My dog poops multiple times per day. After picking up bag after bag of doggie doo, I wonder if there is a better way to handle it than just throwing it into the garbage can.
We love our pets. Sixty percent of households include dogs or cats. There is now as much dog and cat waste as there was human waste in the 1950s.
What are we going to do about all the feces that come with the pets? Is it compostable?
Compostable, But with a Caveat
Composting is a natural process that converts organic waste into a plant-nutrient source. You would think that pet feces should be compostable. After all, the waste is an organic derivative that, like pig manure, should be able to be transformed back into a garden supplement.
Unfortunately, parasites found in pet waste will not be eliminated in home compost piles. To kill the bacteria and parasites in dog and cat poop, a consistent temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73 degrees Celsius) must be maintained for at least five days. This temperature is rarely reached in an ordinary bin or pile.
Feces Contain Pathogens
Pet feces can contain pathogens—germs that can cause diseases—such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
If your pet receives regular veterinary care and is treated for parasites, the risk of you ingesting your pet’s germs and parasites is minor. But there is one exception.
Roundworms are one of the most common parasites seen in dogs. Roundworms and their cousins, the ascarids, may survive when dog excrement is composted. If you ingest roundworms, their eggs can hatch in your intestines.
Is It Practical to Compost at Home?
Generally, home compost piles get hot only in the center. Even if you turn the mass regularly, there will still be parts that don’t reach the temperatures necessary to kill the bacteria and pathogens found in pet feces.
This means that you might be spreading worm larvae and bacteria when you distribute decomposed matter in your garden. This could make you sick, especially if you grow fruit and vegetable plants.
So, in most cases, the risk to your health is not worth the benefits of composting your pet’s poop. If you will be attempting it, it is essential to do it correctly.
How to Compost It Correctly
You can avoid risking your health by following a few safety steps that ensure you compost your dog or cat’s waste properly.
To begin, provide perfect composting conditions. Begin by mixing 1 part sawdust with 2 parts dog excrement. To help break down the nitrogen-rich manure, compost mixtures need carbon. Sawdust is practically pure carbon and will counterbalance the manure’s strong nitrogen content.
If possible, cover the mound with black plastic to focus solar energy on the pile and keep the heat in. Turn the mixture once a week and use a compost thermometer to check that the pile is at the proper temperature. The crumbly mix will be ready to blend with other organic goods in four to six weeks.
Tips for Using Compost That Contains Pet Waste
- Do not use composted animal waste in a vegetable garden. Use compost from another source if you’re growing veggies, berries, fruit trees, herbs, or even edible flowers—anything that yields food you’ll consume.
- Composted animal waste should not be used in areas where children play, for example, below swing sets or around play structures.
- Composted animal waste can be used in flowerbeds and around trees and shrubs.
- Wear gloves when handling cat or dog waste, and wash your hands thoroughly once you are done.