How sustainable is your dog or cat’s lifestyle?

Your four-legged friend’s carbon “pawprint” is probably larger than you think! Here are 8 ways to make his lifestyle more sustainable.

Sustainability is a hot topic these days. McGill University in Montreal defines it as “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” When we take steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, we also need to factor our dogs and cats into the equation, and find ways to reduce their own carbon “pawprint”. What follows are eight tips and suggestions for doing just that!

1. Make sure he’s eating healthy

There are many reasons to give your dog or cat a high quality diet made from whole, natural ingredients, and sustainability is one. Many premium pet food companies use ingredients sourced from local or regional producers; some even go a step further and use organic and/or humanely-raised ingredients. These diets also lack the chemical additives and preservatives found in cheap, low-end foods – these substances end up in the animal’s waste, and subsequently the environment. A premium diet can even reduce the amount of solid waste your dog or cat excretes.

Although many dogs and all cats require meat in their diets, it’s a fact that meat production, especially beef, uses up a lot of resources and emits high levels of greenhouse gases. You can cut down on the meat in your dog’s diet by limiting beef in favor of more poultry and fish, and adding some alternative proteins such as cottage cheese or yogurt to his meals. Properly-balanced plant-based diets for dogs are also available – to learn more about these, see “How to safely feed your dog a plant-based diet”.

Some pet food companies have implemented sustainable production measures into their operations, and/or use packaging that’s fully recyclable or made from recycled materials – another bonus for the Earth.

2. Buy earth-friendly products and accessories

Whether you’re buying toys, collars, or bedding for your dog or cat, search out products that have sustainability in mind. Try to avoid plastic as much as possible. For example, instead of another cheap plastic toy that your dog will destroy in no time, opt for a more durable product made from hemp, a good choice for eco-conscious animal parents. In fact, hemp is making its way into all kind of pet products, including collars, leashes, garments, and even bowls and beds. You can also find pet accessories made from recycled items such as water bottles.

3. Keep him looking his best, naturally

When shopping for shampoos, conditioners and other grooming products, read labels carefully, and steer clear of those filled with harsh detergents, artificial fragrances, and other chemicals, which are not only bad for his skin, but end up being washed down the drain and into our water systems. For example, sodium lauryl sulphate, a soap-like chemical compound used in shampoos and other products, is toxic to aquatic life. Look for products made from gentle, natural, non-toxic ingredients such as oatmeal, sustainably-harvested coconut oil, herbs, and high quality essential oils.

4. Adopt rather than buy

If you’re adding another furry family member to your household, head to your local shelter or rescue before going to the pet store. Many pet stores acquire their animals from puppy and kitten mills, which are cruel and inhumane, and in the business of producing as many animals for sale as possible, increasing dog and cat populations and putting even more pressure on the planet’s resources. There are already thousands of homeless dogs and cats at shelters and sanctuaries waiting for loving homes, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for there!

5. Spay/neuter your dog or cat

Left to reproduce freely, one pair of dogs or cats can produce tens of thousands of offspring in a relatively short time. While there are some health risks to spaying or neutering (e.g. hypothyroidism, weight gain, and certain cancers), there are also health benefits (e.g. it reduces the risk of reproductive and mammary cancers in females). It’s important not to have your puppy or kitten spayed or neutered too early in life, however – having the surgery done around one year of age can help reduce the chances of health problems developing as he/she gets older.

6. Walk your dog instead of driving

Not all dogs enjoy car rides, but some love them so much they can’t wait to jump aboard. But going for drives just for something to do means your vehicle is releasing extra CO2 into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Why not go for more walks instead? It’s good exercise for you and your dog, and it’s healthier for the planet! And while it’s fun to drive to a trail or park on occasion, try looking for new walking routes closer to home, or explore a different neighborhood that’s within walking distance.

7. Clean up after him

It goes without saying that you should be picking up after your dog when you’re out and about. You can go a step further and use eco-friendly poop bags instead of the usual plastic. Be sure to also dispose of your dog’s waste in a sustainable fashion – the same applies to kitty litter. For more details on how to do this, refer to the article “Earth-friendly pet waste disposal”.

8. Check out holistic healthcare

Whatever might ail your dog or cat, from allergies to arthritis, think twice before putting him on conventional medications. What goes in, also comes out, which means that your animal’s waste will carry chemicals from any drugs he’s on, which ultimately end up in our water and soil. While conventional meds are sometimes necessary, of course, they’re not the only answer. Consult an integrative or holistic veterinarian for some alternative options for your dog or cat’s health problems, whether it’s herbs or essential oils, massage or chiropractic care.

Making your pet’s life more sustainable isn’t as hard as you think!

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