Pet waste is smelly, unsightly, messy and attracts bugs and rodents. It is also a health risk to both people and other pets, and it adversely affects water quality. In many locales, it is required by law to pick up your pet’s poop and dispose of it properly.
Diseases Found in Pet Waste
There are many diseases that can be spread in a pet’s fecal matter. These can include dangerous bacteria, such as coliforms, Campylobacter, Salmonella and more. Giardia and Cryptosporidium are a couple of other nasty intestinal parasites that can potentially be spread via your pet’s feces to other animals or humans. Some pets may also be harboring intestinal parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms. The eggs of these parasites are shed in an infected pet’s stool and then can be easily picked up by our children when they play in the yard or by you when you do yard work. Hookworm larvae can even penetrate the skin of bare feet, so if you have pets, pick up the poop and make sure your kids are wearing shoes when they are outside. You can lessen your pet’s risk of having roundworms or hookworms by administering a monthly heartworm preventive to your pet. Heartworm preventives are often combined with a medication commonly called a wormer, creating one treatment to help eliminate or prevent parasite infestation. This will help to protect you, your kids and your pets.
Another concern about feces in the yard is parvovirus, which is a highly contagious virus that infects dogs, especially puppies and dogs that have not been fully vaccinated. Dogs may shed the virus for weeks in their stool, even after they’ve apparently fully recovered from an infection, so help protect the next dog that comes along and pick up your dog’s poop. Even though canine parvovirus isn’t contagious to humans, it’s a horrible, nasty, rotten, no good, very bad and possibly deadly dog disease.
The Effect on Our Water
Water is a precious resource, and water quality is of the utmost concern for all of us, especially in light of the recent drought conditions. Pet waste left in the yard or by the curb gets washed down storm drains. It usually does not go through a sanitation or sewer treatment plant but is instead directly discharged into area waterways, such as local streams, rivers, lakes or the ocean (if you live near the coast). As the fecal material decays, it uses up the oxygen in the water and may release ammonia. When this chemical process takes place in high quantities (i.e., when many people from a town do not properly dispose of their pets’ fecal matter), the resulting decrease in oxygen levels and the increase in ammonia, especially during warmer times of the year, can lead to algae blooms and fish die-off. The bacteria released during the decay of the stool may also make the water unsafe for swimmers, divers, fishermen and boaters. Let’s keep our water safe for everyone by properly disposing of pet poop.
What Should a Pet Owner Do?
So how can you best deal with pet waste? Pick it up with a pooper-scooper or a plastic bag slipped over your hand. You can then either flush the poop down the toilet or tie off the plastic bag and put it in the trash. Do not compost dog or cat poop! The temperatures in the compost bin do not get hot enough to kill off the pathogens that are dangerous to human health. In areas where the water table is deep in the ground, you can bury the waste. Be sure you always have a plastic bag with you when you walk your dog so you can pick up the poop. Newspaper bags, bread bags or plastic produce bags work well also, so feel free to give them a second life of picking up poop. There are companies in many urban areas that make weekly trips to clients’ yards, scoop up all the poop and dispose of it properly.
Is It Really A Problem?
Animal waste is one of the many seemingly small sources of pollution that can add up to big problems for water quality, and even human health. Animal waste contains two main types of pollutants that harm local waters: nutrients and pathogens (disease causing bacteria and viruses). When this waste ends up in water bodies, it decomposes, releasing nutrients that cause excessive growth of algae and weeds. This makes water murky, green and even unusable for swimming, boating, and fishing. As you can see, animal waste doesn’t simply decompose. So, the easiest way to avoid these problems is to clean up after your pet each and every time and dispose of the waste in the trash
- Picking up after your pet is easy, if you’re prepared. Simply carry a
- plastic bag with you on every walk with your dog. And you’ll have the equipment to remove your dog’s waste. Then throw it in the nearest trash can, and you’re done.
- Avoid letting your dog do his business within 200 feet of a water body.
- Always dispose of pet waste in an appropriate vessel.
Pet Waste At Home
For dogs, cats, and other pets that are meat eaters, it’s important to dispose of the waste in the garbage. Wastes from meat eaters should not be placed in a compost pile because the parasites, bacteria and viruses are not readily destroyed during the composting process and can be passed on to humans. While it’s common courtesy to pick up after your dog when you go on walks, it’s also a good idea to pick up after him at home. Some diseases can be transmitted from pet waste to humans through contact with the soil. Children playing outside and adults who garden are most at risk.
Correct disposal of cat waste is also important. Dangers may lurk inside your cat's litter box, making proper disposal a must for good health. Some cat feces may contain the bacteria toxoplasma gondii, which has been linked to many health problems and is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Take the necessary steps to properly handle cat litter.
- Scoop your cat's waste into a receptacle lined with a bag.
- Tie off the bag and deposit it into an outside waste can.
- Wash your cat's scoop with soap and warm water. Use disposable paper towels to eliminate the possibility of transferring waste to a cleaning rag. Wear rubber gloves while throughout.
- Clean your cat's litter pan monthly if you are using clumping litter, or weekly if you are using non- clumping litter. Use paper towels to wipe the little pan clean and dispose of the paper towels in a bag and tie it off.