We’ve been taught in our elementary science lessons that human and animal waste (such as cow dung) are both compostable because they are organic. So, we can’t help but think of dog poop as something that we can easily toss into the composting bin in the hopes of making instant and organic fertilizer for our tomato garden. But is it safe?
If you ever wonder “is it safe to compost dog poop?” then we have the answers right here. We’ve written an article to give you some clear facts and to debunk misconceptions about composting dog poop. If you have a couple of puppies and dogs at home, you might find this article interesting, especially if you want to start composting in the comfort of your backyard.
Is it safe to compost dog poop?
The short answer is no – but it’s not that simple. Generally, most people will advise you not to compost dog poop. That’s because dog waste contains a lot of microorganisms due to eating and licking almost everything they see and come across. This is also most likely the case if your dog has been rescued from being a stray or if they go outside more often than most dogs.
With that said, here are the dangerous microorganisms that are commonly found in dog poop, which is why composting might not be that ideal for most plants:
Coli is a kind of infectious toxin that is dangerous to humans. It affects our intestines and can cause bloody diarrhea. Although an E. coli infection is not exactly a serious health risk, some strong strains could cause kidney problems due to complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome.
With that said, E. coli is commonly found in animal stools, as well as in humans. You wouldn’t want your vegetable garden to be filled with such bacteria, right? That’s why if ever you want to compost dog poop, make sure it is done in a non-food garden, such as a bed of flowers.
Salmonella is a common contamination that comes from either water or food and can cause diarrhea. Although these can be treated using antibiotics, salmonella poisoning is just bad. Moreover, many people have died from salmonellosis although it still depends on the severity and proper care.
Although salmonellosis doesn’t affect dogs as severely as humans, if their poop that contains salmonella gets into your vegetable garden, the result won’t be pretty for humans and it can cause digestive upsets.
Parvovirus can affect both humans and man’s best friend. Moreover, parvovirus is a common emergency that vets encounter. Dogs that haven’t been vaccinated properly are at greater risk for this kind of virus. Humans can get it too, and the result affects them in terms of joint pains.
While dogs cannot get the parvovirus from humans, if you compost dog poop, there’s a big chance that the virus can get passed from the dog to the humans. With that said, a different and more severe variety of the parvovirus is fatal to dogs.
This type of bacteria is known to cause gastrointestinal problems. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by Campylobacter infection. Like most infectious organisms, however, the Campylobacter can be easily killed with cooking food or through heat.
Nonetheless, it still poses a threat if you leave it in your composting bin without proper treatment. This is why hot composting is more advisable if you want to compost dog poop – an option that’s not always available or suitable in a home backyard setting.
Campylobacter infections, although usually mild, are quite dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, such as kids and seniors.
Dog poop can also contain Toxocara canis, a kind of roundworm. Toxocara canis is commonly caught from soil handling, which is why dog poop isn’t that ideal for direct composting unless processed in a heated container.
Toxocariasis can occur in humans and could result in visceral larva migrans (VLM) and ruin our major organs. It could also cause eye damage due to the ocular larva migrans (OLM).
Cryptosporidium is a kind of parasite that can cause watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and could be life-threatening to people who have a weakened immune system.
Can dog poop be sent to a composting facility?
Yes, dog poop is more advisable to be sent to a composting facility. That’s because dog poop contains a wide array of parasites and pathogens that are harmful to human health (and even to dog health).
Your local composting facility or landfill will take care of pet waste in the proper way. Any pet waste should be heated up to 73 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit at a span of 5 days. This will “cook” the dog poop to ensure that the parasites and other dangerous pathogens and microorganisms will not survive. Then, the dog poop compost will be safe to use around gardens and the like.
As a general rule, most localities advise their pet owners to dump their dog poop into the local composting facility instead of in their backyard composting bin. That’s because if you keep the dog waste in your regular composting area, it won’t meet the necessary temperature and conditions to degrade into safe compost.
How to safely compost dog poop
Not all of us have the time or the convenience to take dog poop into a local facility for composting. So, if you do want to try and compost dog poop that you have at home, here’s the safe way to do it:
1. Mix 1 part sawdust and 2 parts dog poop
Sawdust is a carbon source that will help degrade dog manure easily. Since dog poop is high in nitrogen content, by adding a pure carbon source, such as sawdust, the result is a more effective composting setup that will be processed faster and safer.
If you do want to add sawdust into your compost pile, however, be sure to get it from a reputable source. This will ensure that your sawdust hasn’t been treated with harsh chemicals that are bad for the soil (and your plants). For instance, CCA or chromated copper arsenic is a common lumber treatment that isn’t going to make your compost eco-friendly.
2. Ensure the right temperature
As mentioned above, dog poop compost should be kept at a temperature of 73 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This will ensure that all kinds of pathogens, parasites, and the like will be killed so that you will avoid contamination in the soil.
To keep the dog poop compost at the right temperature, make sure you put a thermometer at the center of your compost pile. Many shops, both online and offline, sell thermometers that are specifically made for composting bins.
You can use such thermometers to check the temperature constantly because leaving your compost at a very high temperature for extended periods will ruin the compost. The same goes if you leave it at a low temperature – the dog poop will still have the bacteria and pathogens intact.
3. Cover the compost with black plastic
If your composting bin isn’t like those in the facilities, it is still possible to maintain a hot temperature inside the pile. To do this, cover the compost with black plastic so that it keeps the pile warm enough to kill the microorganisms and parasites that lurk in dog poop (and other compost items you may have in there).
Moreover, if you want to take the extra step and go green, you can use eco-friendly plastic, such as those that are labeled biodegradable or compostable. It may add more cost but in return, you are keeping animals safe from harmful and toxic plastic consumption.
4. Turn the compost weekly
To ensure that the dog poop gets evenly broken down inside the compost bin, turn the compost weekly. Fortunately, most composting bins are raffle-draw-style containers so that you can easily turn the entire container without a lot of effort.
Can dog poop be used as garden compost?
Yes – but only on ornamental plants and not on edible crops. Since we can’t be too sure that the salmonella and whatnot are already dead by the time you finished your dog poop composting process, we should just stick to using it with non-food plants.
If you intend to make your compost for a vegetable garden, you should just consider other safer options that are okay to be used around plants, such as eggshells.
As a whole, dog poop is compostable but only with strict safety precautions. You’ll never easily know if the parasites and microorganisms are completely killed when you perform hot composting so it’s best to use them only around non-food plants, such as flowers, shrubs, and trees.
With that said, we still believe that composting dog poop (or any animal poop, for that matter), is a little on the dangerous side due to such parasites lurking there. Therefore, we advise you to just turn over Fido’s waste to your local composting facility for much better and safer treatment.