Some American communities are fastidious about picking up dog poop. Dog walkers are often seen carrying their respective poop bags. And some neighborhoods even install trash bins specifically for dog poop. But this isn’t the same everywhere you go.
If you go for a walk in Italy, you’d better keep your eyes on the pavement. Picking up dog poop is not a thing there, and the streets and sidewalks are often littered with dog droppings.
Who’s right? Obviously, from an aesthetic point of view, it’s much more pleasant to have poop-free parks, sidewalks, and streets.
But on the other hand, is it harmful to pick up that poop? Or, is it harmful to the environment if you leave it?
What’s in dog poop?
Yes, it’s a gross question, but someone needs to ask it.
No matter how much you love your dog, the truth is, his or her poop can contain a long list of parasites – none of which you want in your life. For example, there’s whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, and threadworms.
There’s also the chance dog poop contains the papovavirus – a highly contagious viral disease. Then, there’s also the risk for coccidia, an intestinal tract infection, as well as campylobacteriosis, which also affects the digestive system, leaving you with loose and sometimes, bloody, stools, along with cramps, pain, and even fever.
Finally, dog poop may contain giardia, which is an intestinal parasite that infects the small bowel of humans.
We all knew dog poop isn’t a bouquet of roses, but now that we know it has the potential to contain parasites, viruses, and bacterias that can cause mild to serious illness in humans, you might not be so keen on scooping your dog’s poop the next time you take them out for their walk.
However, since we know how potentially harmful dog poop can be, picking up this poop and removing it from yards and sidewalks is crucial to protecting the health and wellbeing of your community.
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Dog poop and the environment
Yes, dog poop contains harmful parasites and bacteria, so it’s important to remove it and dispose of it responsibly to protect human health. But what about the environment?
Dog poop isn’t a safe “fertilizer”
You may assume the since dog poop is just another type of feces, it just breaks down quickly. Problem solved, right? Wrong.
Dog poop, unlike cow manure, doesn’t break down and fertilize the soil. For one thing, dog diets are high in protein, while cows are herbivores. And the chemical makeup of dog poop is actually replete with nitrogens and phosphorus, which do not fertilize, but rather damage grass and soil.
Just think to a time when dog poop left a burnt, dried spot in your lawn.
On top of this, parasites and bacteria present in the dog poop can remain in the soil for years. And hookworm larvae can actually penetrate the feet.
Therefore, if you have children, or spend frequent time in your yard, it’s in your best interest to keep your yard and community poop-free.
Dog poop can contaminate water sources
Even if dog poop does “wash away”, it takes with it all of the parasites and bacteria we briefly discussed above. This can contaminate local bodies of water and even your tap water.
Over time, rainwaters dilute the feces, and the elements within it seep into the soil, and then on to the water supply.
As the feces decays, it uses up oxygen and in turn, releases ammonia. This change in the water’s chemistry and quality can endanger fish, and make water unsafe for human consumption.
Just to give you an idea of how bad dog poop is for the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put pet waste “into the same category as oil and toxic chemicals.”
Therefore, not only does dog poop pose a threat to the health of you and your family, but it can also negatively impact the environment, contributing to polluted water sources and contaminated land.
How to pick up dog poop safely
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At this point, it goes without saying that picking up dog poop isn’t an option anymore. Sure, it’s not a glamorous job, but someone has to do it. And if you’re a dog owner, consider it your responsibility both to your community and the planet to remove dog poop.
When you pick up dog poop, it’s important to do so safely and with sensible hygiene. Below are some basic tips every dog owner should know and follow.
- Pick it up ASAP: Don’t assume that dog poop breaks down quickly and easily. It doesn’t. It can take up to a year to decompose. In the meantime, rainwater can dilute it and infuse the soil with harmful parasites and bacteria.
- Use biodegradable bags: You may think it’s a waste of money to purchase specific bags for dog poop. So, you just use old plastic bags from the grocery store. However, plastic bags don’t break down and can preserve dog poop in landfills for years. Instead, consider using biodegradable bags, or flushable bags that help to eliminate dog waste safely and effectively.
- Flush poop down the toilet: Most of us toss the poop bags in the garbage, but you can also toss it into the toilet. From there, it reaches a water treatment plant that removes toxins from the water before it’s returned to natural sources.
- Clean up indoor dog accidents properly: If your dog does #2 in your house, it’s not only inconvenient, but it’s also one-way parasites can spread indoors. Therefore, be sure to use cleansers that are dog-specific and formulated to kill parasites.
- Hand hygiene: If you accidentally handle dog poop, wash your hands with soap and water immediately. This can help prevent the spread of bacteria or parasites.
Millions of people are the happy owners of beloved pets. However, dog poop is a type of feces that deserves special attention. As we’ve seen, it can be harmful to you and the environment.
So, be sure to use the tips covered in this article to stay safe and healthy when picking up dog poop.