Dangers of Dog Waste

Dog poop is not a fertilizer!

On the contrary, dog feces in your yard is potentially very dangerous.

Many parasites and diseases are transmitted through feces, and it’s harmful to our ecosystem.

There are many compelling reasons why dog poop must be scooped and removed:

  • It is estimated that a single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria;
  • It pollutes our groundwater and is potentially harmful to our ecosystem;
  • It attracts disease-carrying pests and flies. Rats feed on dog feces. Enough said! And, of course, flies are not only a nuisance but can transmit diseases also;
  • It could endanger the health of your family, particularly young children;
  • Diseases and parasites can easily be transmitted to other pets through feces;
  • Odor is another huge reason for clearing dog poop. Not only is the smell offensive to you, it could also present a problem with your neighbors if left for any amount of time;
  • It should NEVER be used as garden compost as both dog and cat waste can carry many parasites, even in “healthy” pets;
  • It isn’t good fertilizer for your lawn. Unlike cow manure, pet waste is protein based which makes it toxic to your grass (large, brown bare patches?);
  • It’s the law!

Roundworms are the most common type of parasite found in pets. They are almost always found in puppies that have yet to be vaccinated and often have the unpleasant habit of eating other dogs’ poop. However, even adult dogs and cats can get roundworm and should be de-wormed regularly. If your pet’s poop looks like spaghetti, he more than likely has roundworm. Other symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. Roundworm can also infect humans.

Tapeworms are transmitted to dogs and cats in a couple of different ways depending on the type of tapeworm. One variety of tapeworm is transmitted by fleas (fleas think tapeworm eggs are real tasty!), while another is spread by pets eating wildlife or rodents infested with tapeworms or fleas. It is important that your dog or cat be treated promptly if you discover these in his poop. Tapeworms can also be transmitted to humans through direct contact with your pet and are extremely hazardous.

Hookworms are blood suckers and are easily transmitted through the pads of a dog’s feet and the skin on his belly by being picked up from infected soil. Hookworm is one of the classical internal parasites infecting puppies and can even be transmitted to pups still in the womb.

Coccidia are one-celled parasites that multiply in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats and are spread through fecal matter. The primary sign of an animal suffering with coccidiosis is diarrhea which can be mild to severe depending on the level of infection. Blood and mucus may be present, especially in advanced cases. Severely affected animals may also vomit, lose their appetite, become dehydrated, and in some instances, die from the disease.

Giardia is another one-celled parasite that lives in soil, food and water. It may also be on surfaces that have been contaminated with waste. It can cause diarrhea but usually the infected animal will not lose its appetite, but they may lose weight. The feces is often abnormal, pale in color, has a bad odor, and appears greasy. Small children can be at risk as they have a tendency to place objects in their mouth that may have come in contact with contaminated soil, surfaces or water.

Parvovirus is a killer for most dogs and is transmitted from dog to dog through physical contact and contact with feces. This virus is very hardy and can live in the environment and remain contagious for up to 12 months. It is typically more severe in puppies. The symptoms include extreme lethargy, very pale gums, vomiting, fever and diarrhea.

Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan parasite that may be transmitted from cats to humans which can cause birth defects. A woman infected during pregnancy may have symptoms that include headaches, muscle aches and lymph node enlargement.

Heartworms although not transmitted through feces can be deadly. They are transmitted through mosquitoes and if left untreated can kill your dog. Some of the symptoms are coughing, weight loss, fainting and labored breathing. The parasites make their way to your dog’s heart and thrive until heart functions are totally blocked, leading to heart failure and death.


According to the US Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2012), there are approximately 70 million pet dogs in the US and 74.1 million pet cats. That’s a lot of pets, and a lot of pet waste. And when you consider that a single gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, you can see this is potentially a huge health issue.

High animal populations yield lots of waste for the ecosystem to decompose. In urban settings, the natural system has been dramatically altered by increased runoff due to surfaces that do not allow water to infiltrate the soil. Surfaces such as rooftops, asphalt and concrete roads, sidewalks and parking lots.

Every time it rains, thousands of pounds of pet waste wash down storm drains and into streams, rivers and lakes. If not disposed of properly, pet waste flows directly into nearby streams and creeks without being treated at waste water treatment facilities. This can make water unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming, and other types of recreation.  Pet waste also has nutrients that promote excessive algae growth in lakes and streams. When the algae dies and decomposes, it robs the water of dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic life needs to survive!

Adults working in their gardens, children playing outside and family pets are the most at risk for infection from some of the bacteria and parasites found in dog waste.

So what can you do as a responsible pet-owner?

  • Pick up pet waste from your yard. It is not a fertilizer. If you don’t want to do it yourself, contact a company that deals with animal waste removal. The feces will  be disposed off in compliance with your local waste disposal laws.
  • Carry disposable bags while walking your dog to pick up and dispose of waste properly. When you dispose of pet waste in the trash, wrap it carefully to avoid spilling during collection.
  • Bury pet waste in your yard, at least 12 inches deep and cover with at least eight inches of soil to let it decompose slowly.
  • Bury the waste in several different locations and keep it away from vegetable gardens. DO NOT compost cat litter or dog poop.
  • Flush the dog poop down the toilet but be sure to remove any sticks or stones first.
  • Install an inground septic system.  Place the collected feces into the receptacle and a special packet of enzymes begins the process. Water is absorbed leaving behind odorless byproducts.
  • Contact your local parks department to inquire about providing pet waste stations in area parks, along trails and in public places where people frequently walk their dogs.
Infographic on the dangers of dog waste

Infographic on the dangers of dog waste


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