Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dog Waste and Our Water

Is your health at risk? When taking your dog out to do his duty, do you clean up, and if so, where? If you leave it to the side of the grass or near the street, you may not know it, but you are causing pollution, possible health problems and depending on where you live, municipal violations. I bet you never considered the effects that the clean up of your dog's waste has.

The creek that I live behind is not as clean as I would like it when it comes to picking up after one's pet. I believe it has gotten worse. It is one thing not to pick up on a walkway or park, although both are usually subjected to a fine when enforced, but the worst offenders are those who do not clean up their dog's waste in creeks or trails which are near water. Animal waste contains nutrients which promotes algae when entered in streams or lakes. Dog waste can also carry organisms that carry diseases that enter the water which makes it unsafe to swim, drink or fish. Why would anyone knowingly do this to our environment and health? I believe it is do to a lack of education on the subject matter. With that said, I also believe there is a lack of responsibility among many dog owners who feel they can let their dog defecate anywhere without any penalties. Unfortunately, they are usually right. Rarely are penalties enforced. In Cotati, there are pet waste stations and baggies at every park and trail, yet it seems there are many that think they are immune to these signs. When police do not follow up on violators, the habit goes on unpunished and allows the violators to do it again without guilt.

Water quality suffers not only when not picked up, but also when disposed of improperly. Animals and humans are at risk of infection due to bacteria and parasites found in dog waste. Many people do not like flys because they are simply irritating, yet did you know that flies spread disease from the dog waste it left? Such diseases include the following which are transmitted from pet to humans:

  • Campylobacteriosis- this is a bacterial infection carried by dogs and cats that routinely causes diarrhea in humans
  • Cryptosporidiosis- this is a parasitic infection which causes diarrhea and abdominal pains
  • Giardiasis- this is a infection of the small intestine which causes fatigue, loss of weight and cramping
  • Salmonellosis- this is the most common bacterial infection transmitted to humans by animals. Symptoms include headache, vomiting, diarrhea, fever  
  • Toxocariasis- Roundworms are transmitted from dogs to humans and causes vision loss, cough, fever, cough. Many times the symptoms are not very noticeable.
  • Toxoplasmosis- a parasite carried by cats that can cause birth defects, mental retardation, blindness and is also a problem for those who have low immune systems. Symptoms include headaches, body aches and lymph node enlargements.
The best way to eliminate waste is to flush it in your toilet. I was shocked when I heard that as well, but the waste from our toilet goes to a treatment plant that removes most pollutants which can get in our water before reaching our lakes and rivers. One note is that you should never put cat litter down your toilet to prevent plumbing problems. Cat feces however can be flushed down the toilet.  The next best thing is to  dig a hole 5 inches deep and bury it. Keep away from gardens, streams, or lakes. Lastly, put it in the trash. This is not the best solution however as waste taken to a landfill can still cause problems. With that said, it is much better than the alternative which is to do nothing.

Next time you are out walking your pet, try to remember the implications of not picking up after your pet and how that affects all of us. I know it is something that we do not think about, as our lives are too busy, yet now that you are aware of the harm it can cause, remember to pick up.

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