Your dog poops multiple times a day. As a responsible pet owner, you do your best to pick up the poop immediately after he goes. But what about in your own backyard? Is picking up dog poop just a courtesy for neighbors, or are there health risks for you or your pets if it’s left in the yard? Can dog poop harm your grass or yard?
Picking up dog poop helps to make your neighborhood, dog park, or backyard safer for everyone. It can eliminate the spread of parasites and diseases that can be potentially life-threatening to your pet or other pets.
Dog Poop Risks to People and Other Pets
Concerns about dog poop disposal can be about inconvenience, such as becoming maggot-infested in warm weather or moldy in cool, damp weather. It is also unpleasant to step in. But there are even bigger potential risks when it comes to the potential for diseases and parasites.
Dog poop can carry the parvovirus, which is a potentially deadly virus that is shed in feces. Parvovirus attacks the intestinal cells, causing severe diarrhea, vomiting, and illness. We can vaccinate our pets for parvovirus, so it is important to keep your pet up to date on their vaccines.
Dogs acquire parvovirus via a fecal-oral route, meaning they ingest feces or something that has been contaminated with feces from another dog with parvovirus. Parvovirus can live in the environment for a long time, so it is important to monitor your dog in dog parks or on walks and pick up after your own pet. Don't let your pet sniff or, worse, eat feces.
Dogs who have other parasites—intestinal worms or protozoal infections—can also spread diseases in fecal material.
In fact, everything from hookworms to whipworms, roundworms to giardiasis in dogs, may be hiding out in a dog’s droppings. These types of organisms can affect other pets in your home and may even be able to be transmitted to the humans in the house as well.
If contaminated stools are left on the ground for a significant amount of time, a pet can easily become re-exposed to an infection or worms.
Can Dog Poop Be Used as Fertilizer?
Despite popular belief, experts note that not all stools are created equal. Cow manure makes a much better fertilizer because of their vegetarian diet. Carnivorous, or omnivorous animals, such as dogs, typically eat feed higher in protein, which makes feces more acidic. This acidic fertilizer does not meet the needs of plants. Combined with the dangers posed to humans and pets, using dog poop as fertilizer is not a worthy endeavor.
It is possible to heat dog feces to kill lingering pathogens in order to compost it, but it is still not an ideal substance to add to soil—especially of anything potentially consumed by humans or pets.
Proper Disposal Is Key
When it comes to picking up dog poop, the bottom line, according to Dr. Kremer, is that quick, efficient disposal is key. The sooner the feces is removed, the less chance it has to infect other humans or pets.
When picking up dog poop, humans should take extra precautions so as not to come into contact with the feces directly. You can wear gloves when you pick up dog poop or use a pooper scooper, such as the Arm & Hammer Swivel Bin & Rake backyard waste pickup or the Nature’s Miracle Jaw dog pooper scooper. Always wash your hands after retrieving feces.
Once you remove poop from your yard, you’ll want to deposit it into a sealed bag.
In addition to harboring bacteria, dog poop can also leave a lingering odor. In order to combat that, you can use a product like NaturVet Yard odor eliminator, which is a nontoxic formula that is infused with natural microorganisms that work to break down and neutralize pet odors.
Additional Safety Tips for Dog Owners
Make sure that your pet is up-to-date on his vaccinations. Parvovirus is a preventable disease that has an effective vaccine. Make sure you work with your veterinarian to keep your pet up to date on all their vaccinations.
Watch for signs that your pet may have parasites, such as diarrhea or vomiting, and routinely test your pets for parasites. Most vets recommend testing your pets feces every 6-12 months. Frequent testing decreases the likelihood of severe disease and spread to other family members.
There are heartworm preventatives on the market which also deworm dogs when they are given once a month, such as Interceptor Plus for hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and roundworms. There are many terrific products on the market, so make sure you talk to your vet about which is best for your dog!
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