The Scoop on Poop

It seemed like a simple job: just convincing all you Pet Health Central readers that cleaning up dog poo is important.

But the more I read about poo, the more it became my “doody” to convince you that it’s all much more than picking up after your pooch.

We’ll start with the easiest observation: dog poo is unpleasant, unsightly and it stinks. Stepping in a pile of poo is a good way to ruin anyone’s day (or their shoes) and if your child has ever come up to you, weeping and smelly, after having slid through a pile left on a playground, you know how truly foul this can be.

Not only is it smelly and disgusting, dog poo is chock-full of organisms that can sicken other animals and make both you and your children sick, too. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that pathogens in dog waste can include Giardia lamblia and salmonella that can cause a range of symptoms including skin sores to chest pain, while organisms such as E. coli cause diarrhea and abdominal pain, and has caused disease outbreaks. Cryptosporidium, a protozoan responsible for gastrointestinal illness, is resistant to disinfection and can cause fatal illnesses in individuals with compromised immune systems.

In addition, dog waste can carry parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms that can pass to humans, while cat feces carry toxoplasmosis. All these can cause illness and infections.

You might think that a pile of poo would simply decompose into the soil and, presto, problem solved. However, municipalities are finding that dog waste left uncollected can wash into storm drains and then contaminate lakes, streams, beaches and the like. (This means you may not only run the risk of stepping in dog poo, but also swimming in it. Gross!)

The pollutants in poo are such that they (along with excess fertilizer from lawns) can cause algae blooms on small streams and ponds, making them uninhabitable for fish, amphibians and other wildlife. In coastal areas, contaminants from dog poo can threaten shellfish populations and pose yet another health risk for those who dine on local seafood.

You might pooh-pooh this as a problem, but some studies suggest that between 30 to 40 percent of dog owners rarely or never pick up their dog’s poo. If the average dog deposits roughly three quarters of pound of poo daily, over the course of a year, that’s nearly 275 pounds of dog poo! That’s a big, stinky, unhealthy mess!

Here’s the scoop on poop: there’s a simple solution. Bag it and dispose of it! Keep your sidewalks, lawns, parks and streets (as well as waterways) clean and safe for everyone.

Recommended poo removal includes collection and bagging for disposal in landfills or incineration; flushing dog waste down the toilet (where it can be treated in by a municipal wastewater plant); or burying waste in your yard, at least a foot deep and away from any vegetable gardens. (Only in areas where the water table is not high.)

While a popular children’s book reminds us that everyone poops, it doesn’t mean that everyone should litter. Let’s keep poop in its place!

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