Don’t treat Dog Feces like Manure

One of my friends mentioned the other day how few people seem to pick up after their dog, with dog feces (or let’s be less formal, dog poop) being all over in public places and parks.  It has prompted me to remind everyone that dog feces are not like cow or horse manure.

Dog feces are different from the manure of herbivores like cows.  Whereas cows are digesting grasses and other vegetation, a dog diet is much higher in protein from meat.   It can take as long as a year to break down, and is more acidic than cattle manure due to the protein. While I don’t suggest putting it in your garden compost pile, it can be composted separately, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Dog waste carries huge numbers of coliform bacteria per gram.  This seeps into ground water after a rain or flooding.  In turn, it can contaminate lakes, ponds and streams.

Parasites & bacteria

Dogs are often carriers of parasites, most commonly roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Roundworms and hookworms can be transmitted to humans, as the eggs may survive in soil for years.   Diarrhea in a dog may be caused by giardia and coccidia, also transmissible to people.  For these reasons alone, it’s a good idea to scoop up the poop from your yard so the ground does not become infected with eggs, especially if you have young children our playing in the grass.  Most need to be ingested by mouth, and we all know kids put their hands and other objects in the mouth to learn.

Besides the coliform bacteria, feces can assist in spreading salmonella.  Remember hearing about vegetables in the news making people sick when run off from nearby farms contaminated vegetables farms?  Same idea.

In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns about the dangers of contamination by dogs feces on their website.

Disposal of feces

So what should you do with the poop?  Use a pooper scooper to collect waste from the yard.  I use this jaw scoop since it can operated with one hand. There are plenty of inexpensive options . Or just use a small shovel or trowel to collect feces.

Of course you can pick it up in plastic bags  and throw in the garbage.  There are pet poopy bags for sale at every pet store (in all kinds of cute little holders), and you can reuse plastic shopping bags and the like. However plastic takes up to a hundred years, if ever, to disintegrated. So try to buy pet poop bags that are biodegradable.  It is even more environment friendly to pick up poop with something already biodegradable: paper towels, newspaper, a paper bag.

If you do not have a specific area of the property to place it, then you can use a dog composting system like a  dog dooley to compost it.  It’s like a mini septic system just for pet waste.  You add in some digesters and the feces breakdown.  These systems do not work well in clay soils.

worm farm can also be a place to dispose of dog waste.  Worms actually eat poop, so technically it is not decomposing, but the worm will turn it into usable compost material.  I would suggest using around the yard but not on eatable plants in the garden, just in case any parasite eggs survive the worms.

Lastly, dog poop could be flushed down a toilet into a septic system or sewer system.  This is probably my least liked disposal method.  The EPA has a fact sheet on dealing with pet waste and in 1991 classified dog feces as a toxic pollutant along with oil and chemicals.

So be a good steward of your dog, and be sure to clean up!

What have you done to help avoid potential biological hazards from your pets and livestock?