Dangers of Dog Waste
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Pooper scooper duty--nobody wants to do it, but it must be done. Dog waste isn’t just a pain in your shoe treads, an unappealing smell in your yard, and an organic means to prank a nasty neighbor. It is unhealthy for you, your family, your dog, your community, and the ecosystem of which we are all a part. Picking up after your dog isn’t a choice, it is a responsibility.
Dog waste carries parasites, bacteria, and viruses that make their way into our groundwater, our parks, our lakes, rivers, oceans and streams, and even our children’s mouths. You might think it is ok to let your dog go in your yard and not clean it up. After all, it is your yard. But you must remember, rain water washes dog waste out of your yard and into storm drains, most of which carry rainwater, untreated, directly to our local waters. The following detrimental parasites and diseases are transmitted in dog waste.
Whipworm eggs are passed in the feces of infected dogs. They then stay in the soil where the dog has done his business and, in about a month, they emerge able to infect passing animals and people. Whipworm infection causes inflammation of the intestinal wall, intestinal hemorrhage, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Hookworms are intestinal parasites that can cause severe diarrhea and anemia in your pet. The larvae can enter through human skin and cause a disease called cutaneous larva migrans, which causes lesions in the skin’s surface, pain, and itching. Hookworms can also infect humans internally causing muscle pain, lung disease, and abdominal pain.
Roundworms are a parasite of the dog’s digestive tract. In your dog they can cause poor coat quality, swollen bellies, anemia, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, intestinal obstruction, cough and pneumonia (if the larvae migrate through the respiratory system). In humans they can damage the liver, lungs and brain, and in rare cases can even lead to blindness!
Tapeworms, another intestinal parasite, cause weight loss, loss of appetite, nervousness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and rectal irritation. Humans, especially children, can become infected with tapeworms through contact with infected fleas and contact with the waste of infected animals.
Parvo is a highly contagious virus among dogs. It causes severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, bloody feces, fever, lowered white blood cell count, and in many cases, death in as little as two days without immediate, advanced veterinary intervention.
Distemper is a highly contagious virus which affects the intestinal and respiratory tracts, as well as the skin, brain and eyes. Symptoms of Distemper include diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, fever, and nasal and eye discharge. The death rate among dogs who contract Distemper is believed to be in the neighborhood of 75%. Dogs who survive Distemper often suffer permanent nervous system and vision damage.
Corona is another highly contagious virus in dogs which causes diarrhea. It is significantly less severe than Parvo, but can also cause dehydration.
Giardia is a single-celled organism which causes diarrhea, and abnormal feces, interferes with digestion causing weight loss and damages the intestinal lining. Dogs and humans can be infected with Giardia.
This bacterium causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, refusal to eat, gurgling stomach sounds, lethargy, dehydration, and drooling and panting (in dogs). Salmonella is easily transmitted between infected pets and humans.
Coccidia is a single-celled organism that lives in the intestines of dogs. It can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dehydration, and in severe instances, death in dogs.
In addition to these afflictions (and others) which can be transmitted through dog waste, other issues arise as well, including poor water quality. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) “Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Cloudy and green, Eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.” And, “decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life.
There are plenty of products out there that help you do your part without getting your hands dirty. You can use pick-up bags to protect your hands and pooper scoopers so you don’t even have to bend over. There are even biodegradable bags on the market now so you can be even more environmentally friendly. The best way to dispose of dog waste? Either flush it down the toilet, or place it in a dog-waste disposal system.
Bottom line? Pick up your pooch’s poo and you’ll help everyone around you (including neighborhood dogs, kids, and fishies) stay healthy.
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