Poop. It happens. As dog owners we deal with it constantly, but are we dealing with it responsibly? I mean, it’s just poop, right? It’s natural and, of course, biodegradable. So other than just being gross to look at and possibly step in, it’s harmless, isn’t it?
After years of living in a house with a decent backyard, I now live in an apartment complex. I’m getting used to listening to my upstairs neighbors stomping around. I’m used to the maintenance workers laughing and talking loudly first thing in the morning (I live right above their garage). I can ignore most of what goes on around me.
But I can NOT get over the fact that so many residents don’t pick up after their dogs. This is a very pet-friendly complex, which I adore, with poop bags and trash bins stationed throughout, plus friendly signs reminding residents to please clean up after their dogs. We even have a small fenced-in dog play area, also with poop bags and a trash bin. Yet I find so many “landmines” everywhere I walk with my dog — on the grass and sidewalks alike. Even in the small play area where the means to clean it up is steps away!
So why don’t responsible dog parents just clean up after their dogs? I’m going to graciously assume it’s not out of laziness or rudeness. Heck, even I have forgotten to refill my poop bag dispenser a time or two. And until recently, I didn’t fully understand just how great the harmful effects are of leaving my dog’s poop, even off the trails out on our hikes.
So let’s assume it’s based on misunderstanding, or a lack of facts.
There are many people who believe that not only is canine fecal matter biodegradable, but that it can be a sort of fertilizer. After all, gardeners the world ’round spread cow manure to grow healthy crops. So poop is poop, right?
Cows have an entirely different diet and a vastly different digestive system. What they ingest, digest, and then excrete is far different than what our canine companions leave behind.
Sure, technically dog waste is biodegradable. But your pup’s poop can carry loads of unhealthy bacteria, viruses, and parasites, leading to disease for animals and humans alike. When not picked up, these harmful pollutants can seep into the ground and also be carried into streams and other water supplies.
Rain will not wash away the poop; instead, it will speed up the travel process. So when you swim in lakes and rivers near areas where people consistently leave dog waste, you are swimming in poop and all the bacteria it breeds.
Additionally, because a dog’s diet is completely different than that of wild animals, its waste creates an imbalance in the ecosystem. Again, when that waste finds its way into local water sources, it can cause issues such as the growth of invasive plant species and harmful algae blooms. This adversely affects fish and other surrounding wildlife.
Check out this interesting and informative article written by outdoor enthusiast Wes Siler of Outside Magazine to learn more about the effects of our dogs’ poop on our environment, and how to manage it.
Effects on Health
What sort of health problems can it cause?
Just to list a few, dog doo can carry various types of parasitic worms (think hookworm and whipworms), salmonella, the easily transmitted giardia parasite, and the highly contagious parvovirus (often referred to as just parvo).
These, along with others, can lead to health issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, blood disorders, and more. Some symptoms are minor and easily treated. Others will include expensive vet bills and your dog in a great deal of discomfort. Still others can end up fatal, especially if discovered late or untreated altogether.
This is a short and incomplete list of the possible harmful effects of pet poop, but my hope is that it’s enough, without completely turning your tummy, to convince you that picking up your dog’s poo is a minor inconvenience that will ensure other animals and humans remain healthy on your watch.
Also, even if it didn’t cause illness, it’s just rude to leave these unsightly, smelly, squishy, piles of foul fecal matter for others to dodge.