So…what’s the big to-do about dog doo? Before you poo-poo the thought, here’s a fact to consider: Pet waste can make our water unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming, and other types of recreation. If it’s not disposed of properly, pet waste can be carried by stormwater runoff to storm drains that empty untreated into our streams, creeks, and rivers.

Pet waste contains bacteria and viruses that can contaminate waterways and make living things unhealthy. Learn more!

Pet waste also has nutrients that promote excessive algae growth in lakes and streams. When the algae dies and decomposes, it robs the water of dissolved oxygen that fish and other aquatic life needs to survive! Learn more!

Take A Peek at Poop

A single gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria! Put your mouse over the microscope and check out what’s in the gut of your mutt! Draw what you see!

images of miscroscope, Fecal coliform/E. coli and Roundworm

Move your mouse over the microscope to see what the bacteria that live inside your dog look like!

Fecal Coliform/E. coli

Fecal coliforms and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. These waste microbes can cause short-term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may also pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

Roundworm eggs, also known as Toxocara canis, may cause a rash, fever, coughing, or vision loss. These eggs are found in dog feces, especially puppy feces, and can infect humans if ingested (frequently, by a child, because small children put their hands in their mouths more often).

Take Action

Call your local stormwater management department to learn how they want you to dispose of pet waste. Some towns want pet waste double-wrapped and placed in designated dog bins or regular trash. Others prefer you bury it one foot deep, away from vegetable gardens and drinking water wells. Still others recommend flushing it down the toilet to be treated with human waste by your septic system or a sewage treatment plant.

What Can I Do?

Additional Resources

Have some dog-gone fun and “Scoop the Poop”! Compete in this relay race and see who can scoop the poop the fastest, dispose of it properly, and keep streams and rivers clean! (Don’t worry…the poop is only playdough!)

Here’s a multi-cultural activity from the Des Moines Water Association in Iowa. Use Knox gelatin and beef broth to grow bacterial cultures from various water samples.