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Dog Poop is the New ‘Cow Fart.’ The Devastating Effect of Dog Poop on the Environment

When it comes to marking territory, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. With every poop, your dog is leaving their personal mark for other dogs to check out. Now, imagine if every dog parent left their dog’s calling card where it dropped. Our sidewalks, parks, trails, and yards would be littered with poop. Before picking up dog poop became a thing in the 70s and 80s, this is how we all lived. Scraping off shoes was a normal occurrence.

But the “ick” factor takes a back seat to environmental impact. Mother Nature can't handle all that dog poop, just like she has trouble digesting all the methane from cow farts and burps. Toxic with parasites and bacteria, dog poo creates long-term problems for animals, people, and even ecosystems. Honestly, I had no idea myself about the extensive damage it caused, until relatively recently.

So, let’s talk about some of the dog poop problems that have recently been in the news, why such a small thing is such a big deal – and how we personally can help change things for the better.

Pooch poop is bad for biodiversity. Who knew?

Biodiversity refers to all the different kinds of life you find in nature, and how they work together. Who would imagine that dog poop could impact the balance of nature? A study of four nature reserves in Belgium calculated that urine and feces left behind by dogs could create nitrogen and phosphorus levels in nature areas that are so high, they are likely to be damaging plant and wildlife populations. Their analysis found that the resulting overfertilization of the ground near dog-walking paths could reach levels that would actually be illegal on farmland.

While dog walkers often mistakenly think that leaving a little poo behind just makes more soil, scientists point out that many ecosystems are naturally low-nutrient environments and don't benefit from extra fertilization. Some of the plants that love more nutrient-rich soil are invasive species like honeysuckle, lesser celandine, and garlic mustard. (Is that why there’s so much garlic mustard in people’s yards nowadays?) Dog-poop nutrients can help them spread, choking out native plants that insects and animals need to survive.

While a single pup’s poop may seem like a minor bit of brown that dissolves without impact into the ground, it’s the cumulative impact of puppy poop that can really get us in deep sh*t.

Sh*t does flow downstream: Dog poop pollutes waterways.

Even though dogs poop on the ground, a lot of their waste ends up in the water. Rain and snow wash left-behind dog feces into storm drains, lakes, and streams, where it rots, using up oxygen and adding ammonia. In combination with with warm temperatures, it can even kill fish. The added nutrients in the poop also encourage the growth of weeds and algae, upsetting the biodiversity of streams, ponds, and lakes. It can even contribute to severe algae blooms including cyanobacteria – often called “blue-green algae” – that has been the cause of death of dogs who have taken a drink or a swim in contaminated waters.

And then there are those pesky parasites and pathogens that flourish in a dog’s digestive system, making water unsafe for both animals and people: bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella, and parasites like roundworms, toxoplasma, and giardia. There’s nothing like taking a “refreshing” dip on a hot day and getting sick because of poop-load in the lake, river or pond…eww.

Can dog poop kill?

It sounds like a crazy question, but unfortunately, while poop itself doesn't kill, the pathogens it may carry does. Recently, in New Forest, England,18 cows turned out to graze on national park land lost their calves during pregnancy. Tests showed they all carried neospora caninum, a bovine parasite found in dog feces that causes miscarriages in cattle. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease, so prevention involves keeping dogs (and dog poop) away from cattle feed, including pastures where they graze.

Dogs can carry a wide variety of parasites that can infect other animals, and even humans.  A 1996 study found that 30% of dogs younger than 6 months deposit roundworms in feces, and that 5% of the human population has been infected with roundworms. Roundworm infection in people can cause inflammation in the eye as the worm migrates through the retina and can even cause blindness. It can also attack the lungs, liver, and central nervous system. Yikes!

When it comes to human infection, because roundworm eggs have to be swallowed to infect their host, kids are at the greatest risk. They love to play in the dirt and sometimes put their soil-covered hands in their mouths. Parents should worm their dogs and cats regularly, and teach kids to keep things out of their mouths and to wash their hands after playing outside or with their pets.

How is dog poop different from wildlife poop?

It’s tempting to rationalize leaving dog doo behind by telling ourselves there are millions of wild animals pooping all over the globe. Can a few dogs really matter?

Wild animals wander freely over wide territories, dispersing their poop in random, scattered locations. A community's dogs, on the other hand, are walked every day on the same trails, paths, yards and sidewalks, resulting in a large poo load in a very small area, increasing its impact.

Wild animals also eat the plants and animals from their own home territory, so essentially they recycle what they eat back into the same territory when they poop it out. Dogs bring in a belly full of nutrient-rich commercial dog food from home and dump it in wild areas that can be harmed by overfertilization.

Not all poop is created equal!

Science is making it easier to track down poo-petrators.

I can’t resist a good pun, but the issue is serious enough that some cities are tracking down people who fail to pick up after their pup, using advances in DNA technology. A Spanish woman was surprised by a $570 fine for leaving her dog’s poo behind while she was vacationing in Benalmadena, Spain. How did they find her in her home city of Paterna, over 400 miles away?

ADN Canino, a Spanish company that specializes in collecting and maintaining a database of canine DNA from Spanish municipalities, has been using DNA samples primarily to prevent pet abandonment and abuse. However, their technology is also used to track down pet parents who don’t scoop their dogs’ poop, and this dog mom had her dog’s DNA registered in the database. The original article (in Spanish) is here.

We may as well all get in good practice picking up poo, because the days of anonymously walking away from a pile appear to be fading into the past. A quick swab from a discarded dollop of poo may bring you, the errant dog owner, to justice – and could earn you worldwide media exposure, too!

The fix is simple: Pick up the poop.

Serious problems don’t always have simple solutions. This one does. Just pick up your dog’s poop each and every time they stop’n drop a “roll.” By disposing of it safely in the trash, you keep that little bundle of nutrients out of the soil and water. You’ll move parasites safely out of the reach of wildlife, other pets, and people. And we don’t have to look at it, or risk stepping in it, either.

A dooloop can help.

No one likes picking up and carrying poop, with your hand separated from warm, aromatic feces by only a few millimeters of plastic until you find a trash can. Not fun!

The simple answer? The dooloop. This sweet little innovation gets poop out of your hands in mere seconds. With your poo-bag slung safely into the dooloop attached to your dog's leash, you won’t need to clutch that bag again until a trash can comes into view. Each dooloop holds a lot of sh*t. It’s the company joke, but it’s for real. We’ve even been approached by a company that makes poop bags for humans (for camping or when little kid don’t have their ‘timing’ down quite yet). Carrying poop has never been something people want to do.

So, I’m learning, and if you’ve gotten this far, you’re learning, too. If we literally take care of our own sh*t, we can make a meaningful difference in the world. Instead of heaping more crap onto Mother Nature, like (not their fault) methane-farting, burping cows, we can all breathe a little easier, and walk without constantly looking down.

So do your doo-ty for the environment. Let the dooloop hold onto your pup’s poop until you can dispose of it. It's mom invented and made in the USA of recycled plastic. Get your dooloop here or check our website for a list of stores near you!

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