality to your trash bin. Now who wouldn’t want that kind of garbage-scaping deal? Make sure you have a good stock of Biodegradable dog poop bags, and you won’t have to worry about you – or anyone else – playing footsie with a dog pie.

Howard C.
Howard Crosse6 years ago

Without seeing the underlying research it is more difficult to disabuse this but it seems to assume that the meat fed to our pet dogs is especially farmed. The reality is surely that dogs are fed those parts of an animal slaughted for human consumption that would otherwise go to waste. Such waste would need to be disposed of. All in all I suspect that this issimply an example of how evidence can be used to support any assertion.