Tag Archives: sustainability

Dry pet food may be more environmentally friendly than wet food

Pet owners may have a new reason to reach for the kibble.

Dry cat and dog food tends to be better for the environment than wet food, veterinary nutritionist Vivian Pedrinelli of the University of São Paulo in Brazil and colleagues report. Their analysis of more than 900 hundred pet diets shows that nearly 90 percent of calories in wet chow comes from animal sources. That’s roughly double the share of calories from animal ingredients in dry food.

Feeding dogs and cats dry food instead of wet food may have less of an impact on the environment. Eduardo Gonzalez Diaz / EyeEm/Getty Images

The team factored in the cost of different pet food ingredients across several environmental measures. The findings, described November 17 in Scientific Reports, suggest that wet food production uses more land and water and emits more greenhouse gases than dry food.  

Scientists already knew that meat-heavy human diets drive greenhouse gas emissions (SN: 5/5/22). But when it comes to environmental sustainability, “we shouldn’t ignore pet food,” says Peter Alexander, an economist at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved in the work.

Just how much various pet foods impact the environment isn’t clear, Alexander says. Commercial cat and canine fares aren’t typically made from prime cuts of meat. Instead, the ingredient lists often include animal byproducts — the gristle and bits people aren’t likely to eat anyway.

How to calculate the carbon cost of these leftovers is an ongoing debate, says Gregory Okin, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles who was not involved with the study.

Some argue that the byproducts in pet food are essentially free, since they come from animals already raised for human consumption. Others note that any calories require energy and therefore incur an environmental cost. Plus, animal ingredients in pet food might not be just scraps. If they contain even a small amount of human-edible meat, that could add up to a big impact.

Knowing that there’s an environmental difference between moist morsels and crunchier cuisines could be helpful for eco-conscious pet owners, Okin says. Having that info handy at the grocery store is “super important when people are making decisions,” he adds. “There are consumers who want to pay attention.”

Journal Reference: Environmental impacts of diets for dogs and cats, Scientific Reports, published 17 November 2022

Source: Science News

The Biggest Little Farm

It all started with a dog named Todd…

I’m sharing this film, originally released in 2018, because of the uplifting true story which all started because a dog named Todd wasn’t suitable for city living. Todd’s needs meant that Molly and John Chester sought out a way of making their sustainable farming dream a reality.

This documentary spans 8 years of their journey to bring a ‘dead’ Northern California farm back to life using holistic and sustainable techniques.

If you’re a customer of the The Balanced Dog, this month you received a special code in your October newsletter which allows you to join DocPlay free for an extended trial period of 45 days – that’s plenty of time to watch this film and lots of other great documentaries.

It’s spring here in New Zealand. I hope this film inspires you to garden with the environment in mind. I’ve already bought bags and bags of compost for my garden, realising from the film that my soil needs more organic content. And thanks to a client who works in the flower growing industry, I have a great guide to companion planting to help me plan the vege garden.

Thanks to Covid-19, more people than ever are taking to gardening and there are ways to garden which are more sustainable and healthier for us, our animals and the planet. Watch the film for inspiration and then get planting!

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Eggshells – a natural source of calcium

I like using wholefoods and avoiding waste – reasons why I make my own dog treats and why I feed my dog a hybrid diet (incorporating raw, homemade and commercial foods).

In the case of egg shells, I used to put them in my compost pile.  But, they always seemed to the source of attraction for rats (yuck!). I could throw them in my  green organics bin that is collected each week; this is taken away to a commercial composting operation – but of course from a sustainability point of view, we’re using trucks and diesel to cart waste away.

There’s another option – making some natural calcium supplement for my dog.

And it’s very easy to do!

First, after I use eggs for baking or cooking, I gather the shells and leave them out on my kitchen bench to to dry for 24 hours.  After that, I store them in refrigerator to keep them from growing bacteria.

Then I arrange them on a baking tray and bake them for 5 minutes at 180 degrees C (roughly 350 degrees F).  Then I turn the oven off and let the shells cool in the oven.

This is what the look like when they are finished:


Final step:  into the coffee grinder.  After just a few pulses, I have a fine calcium powder.


I keep the calcium powder in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; using 1/2 teaspoon mixed into raw food per meal.

Dogs need calcium in their diet and I am confident in feeding this to Izzy, who is a large-breed dog with no health problems.  For all dogs, we need to be confident in their health status before deciding to feed certain foods and supplements.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Pet Box Project

An online retailer in Turkey, n11.com, has found a novel way to combine environmental sustainability with animal welfare needs.

n11 pet box

When customers order pet food products from their site, the corrugated delivery box can be converted into a waterproof home for homeless pets.  The idea is to make the shelters available to stray and homeless animals in the customer’s neighborhood, particularly during the winter months.

I haven’t found any details yet about how this project is tracking, and its success rates, but it is surely worth thinking about on a wider scale because many of us now use the internet as a preferred source of purchasing our pet supplies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Robot dogs likened to Facebook

The Sony Aibo

The Sony Aibo

Sharing your live with a beloved dog is going to become unsustainable, says an Australian researcher, leading to a shift to companion robotic dogs.


Dr. Jean-Loup Rault, an animal welfare researcher at the University of Melbourne, Australia says that this prediction is similar to describing the power of Facebook to someone 20 years ago.  “If you’d described Facebook to someone 20 years ago, they’d think you were crazy. But we are already seeing people form strong emotional bonds with robot dogs in Japan.”

Dr Rault says that when a robot dog dies in Japan because it is not repairable, many owners hold a funeral  for it.

Dr Rault says the consequences of a shift towards robotic pets will be good for people who suffer from allergies, but may also cause a shift in ethics – with people more detached from the suffering of mortal beings.

I don’t want to live in a world that goes backwards in terms of animal welfare.  And I can’t cuddle up in bed at night with a robot, nor see the blissful look on its face when I massage it.

I hope Dr Rault is wrong.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

You can read Dr Rault’s article in the journal Frontiers of Veterinary Science by clicking here.

Source:  Market Business News

Dog hair on my sweater…no wait a minute

I often have dog hair on my sweaters.  But dog hair sweaters?

Yes – it’s true.  You can have a sweater (jumper) made of dog hair.  Dog hair is a natural fibre and, after washing and spinning, it can be made into yarn for knitting of garments.  Once washed, it doesn’t retain a dog odor.

For some dog lovers, having garments made from their dog’s fur is a novel way of re-using the hair.  Many find it a consolation when their dog passes to have a garment made from their dog’s hair.White dog hair sweater Beige dog hair sweater Akita dog hair sweaterThese photos of people wearing dog hair sweaters were taken by photographer Erwan Fichou in his series entitled Dogwool.

If you’re interested in finding out how you can collect and use your dog’s hair, the woman to speak to is Kendall Crolius.  She’s the author of Knitting With Dog Hair.

Knitting with Dog Hair

This YouTube video takes you through the sweater-making process.

Like the book says…if you’re interested, stop vacuuming and starting knitting! (I’m not really sure I want to get into this particular hobby)

If a pug can do it, so can you

Puglet the Pug features in this video to encourage us to do the right thing on Earth Day and every day.    Have a wonderful (and sustainable) week!

With age comes greater success (in hunting, at least)

At the meeting of the Society for American Archeology this week, two University of Cincinnati professors, Jeremy Koster and Ken Tankersley,  presented their results of research into hunting dogs in lowland Nicaragua.

The indigenous communities of the Mayangna and the Miskito in Nicaragua survive on subsistence hunting in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve.  The reserve is part of the largest unbroken tracts of neotropical rainforest in Central America, north of the Amazon.   85% of the mammals that are hunted are caught with the assistance of dogs.

Nicaraguan hunters and their dogs on a hunt, photo by Jeremy Koster, University of Cincinnati

The research team found that as both male and female dogs reach three years of age, they tend to increase their hunting success.  Older, male and female dogs in the study population returned more game to their owners than did younger dogs.

Bigger dogs are able to track and corral bigger prey, which increases their hunting return rates.  Since male dogs are generally larger than females, the males had the greater success rates.

As far as sustainability is concerned, the researchers found that  dogs are more suited to wildlife sustainability than other hunting options available.  Hunters with firearms tend to disproportionately hunt prey that lives in trees, including slow-breeding primates.  Hunters with dogs tend to harvest relatively fast-breeding animals such as agoutis, pacas and armadillos.

Their main conclusion:  With age comes greater success!

(Let’s hope the same applies to us; I could use all the help I can get :))

Source:  University of Cincinnati press release