Why Composting Dog Waste Should Be Avoided: Understanding the Risks of Dog Waste in Compost

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Why Composting Dog Waste Should Be Avoided: Understanding the Risks of Dog Waste in Compost

Those of us who love our four-legged friends have an undesirable by-product of caregiving: dog poop. In the search to be more earth-friendly and conscientious, pet poop composting seems a logical way to deal with this waste. But should dog feces go in compost? Sadly, this may not be as effective and sensible as it may seem.

Dog Waste in Compost

Composting is a natural process to reduce organic waste to a useable nutrient source for plants. As you responsibly pick up your pet’s waste, it might occur to you to wonder, “Can dog feces go in compost?”. After all, the waste is an organic derivative that should be able to be converted back into a garden amendment much like steer or pig manure. Unfortunately, our pet wastes contain parasites that may not be killed in household compost piles. A constant temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73 C.) has to be maintained for at least 5 days for this to occur. This is difficult to achieve in home composting situations.

Dangers of Composting Dog Waste

Dog waste in compost can carry a number of unhealthy parasites that can affect humans and other animals. Roundworms are one of the most common pests that afflict our dogs. Roundworms and their cousins, ascarids, may persist in compost made with dog waste. These can be ingested and their eggs can hatch in the human intestine. This causes a condition called Visceral Larval Migrans. The tiny eggs can then migrate through the bloodstream and attach to the lungs, liver, and other organs, with a host of different unpleasant symptoms as a result. Most unpleasant is Ocular Larval Migrans, which occur when the eggs attach to the retina and may cause blindness.

Pet Poop Composting

If you wish to tackle composting of your dog’s waste safely, follow a few precautions. First, make sure you create ideal composting conditions. Start with 1 part sawdust and 2 parts dog manure. Compost mixtures require adequate carbon to help break down the nitrogen-rich manure. Sawdust is almost pure carbon and will compliment the high nitrogen content of this manure. Cover the pile with black plastic, if necessary, to keep heat in and help focus solar energy on the pile. Turn the mix weekly and check the temperature with a compost thermometer to ensure that the pile is at a suitable temperature. In about four to six weeks, the mix will be crumbly and ready to mix with other organic items.

How to Use Dog Waste in Compost

Composting dog waste effectively and safely hinges on the constant high temperatures to kill dangerous parasites. If you are sure you have done this and have a safe product, you can add it to your garden as an amendment. However, because there is no guarantee that the parasites are certifiably dead, it is best to confine use to areas around ornamental plantings only, such as shrubs and trees. Do not use the result of pet poop composting around edible plants. Mix it with vegetative compost for best results.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.