Saturday, March 20, 2010

Greening the dog?

No, this is not a late St. Patrick's Day posting. I found this to be a dismaying article about the ecological impact of dogs. The article, written by Julie Knapp of Mother Nature Network, is a discussion of one aspect of the book Time to Eat The Dog? by Robert and Brenda Vale. According Knapp, the Vales say the two big eco-issues involve what goes into your dog, and what comes out of your dog.

The lesser of these evils is the end product of the other, so to speak. We always pick up poop, and we purchase biodegradable bags to pick it up with, rather than using any old plastic bags. We have, however, been sending the bags to the landfill, because I read an article years ago about the parasite dangers of using dog feces in your garden. I never really thought about it, but these are my dogs, and they have a fecal check as part of the annual exam each year, so I am pretty sure they don't have any intestinal parasites. (Boodles did have a tape worm when we got her, but that was 3 years ago, and we treated it vigorously.) This morning I did a Google search on "Composting with dog feces", and quite a lot of articles came up. The most thorough was this. I think we will institute a dog waste composting program this year, separate from the kitchen waste composting we already do. The sticking point may well be those biodegradable bags- I suspect they are not quite as degradable as I would like them to be.

Now- as to what goes in the dogs. According to the article, dogs have a greater impact on the earth than an SUV mainly because of the land use required to provide the meat for a large carnivore's dinner. The transportation costs of all those 40 pound bags and cases of little cans comes into the equation as well. The article suggest making dog food at home to counter those costs.

We do buy sustainably raised meat and local produce, and it is expensive. I can't even imagine the cost of feeding it to the dogs. However, we don't buy the bottom of the line dog food, either. We feed Diamond Naturals Lamb and Rice from a local feed company. According to their website, Diamond Naturals are made with hormone and antibiotic free meats, (although it does not say they are sustainably raised) and don't contain wheat, soy or corn. It's not the perfect choice, but for now, it is the best I can make.

I did another Google search on Sustainable Pet Food companies, and came up with this article from It deals with plant facilities, though, and not ingredients. Another interesting link is this one, to a petfood industry discussion group on sustainability. Finally, I could find only one manufacturer that mentioned sustainably raised meat; Onesta. They manufacture training treats, and not a full diet.

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