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In an effort to be green, dog owners have long considered using dog poop as fertilizer. Unfortunately using dog poop as fertilizer leads to retinal diseases in children. In a paper written by an Extension Veterinarian and Extension Soil Scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, they indicated “ two major concerns to bring to your attention: Public Health Aspect, Fertilizer Values.”
Given that cattle manure is considered the standard fertilizer, the Vet and Scientist compared dog poop with cattle manure to determine its potential application to lawns and gardens. They determined that dog poop has 2-1/2 times as much nitrogen and half as much potash as cattle poop, meaning dog poop won’t provide the same fertilizing nutrients as cow manure.
The other concern reported by these experts is the potential health concerns of the people exposed to the dog manure. They stated that “both dog and cat manure may contain organisms that cause human health problems.” The most common hazard in dog manure is “large roundworm, called Toxocara canis.”
What kind of symptoms would a person have who is infected by dog worms?
1) A condition called Visceral Larval Migrans. The ascarid eggs hatch in a person’s small intestine. The little worms or larvae get into the blood stream and float to the liver. They migrate in the liver and get to the blood stream that goes to the lungs. Some may enter the general circulation and end up in different parts of the body. They have been found in the human heart, brain, spinal cord, skin, and other tissues. The symptoms would vary depending on where the larvae become attached.
2) Another condition is called Ocular Larval Migrans. The immature ascarid worms or larvae can affect the human eye. The larvae attack the retina and cause blindness. Many eyes of children have had to be removed which until recently was the only treatment for this problem.
In a pediatric hospital 37% of all the retinal diseases of children’s eyes were positive for dog ascarid larvae. This is definitely a potential human health hazard.”
They also considered the benefit of composting the manure to sterilize it but determined that, in order to sterilize the poop the compost heat temperatures would need to exceed 165 F for almost a week and “backyard compost heaps rarely reach this temperature, and the outer several inches never do.”
These results led the Vet and Soil Scientist to conclude,
The health hazards associated with cat and dog manure are greater than the potential benefit from its fertilizer value. Cat and dog manure should be disposed of by flushing down the toilet, burying deep in the soil (six inches or more) or by placement in tight plastic bags for garbage collection.” Read the complete report here.
There are many sites online that will tell you how to compost dog poop for fertilizer. Reflect on the fact that using dog poop as fertilizer leads to retinal diseases in children and if you still want to move forward, please pay particular attention to the Soil Scientist’s statement about needing to reach 165 F for at least five days. An alternative to eliminate your dog poop and maintain a green home is to use biodegradable poop bags, which are available at large pet retailers and from many online retailers.