Is dog poop really that toxic?

by Jason Smith

What a great question! The beauty of this question is that the answer is in the question itself. First, we must define the word “toxic.” When something is toxic, it has poisonous attributes. In the case of dog poop, there are no poisonous attributes; therefore, dog poop is not toxic. However, dog poop has the potential to be harmful to people, pets, and the environment. Here’s why:

Intestinal Parasites

Dog poop may contain certain diseases-causing agents (pathogens) that can affect both people and pets. For example, roundworm and hookworm are common intestinal parasites of dogs. The eggs of these parasites usually pass in the stool of an infected animal. Roundworm and hookworm are both zoonotic diseases (diseases that are transmissible from animal to man).

Roundworm eggWith roundworm, the eggs can remain in the environment in soil. Dogs who dig or children who play in contaminated soil are most likely to introduce the parasite into their mouths. When this happens, the parasite migrates throughout the body. The natural environment for adult roundworms is the intestine of dogs; in humans, they continue to migrate throughout the body causing lesions on the skin and sometimes damage to the eye resulting in blindness.

Hookworm close upWith hookworm, the animal waste is infectious immediately. Infection easily occurs through the pads of the feet of dogs or humans walking barefoot in a waste-laden yard. Because hookworms are blood-sucking parasites, they can cause anemia in both animals and humans.

Since treatment for worms has become commonplace in practice with the administration of a monthly pill, the likelihood of roundworm or hookworm infection is low. Other intestinal parasites include tapeworm, Giardia, Coccidia, and Cryptosporidium.

Intestinal Bacteria

Other pathogens that could be harmful to people include Salmonella spp. and E. coli.

SalmonellaAccording to CDC.gov, salmonellosis is a mild bacterial infection that lasts for about a week. It causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, salmonellosis can migrate through the blood stream and cause death. The elderly, infants, and immunocompromised individuals are at the greatest risk of severe illness.

While E. coli normally occurs in the intestines of humans and animals and contributes to a healthy intestinal system, some strains are toxic and can cause illness. According to the CDC, there are diverse symptoms associated with various E. coli infections, such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

These are the most likely culprits to human infection; however, other bacteria known as campylobacter may also cause illness in humans.

Environmental Impact

When left to accumulate on the lawns of pet owners, dog waste is affected by weather patterns that play a role in carrying intestinal parasites and bacteria into the water system. When rain or storm water carries dog waste into sewer drains, the waste flows to water treatment plants. Despite our ability to eliminate contaminants from wastewater, pathogens from dog waste survive the process. This leads to water contamination. The worst part is that some of the aforementioned parasites thrive in water and infect people and pets that drink contaminated water.

Nitrogen is a natural byproduct in dog waste. When waste flows into a local body of water, the nitrogen in the waste converts to ammonia. High concentrations of ammonia in lakes, rivers, and streams have the ability to kill fish populations. Ammonia also provides a food source to algae and is responsible for an algal bloom in Lake Erie last summer that affected Toledo, OH residents.

While dog waste is not the only cause of water contamination, maintaining a clean yard is within our control. At a minimum, cleaning up after the dog should happen at least once a week. Ideally, cleaning up should happen every time your dog has a bowel movement. With busy schedules and time poverty affecting most of our lives, the ideal method is not always possible. That’s where hiring a professional comes in handy.

As you work hard to provide for your family’s needs and wants, professional dog waste removal service companies work diligently to clean up and remove the dog waste from your lawn. Luxury services like these are not for everyone. In fact, as a follower of Dave Ramsey, I’d recommend that splurging on a service like this should happen after you are out of debt, everything but your home, with 3-6 months of savings in an emergency fund. This way, you know you can afford it. By then, after all your hard work, you will have earned it.


jasonsmithJason Smith is the owner of PetCorps Professional Pet Care, a Kentucky pet services company. Before starting his business in 2007, Jason served on active duty as a veterinary technician in the United States Army. He worked overseas at the Osan Airbase Veterinary Clinic in Osan, South Korea and later oversaw the care plan of the military working dogs at the Fort Knox Veterinary Treatment Facility in Fort Knox, KY. His mission is to help make pet care pawsible by being a resource to people and their pets. For more information about PetCorps, visit petcorps.info.

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