How Do Dog Droppings Add Undesired Nutrients to Nature?

How Do Dog Droppings Add Undesired Nutrients to Nature?

During the recent pandemic, as dog ownership increased, so too did the number of dogs being walked in neighborhoods, parks, beaches, and city streets. This “antidote” to the isolation of pandemic living, however, can also bring serious health risks to our environment, including ourselves. 


As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency, animal feces contain two forms of contaminants that harm the ecosystem: pathogens and nutrients. When this waste reaches freshwater bodies, it decomposes, releasing undesired nutrients that might promote weed and algae growth. Not only can waste negatively impact water bodies by making it green, muddy, and stinky, but just 2-3 days’ worth of waste from 100 dogs is enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay and all watershed areas within 20 miles.


Pet waste also contains several parasites, bacteria, and diseases that can be transferred to humans. Dog feces may contain worms that infect humans, particularly children. Roundworms, for example, are widespread in dogs and can survive for years in the soil, says DoodyCalls.


When dog owners picked up their dog’s feces, the nitrogen fertilization rate declined by 57 percent, while the phosphorus fertilization rate dropped by 97 percent, according to Belgian scientists. TreeHugger claims this is because dog excrement accounts for nearly all of the phosphorus deposits, whereas nitrogen comes from both urine and droppings.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that dog owners can do the following steps to prevent dog waste from entering the environment: 

  1. Simply carry a plastic bag with you on every walk and pick up your dog’s waste to prevent dog feces from entering a water body.
  2. Avoid letting your dog do their business within 200 feet of a water body.
  3. Dispose of the waste properly, such as placing the waste in designated dog waste bins and never throwing it down a storm drain.

For more information, check out these sources: EPA, DoodyCalls, and TreeHugger