Do you pick up your dog’s poop using a plastic bag and then throw it in the trash?
Do you even pick up your dog’s poop?
When I was a kid, we didn’t pick up our dog’s poop. I’d take Chipper (the brown cocker I had back then) for a walk and nervously look around to see if anyone was watching while he pooped in someone’s yard. Have you ever noticed that dogs always pick the spot where someone is sitting on their porch or looking out the window?
I tried to walk Chipper in public areas, like lawns along major roads and by schools—which is what my dad told me to do. Sometimes I’d get yelled at as I walked away ignoring them (something else my dad taught me), sometimes I used a stick to push it under the bushes. My dad said, “Why bother picking it up, it’s natural.” We just mowed Chipper’s spot in our yard and cursed if it got on our shoes.
Back in the early 70’s few of my neighbors had dogs. Now it seems like there are almost as many dogs on my block as people. Dog poop is a problem.
Why should you scoop your dog’s poop?
I work as an environmental consultant specializing in the water quality of lakes and streams. Dog poop (or any poop for that matter—soiled baby diapers, goose droppings, etc.) that washes into a lake or stream is considered a major contaminant.
Runoff from dog poop causes:
- Elevated bacteria levels: coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of all mammals and birds. Ingesting some strains can cause gastrointestinal stress, such as diarrhea and stomach cramps. Some strains can cause severe illness. That’s why public swimming beaches are required to test for E. coli every few weeks during the swimming season. Poopy baby diapers, dog droppings, goose poop, or runoff causes elevated bacteria levels that can close a swimming beach.
- Bacteria levels increase immediately after it rains and they stay high for a day or so before their populations decrease. I’ve tested a swimming beach within a half hour after a storm and the bacteria levels were through the roof already.
- A rule of thumb: Do not go swimming within 24 hours of a storm. The bacteria levels may be high, even if the beach is open.
- If the beach is tested, the lab still has to receive the samples and wait 24 hours for the bacteria to grow. Then if the levels exceed the state standard, the beach is closed. So the beach is open when the water has high bacteria levels, and closed the next day while the bacteria levels have dropped. The beach is required to stay closed until retesting shows acceptable levels. An inaccurate system, but it is all that is available at this time.
- Nutrients: Especially phosphorus, which causes algae blooms in lakes and streams. It doesn’t take much phosphorus to cause an algae bloom. The Illinois State Standard for total phosphorus is 50 µg/L – a tiny amount that most of our lakes and streams surpass causing them to turn green with algae. I rarely collect samples under this standard, and I’ve been testing water for 22 years! Nutrient levels tend to be much higher after it rains and soil and contaminants wash into the water.
- Phosphorus is the main nutrient causing algae blooms for inland freshwater lakes, but nitrogen causes algae blooms in salt water. Excrement contains both phosphorus and nitrogen, so always clean up after your dog.
- Other parasites and bacteria: These include giardia and cryptosporidium, campylobacter and salmonella. I’ve had giardia; it gave me intestinal cramping and severe explosive diarrhea for several WEEKS. I got it from swimming in a stream when I flipped over in my kayak.
Maybe you don’t live by a stream, but heavy rain can wash contaminants into storm sewers, most of which pour directly into a stream, pond or lake. This past week, Lake County, Illinois received torrential rains—heavier than anyone had ever seen, which caused unprecedented flooding—so you never know where bacteria and parasites from your dog’s poop may end up.
Leaving droppings on your lawn can cause:
- Illnesses, such as worms, and other parasites not only can get your pet sick, but also your family. You or your kids can get these from playing on the grass, digging in the dirt, or even walking barefoot near where dogs did their business.
- Diseases can also be transferred from your pet to people—zoonotic diseases. Many of these can occur from dog droppings, such as Salmonellosis, hookworms, ringworms, as well as infections from Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter, and
Many people still refuse to pick up pet waste, due to inconvenience, the ick factor, or just plain laziness.
Education is critical—if people know how bad dog poop is for the environment and for their families, many more may comply. Please forward this blog to pet owners who need this information.
My next blog will be on disposing of dog poop in an environmentally safe manor—what I do may surprise you.
Please read the sources below for additional information and subscribe to my blog to get an email notification of the next one. Whatever you do, don’t look up explosive diarrhea you tube videos—they are really disgusting.
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