Know the environmental impact of your animals’ diet

A recent investigation carried out in Brazil investigated the environmental impact of the diet consumed by dogs and cats. According to their results, the dog population of this country (the second largest in the world) would represent between 2.9% and 24.6% of the total emissions in Brazil.

In mid-November, the United Nations (UN) reported that the world population had exceeded 8 billion people. At that time, the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, pointed out that it was a reminder to think about our responsibility to take care of our planet, alluding to the pressures that the planet will experience due to the increase in population. 

Population of companion animals increasing

However, there is another population that is increasing, but that, says a group of scientists, has not received the same attention as that of humans. These are companion animals, such as dogs and cats, which, in countries like Brazil, outnumbered children, according to a survey published in 2013.

In the United States, there are about 80 million dogs and just over 58 million cats, while in Brazil there are 52 million dogs and 22 million cats. In China, they are 27.4 million and 53.1 million, respectively. 

Now, a group of academics from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), has put the magnifying glass on the impact of the diets of these animals on the environment. “The population of companion animals is increasing and a significant part of pet food is made up of ingredients that have a high environmental impact,” they pointed out in a study published in mid-November in the academic journal Nature‘s Scientific Reports.

The hypothesis of the four scientists in charge of the research is that, since pet foods are rich in ingredients of animal origin, “and it is known that this type of ingredient is responsible for higher gas emissions and land use, it is It is important to consider its impact on the environment. 

Environmental impact of animals’ diet

To estimate the environmental impact of these animals’ diets, the researchers analyzed 938 diets, of which 618 were for dogs and the remaining 320 for cats. In addition, they divided it considering whether they were dry or wet commercial diets, or wet and dry homemade. After analyzing the diets, they found 212 ingredients, of which 46.2% were of animal origin and 53.8% of plant origin.

They then estimated the animals’ annual calorie intake to approximate the annual environmental impact of the animal’s diet. The exercise was done with a 10-kilogram dog, with an average caloric intake of 534 kilocalories per day. “This average dog would be responsible for 828.37 kg of CO2 per year if it eats dry diets or 6,541 kg of CO2 per year if it eats wet diets,” the team’s calculations point out.

52 million dogs in Brazil

If this exercise is extrapolated to the more than 52 million dogs in Brazil, the researchers estimate that the emissions from the canine population would represent between 2.9% and 24.6% of the country’s total emissions. “These results highlight the important role of pet food in the sustainability debate, as its impact can be far-reaching.” 

However, it is important to clarify that not all diets have the same environmental impact. Another of the findings of this study pointed out that wet diets were responsible for the greatest impact, and dry diets were the type of diet that had the least impact on the environment.

In order to counteract the environmental impacts of the diets of dogs and cats, the authors of the paper provide a series of ideas that should be taken into account by the industry that produces these foods, although they clarified that “there is no single strategy to improve sustainability”. The first suggestion is that other sources of protein should be considered, as well as alternative ingredients such as insects.


Follow Ground Report for Climate Change and Under-Reported issues in India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us on