One type contains more protein, but it also has twice the energy costs as the other.

The environmental impact of pet food is no secret, with the process of taking animal products and packaging them into house-friendly feed for our cats and dogs being a time-consuming and energy-intensive process. Which type of pet feed is better for the environment as we all strive to do our part for the planet? Is it wet or dry?

New research has weighed in on the subject, examining the nutritional values and environmental footprints of various types of cat and dog feed. It examined 938 diets (618 for dogs and 320 for cats), including wet, dry, and homemade food, to determine their macronutrient profiles and value as an energy source.

The study also assessed the annual environmental impacts of the feed types, including emissions, water and land use. They were able to calculate this by using averages for the amount of food consumed per year, though as anyone who owns a retriever knows, this can vary.

Their findings revealed that dry foods were better for the environment than wet foods across the board. Dry food also had the most energy per gram, though high-energy foods aren’t always associated with high-nutrient foods.

Wet pet food had a greater environmental impact, though homemade varieties had a lower pawprint in some cases. Nonetheless, the amount of water used by both was roughly equal. However, one advantage of wet food was that it contained more protein; however, obtaining this requires using twice as much energy as dry food.

According to their calculations, a 10-kilogram [22-pound] dog’s annual impact would be 12.4 percent of that of a Brazilian citizen if fed a dry diet. If they were eating wet food, the equivalent emissions increase to 97.8 percent.

Previous research suggested that a vegan diet for dogs could be the “healthiest and least hazardous,” assuming we store it properly, which apparently most of us don’t.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint, involving your pets in the cause by switching to a nutritious brand of dry food could be a good place to start.

When it comes to living animals, there is no one-size-fits-all rule. Each animal has unique medical and nutritional requirements that must be met. However, for animals with flexible diets, switching from wet to dry food could be a simple way to help fight the climate crisis.

It should also serve as motivation for pet food manufacturers to develop more sustainable pet food production methods. The study offers suggestions here, including finding alternative protein sources such as insects, though they acknowledge that availability varies globally.

Given that some cats enjoy eating spiders and that most dogs will eat just about anything, we believe they’d be up for the culinary challenge.