Is your Pet Planet-Friendly?

DrPaul -

Is your Pet Planet-Friendly?

We love our pets and our planet but evidence states that our companion pets, like us, have an impact on the environment. Fortunately, many of us are now far more aware of our carbon foot - and paw - prints and are already taking action when it comes to preserving the planet.

 But as we aim for more sustainability in our lifestyles, workplaces and homes, how many of us actively include our pets in this practice? Making a start by recycling food cans and picking up that poop is great, but there are plenty more small steps we can take which add up to effective action when it comes to being planet-friendly pet parents!


Planet-friendly pet food

Highly processed, commercial pet food brands have dominated our supermarkets for a long time. But whilst dry kibble, wet canned or pouch-packaged processed foods have stayed popular (and highly convenient) for pet owners, there’s also been a recent swing towards more sustainable food options for pets.


Raw diets and meat-free options, including vegan and plant-based pet foods, have dramatically increased in recent years. There’s now good evidence that novel proteins from insects and vegan-based diets, produced with substantially smaller carbon footprints, are just as tasty and nutritious for dogs. In fact, switching a medium dog’s diet from commercial meat-based foods to an insect protein or vegan diet saves up to 8.8 tonnes of CO2 - enough to heat the average UK home for 3.8 years!


Remember though, cats are obligate carnivores so vegan diet is not safe or appropriate for them.


Planet-friendly pooping!

Pet poop naturally biodegrades so it makes no environmental sense to wrap it in plastic which doesn’t! However, it’s desirable and hygienic to dispose of it so a quick, green win when it comes to poop is to swap those single-use plastic poop bags for compostable poop bags instead.


For indoor cats, small furries or pup training, switching out to biodegradable training and litter products helps to reduce the tonnes of litter filling up landfill.


Whilst on Waste …

For other types of waste, our pets' consumables and products should also be considered - and included - in our household recycling. It’s just a matter of making sure you know which products, including pet food containers, can be recycled - just check details on the label or outer packaging.


You can also recycle old but serviceable leads, harnesses and food bowls by donating them to rehoming centres or local dog wardens. Unwanted or lightly-used toys are also fine for rehoming and will be welcome enrichment to those dogs unlucky enough to be in kennels.


Pet population

Population is a major topic when it comes to sustainable resources. From the pandemic pet-ownership boom and the cost-of-living crisis affecting affordability to wars preventing access to neutering programmes, pets present a world-wide population problem. So, the single most effective planet-friendly action pet owners can take is getting pets neutered. It can also offer health benefits to your pet, so it’s really a win-win.

Driving the dog?

Without doubt one of the best things about owning a dog is enjoying those long rambling walks in the countryside or on the beach. But how many of us drive to our dog walking  destinations? For urban pet owners, limited access to open spaces may make driving the only choice, but do also take a close look at your local area for walk-from-the-door options such as parks. You might just discover something special on your own doorstep.



Give wildlife a chance

With numbers of many wild birds and other wildlife in decline, pet-lovers can also be nature lovers and help support local species. Whilst we think of our pets as lovable companions, deep down in their DNA they’re primal hunters with a natural instinct which should not - and usually cannot - be suppressed without inadvertently causing distress and discontent.


Support your local wildlife by simply attaching a bell on your cat or dog's collar. This not only provides the perfect heads-up to any wildlife within pouncing range, but also means you can hear them in the dark to help avoid trips during night-time bathroom visits!


Play Smart (toys)

Eco-friendly toys are all around us! The humble cardboard box is a firm favourite of our feline friends, as is a toilet roll filled with tasty treats to our small furry pets. Numerous pet toy manufacturers now produce toys made from sustainable or recycled materials, many of which can also be recycled at the end of their lives, so shop smart by checking labels for recycling credentials.


Squeaky Clean Bathtime

Grooming your pet doesn’t have to cost the earth. There’s been a significant growth in green-groomers offering sustainable and eco-friendly services, plus many pet shops and supermarkets also offer planet-friendly pet products without unhealthy chemicals, synthetic colours and fragrances.


Spend a bit of time researching, but do read labels closely as terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are often used loosely. Nasties to avoid include key chemicals such as Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) so keep checking those labels when purchasing grooming products.



Adopt don’t shop….and if you do shop, do it right!

Population has already been mentioned with prevention in mind, but what about the huge populations of dogs, cats and other small furries, all living in pet shelters, rescue centres and foster homes? If you’re thinking of getting a pet, adopting a rescue animal will make a huge difference - including to the pet who’s fortunate enough to have found a home with you.


Rescuing a pet or buying from a reputable breeder also helps stamp out puppy farm purchases. This hideous practice thrived in the wake of the pandemic and the impact of indiscriminate breeding, plus sales of sick, unhealthy puppies and kittens at inflated prices, has been catastrophic. 


If you decide you would rather purchase a new puppy or kitten do it right:


●     Research thoroughly to check the breeders’ credentials.

●     Look at Lucy's Law and follow the guidance.

●     Meet mum and pups first and never buy a puppy less than 8 weeks of age.

●     Ensure there is traceable paperwork.


With these thoughtful approaches, there’s no reason why pet lovers can’t be planet lovers too and there’s no better time to start than now.


Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.