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Why Pick Up Dog Poop? The Dangers of Dog Feces

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I am a proud dog owner who loves to share my experiences to help other dog lovers.

Picking up your dog's waste is more than just a common courtesy.

Picking up your dog's waste is more than just a common courtesy.

Why Should I Pick Up My Dog's Poop?

  • "I pay taxes, so why should I have to pick up dog poop?"
  • "It's like fertilizer—it's good to let is stay there!"
  • "Dogs are part of nature—letting their poop stay on the ground is natural, too."

Have you heard or even thought of these excuses before? Approximately 40% of dog-owning Americans polled have admitted they don't pick up after their pet.

But cleaning up after your dog is your responsibility as a pet owner. Even if you keep your dog contained in your own yard, taking the time to regularly clean up after your dog helps keep your family and community safe.

Once you discover the threats dog feces pose to humans and the environment, you won't want to leave the house without a plastic pick-up bag again!

Dog-Poop Dangers

Dog poop smells bad and no one likes stepping in it, but it is more than an inconvenience—it is a legitimate danger, and its dangers come in several forms.

  • It poisons grass and lawns.
  • It carries hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms, and more.
  • It transmits human diseases, too!
  • It pollutes waterways and is in the same EPA category as oil and mine runoff!
This little guy is fluffy and cute, but his unattended poop could still cause harm.

This little guy is fluffy and cute, but his unattended poop could still cause harm.

Dog Doo Is Not Fertilizer

Cow manure is an age-old and effective fertilizer, but dog poop is not. Cows are herbivores and their poop is pretty much broken-down plant matter. It's sort of like smelly compost.

Well, just like you're not supposed to put meat products in your compost bin, a dog's diet makes its poop very poor as a fertilizer. In fact, it is usually pretty toxic to plants. It is very acidic and will kill your grass if left unattended. Have you ever picked up an old bit of doggie business and found the grass withered and yellow beneath? It isn't just from the blocked sunlight, it is literally poison for plants.

Putting dog doo in your garden as fertilizer (yes, people try this!) can contaminate your fruits and veggies with harmful bacteria. Even if you don't intentionally place it in your garden, runoff can make your produce unsafe.

I wish I had thumbs and could pick up after myself!

I wish I had thumbs and could pick up after myself!

Dog Poop Carries Disease

Of course, it can carry worms. This means if your dog visits the park and someone else left dog poop with worm eggs laying on the ground, your pup is vulnerable. It can carry human-infecting ailments, too, including vicious parasites. Among other things, Fido's feces can include:

  • Giardia
  • Salmonella
  • Leptospira
  • E. coli
  • Parvovirus
  • Roundworms (the CDC shows 14% of Americans are infected with roundworms)
  • Up to 23 million coliform bacteria per gram of poop!

Dog Feces Contaminate Water

I don't know how many times I've heard someone tell me not to worry about a particular piece of poop because it was about to rain soon, anyway. Not picking up fresh poop before rainfall is even worse than letting it sit on a dry day!

When the rain washes over dog poop and flows into the drainage system, that contaminated water is carried into local waterways. If you like to hang out at a nearby river or lake, this means the fecal water is mixed in where you enjoy swimming and boating!

Studies indicate that about 90% of fecal coliform bacteria, which is used as a measure of water health and quality, is of non-human origin, mostly canine. It is considered so dangerous that it is in the same EPA pollutant category as oil and runoff from abandon mines, and two or three days worth of un-picked up poop from 100 dogs can cause a big enough spike in bacteria levels to necessitate closing waterways within 20 miles to swimming and shellfishing.

How to Safely Dispose of Dog Poop

There are many different ways to dispose of it:

  • Use special, biodegradable pick up bags and throw it in the trash.
  • Reuse your plastic grocery bags to pick it up.
  • Flush it down the toilet (this is okay for dog poop, but some bacteria in cat poop can survive water treatment).
  • Hire a professional poop-removal company.

Please Pick Up After Your Pup

The next time you take your dog to the park or on a walk, please take the time to clean up. Even if your dog only poops in your yard, letting it remain unattended is an invitation for illness and endangers others in your community.

I know it isn't fun or glamorous, but picking up dog poop is a necessary part of dog ownership. Just like getting your furry friend an annual rabies shot is an important preventative health measure, picking up his poop is an easy way to prevent disease and keep your community's waterways healthy.

Further Information

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Natasha

Comments

Casey on June 27, 2020:

What do you do about all the racoons, squirrels, etc that run around your neighborhood unattended though?

Verity Mason on June 15, 2020:

This was really useful! I always thought you could use dog poop for fertilizer, but now I know its really harmful for plants. This helped me to realize some pretty important things! Thanks!!!!

Virginia on May 17, 2020:

I’ve asked my neighbor and she claims the flies I’m getting inside my home aren’t from her big poops from her not picking up her dog doody it’s the wet grass from rain! I don’t think so because my dog just passed and I ALWAYS cleaned her doody ALWAYS and I never had a complaint from NO ONE! So for days I’m fighting flies now! Should I call the health department?

Alyson on February 26, 2020:

How do I get that sign? Isolated neighborhood but apartments nearby come in and don't pick up. They've been confronted but just keep going

Tam on December 16, 2019:

I all really knew all of this stuff. I just wanted to see if you all had anything new out. I have allergies and I don't want to give up my little fellow because of its not his fault that I am allergic to him and the urine and poop. But I have not seen anything on that point. So I will keep looking. Thank you for your website.

Sally on October 15, 2019:

Wow that’s why my plants are all dead I need to be careful next time I put dog mess on my garden, thank you pethelpful.com!

Samantha on February 28, 2019:

I know this post is older, and I do clean up my dog poop now that I live in an apartment complex however, my dog poops 3xs a day. So if I use a plastic bag each time she poops that’s 1100 bags for 1 dog for a year. I’m just asking, is that better for the environment than the movements on the ground and left there. Also, I know people don’t stand under their dogs bottoms to catch the movements, so I know not all of the poo is picked up entirely after it’s dropped. And if other wild animals like wolves and coyotes make movements in the wild and in our yards (which we find dropping from them all the time) should we worry about their movements as well? I’m just asking in all health aspects. I obviously will clean it up in a high traffic populated area like my apartment but, in my own home and yard where we have acres of woods in between. I guess I’m super curious to hear the argument against everything I’ve asked in the post. The bags, the other animals, the left behind poo you don’t always can grab. Thanks if anyone is even looking at this article still.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 08, 2018:

Natasha, I live in an apartment complex and am irritated that so many people do not pick up after their dogs. It just seems like a common sense thing go do. I pick up every time, no matter the weather. I try not to step in any dog poop, but sometimes in the dark, I am not so lucky.

Gertrude on February 07, 2018:

In my neighbourhood in the Netherlands, every bit of grass is covered with dogpoop. Few people pick it up even though there are special bins for it and free dogpoopbags. In summer it stinks. Not only do i tread in it with my profile soles of my walking shoes again and again but i cannot let my dog poop anywhere without them treading in it or eating it. In summer it stinks of dogpoop when walking past. Some dogs are 80 kg and leave turds as big as human turds. Some owners even let them poop on the sidewalks. Here in they now start fining € 150,00 when they see your dog poop and in some cities even if you cannot show you have a dogpoopbag with you. Some owners however are clever. They tie one dogpoopbag on their leash and still never pick up. Not even talking about the fact i no longer can let my grandchildren feed the ducks for it is dangerous to allow them to walk the grass bordering the water.

angie on August 05, 2017:

Our neighbor nextdoor has a large dog that poops in there back yard, the last time she picked it up was 7/9/2017. The smell has been really bad. I finally ask her to please pick it up, she said yeah, that was yesterday and it still there and the smell comes right through the fence. What am I to do?

Linda Peters on July 11, 2017:

Thank you for sharing! Now I understand better what the primary problems are about leaving it In our city, there are places where you are no longer allowed to walk your dog because people have got fed up with stepping in it. We need to do it for our safety.Voted up and useful.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 24, 2015:

Ugh - sorry about that! I see it around where I currently live, too. Thanks for stopping by!

BeyondGS from Ohio on April 22, 2015:

Good article. My apartment complex has people who never pick up their dog's poop and this article might be an eye opener for them. Good research and hub!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 30, 2014:

It's pretty shocking how harmful something so simple can be! I love dogs, but they definitely require some work. Thanks for stopping in and I'm glad you found the information helpful.

Lizolivia from Central USA on May 29, 2014:

Good information summed up well on one page. Now I understand better what the primary problems are about leaving it. I pick it up for various reasons, but didn't know about the run-off of hazardous coliform bacteria. Thanks

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on December 09, 2013:

Wow! I had no idea. I'm not surprised, though, and I can't blame communities for banning dogs if people can't be responsible.

JanHeath from Australia on December 08, 2013:

Great Hub! I would add one more reason for cleaning up after your dog. In our city, there are places where you are no longer allowed to walk your dog because people have got fed up with stepping in it. Can't blame them! So doing the right thing also supports dog-friendly places and helps them stay that way.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on August 23, 2013:

I'm glad you found it useful. Thanks for stopping in!

Melissa A Smith from New York on August 22, 2013:

Wonderful comprehensive hub on the issues with animal waste. I will reference this for sure.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 03, 2013:

Thank you! Seeing people not cleaning up after their dogs makes me so angry! No, it isn't fun, but it is important. Thanks again for voting and pinning.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2013:

We always pick up after ours but see others who do not do it. It is rather maddening and after reading this...even more so! I truly did not know that it was that dangerous for the environment. Up, useful and pinning.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on June 01, 2013:

I hate that! I've seen poop on the sidewalk/in the parking lot twice in the last month! Leaving it under a bush is one thing, but letting it sit on a walkway is something else, entirely! I think you're right - a lot of people today own a dog because it seems fun, not necessarily because they are super in to dogs. My family has a dog because they wanted a dog in the yard, but they don't really do much with her.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on June 01, 2013:

I think that so many people own dogs now who are not ones who are "dog people" that they don;'t think about these things. What does annoy me is that when I am walking my dog there is dog feces on the sidewalks. OOn the other hand when I visit my son in Hudson, Wisconsin there are posts with dog bags available although I don't recall if there are dispoal containers. voted up and sharing.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 11, 2013:

Thank you for spreading the word! I think lack of information is a big reason people don't pick up.

The Chewy Mommy on May 11, 2013:

Good article. Although I always clean up my dog's poop out of respect for others I really had no idea it was so harmful to let it sit where the dog leaves it. This was very informative and I will share it.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 10, 2013:

Thank you!!

Emily from Maine on May 10, 2013:

Great HUB!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 10, 2013:

Thanks for the votes! I agree - dog poop is a major issue! It's getting warm now and I'm already starting to smell all the messes my neighbors don't take care of!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 09, 2013:

Natashalh, what an excellent hub and thanks for sharing the importance of cleaning up after our dog has helped itself. We need to do it for our safety.

Voted up and useful.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 09, 2013:

Glad to help =) thanks for stopping in!

Barbara Badder from USA on May 09, 2013:

I realized that humans can get worms from dog poop, but I hadn't thought about E coli etc. Thanks for the info.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 09, 2013:

Thank you! Yes, I was pretty shocked to learn it's in the same category!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on May 09, 2013:

Comparing the droppings to mine run-off is very chilling. Good hub!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 08, 2013:

Oh, yeah, most places have fines for not picking up! It's just difficult to catch people.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 08, 2013:

!!! That is terrible! Man! What an awful experience =(

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 08, 2013:

Hi Natashlh! There are few places in our country where you are fined if you do not pick your dog poop. Now you have made me understand why the law authorities have endorsed such things.

mr-veg from Colorado United States on May 08, 2013:

Thank You Natasha to get this hub going. I love walking and sitting on grass, I still remember the day when I was about to sit with my arms down and I felt something beneath my hand and to my disgust it was Dog poop, from then till now I have seen it so many times lying around the grass area of my apartment that I stopped going over the grass...:) Again Good Job !!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 08, 2013:

One would hope so! I agree - I think a lot of why people let it lie is not knowing how dangerous it can be. They think they're not doing anything wrong, or maybe even being helpful.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 08, 2013:

I think that more widespread information about this topic would get more pet owners to pick up after their dogs!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 08, 2013:

Cclitgirl - They can surprise you by going several times in one trip outside! I always ask for plastic bags and reuse them for doggie duty.

Heidithorne - Yep! I always stuff my pockets with bags! Thanks for stopping in.

Mary615 - Me, too! The dogs look at me like "What are you doing, mom?"

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 08, 2013:

I find myself picking up other dog's poop! If I am on a walk with my little dog, and I see dog poop, I pick it up even though it is not my dog's poop!

Great Hub, voted it UP, etc.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 08, 2013:

I always have about 5 bags on me when I'm out with the furry kids. You just never know when you might need it! Thanks for spreading the word on the issue.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on May 08, 2013:

Awesome info. I know it's not good to leave the poop and *blushing* I don't always pick it up, but I will now. Now I know what to do with all those grocery bags. :)

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 07, 2013:

That's exactly how I feel all the time!

Chace from Charlotte, NC on May 07, 2013:

Ugh, everyone who lives in my apartment complex needs to read this, and badly. Nobody picks up around here but me and my husband... :(

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 07, 2013:

Ha! I can just imagine a big dog saving up for a special occasion!

It is really pretty frightening how much bacteria dog fecal matter can contain and how many human-affecting illnesses they can carry! I would post signs around my apartments, but everyone ignores the signs already in place.

Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 07, 2013:

Hi, Natasha

Well, I knew that dog faeces carried some dangers but had no idea to what extent. I occasionally take my Mum's dog a walk for her as he is too big and strong for her to handle and I swear blind he saves up his "deposits" to do them when I take him out. I do always take special bags with me and pick it up but the mess of the streets and parks in the area is a disgrace. I would love these details to be compulsive reading for dog owners!

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 07, 2013:

Just Ask Susan - A lot of the people at my apartments seem allergic to cleaning up after their dogs! I spend lots of time picking up other's dog poop, but at least I own dogs of my own!

Billybuc - Wow! I bet that's quite a battle. When I had a yard, I had weekly hunt for dog poop excursions in the backyard to clean it up.

Born2Care - Thanks for stopping in and enjoying the hub! My dogs know bags mean it's time to go outside, but I haven't trained them to fetch bags or anything. That would be a trick!

Rev Bruce S Noll HMN from Asheville NC on May 07, 2013:

Hi Natasha,

Thanks for saying what many of us dog owner/lovers are thinking all the time. This hub explains the reasons why we're thinking/saying this all the time. We're trying to train our very, very smart red & white Border Collie (Kaylee) how to pick up after herself. She knows where the bags are but she hasn't quite gotten the knack of picking it up! (with her paws that is) LOL.

Excellent Hub and thanks for the ammunition!

Bruce

PS

Thanks Theresa, (Phdast7) for the recommendation.

@ Just Ask Susan - What a wonderful form of community service you provide! LOL

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 07, 2013:

Well, that's just about all I ever need to know about dog poop. LOL We have three dogs and we are constantly de-pooping the yard. :) Good information, Natasha.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2013:

I've had people walking their dogs past my house and their dog poops on my lawn and they leave it for me to pick up. It makes me mad as I always clean up after my dogs.

Natasha (author) from Hawaii on May 07, 2013:

Thank you for sharing! I love my two dogs, but they are a whole lot of work. Plus, I seem to make additional work for myself by trying to clean up the apartment dog park by myself...

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on May 07, 2013:

Natasha - Excellent Hub. I don't have dogs at this point in my life, but if I did, I would certainly clean up after them. Very helpful hub. Sharing. Theresa