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Does Dog Poop Decompose?

Updated: Apr 9


Does Dog Poop Decompose Graphic

Dog poop decomposes naturally, but it takes a long time. Your pet’s diet, their gut biome, the environment, the soil where the poop is deposited, and the presence of scavenger animals all play a role in how long it takes to decompose completely. Not all poop is created equal when it comes to decomposition.


You should not leave dog waste to break down where it drops. It will cause damage to the surrounding vegetation due to its naturally high nitrogen content. Too much nitrogen damages plants. 


Fecal matter is also packed with many disease-causing pathogens that, when left to decompose naturally, pose a risk to humans and animals.


What Influences Dog Poop Decomposition


Let’s look at all the factors that can help or hinder your dog’s poop from breaking down.


Bacteria and fungi


At the heart of all decomposition lies a network of microscopic bacteria and fungi. These microbes break down different types of organic matter in dog excrement, allowing it to decompose over time.


Every dog’s gut biome is different and will add different microbes to the poop during digestion. If the stool is dropped in soil high in different types of microbes, they will also play a role in decomposition.


The combination of these different bacteria and fungi working together determines the speed at which decomposition takes place.


Diet


Protein and fiber: 


If your dog has a diet high in protein, the feces they produce will have more complex organic compounds. These compounds are a bit tougher to break down for microbes, so the fecal matter will decompose slower.


If your dog’s diet is higher in fiber, its feces will consist of more simple compounds and in turn it will be much easier for microbes to break it down. Most dog foods available commercially are bulked up with grains, making them fiber-rich.


Nutrient content


Higher nutrient content in your dog's waste is a much more welcoming environment for microbial life. More nutrients mean that microbes will accelerate their activity in the poop and break down the organic compounds faster. A higher nutrient content also means the microbial life present in the poop will be more diverse, which further accelerates decomposition.


The nutrient content of dog poop is actually why it is not safe to use on plants, while something like cow manure is. Composting dog waste is the only way to cut the high amount of nitrogen present.


The environment


Temperature –The bacteria and fungi that break down pet waste love warm weather, so they will work better in a sunny environment. Colder climates will greatly slow down how fast your dog poop decomposes as it slows down the activity and metabolisms of microbes.


Humidity – High moisture content in the air is great news for microbial life. The higher the humidity, the faster your dog poop will get broken down.


Precipitation – Heavy rainfall will greatly slow down decomposition as it will prevent microbes from access to sufficient oxygen. Heavy rainfall will also wash away dog stool, which causes a risk of contamination to any body of water it comes in contact with.


Oxygen – Oxygen is an essential part of decomposition. The more oxygen is present, the better microbes can do their work.  


Sunlight – Sunlight can be a good and a bad thing. Sunlight will dry out dog feces and help it break down. But if the poop receives too much UV radiation from the sun, it will inhibit the activity of microbes and prevent them from doing their job.


Scavengers


While technically not a process of decomposition, the presence of scavenger animals means that your pet waste won’t stay around long.


Many animals feed on excrement, while others only occasionally consume it while they are out foraging. Raccoons, coyotes, opossums, rodents and birds can all on occasion feed on poop. With enough scavengers around, the question "How long does it take to decompose poop?" becomes moot.


Soil quality


The quality of the soil that your dog’s poop plops down in greatly affects the rate of decomposition. The nutrient content of the soil will influence the diversity of microbes that can live in the soil and help break down dog waste. The more microbial life your soil can support, the faster it will decompose dog poo.


The soil’s PH level needs to be neutral or slightly acidic to keep microbial life happy. The soil also needs to have adequate moisture levels for the bacteria and fungi. Any pesticides or other chemicals in the soil negatively affect the soil’s ability to support microbial life.


Why It’s Not Okay To Leave Dog Poop To Decompose


Let’s look at five reasons why it’s not a great idea to just leave your dog poop to decompose naturally in your backyard. If you are struggling with managing your pet’s waste, you can visit us at Chore-ology. We specialize in animal waste removal and will make your life much easier.


1. It damages plants


The number one reason why you should not leave dog poop out to decompose is that it will kill your lawn. You will notice that tell-tale yellow discoloration forms around wherever it is left. This is caused by the nitrogen-rich dog excrement damaging vegetation around it as the nitrogen seeps out. This is what is called a nitrogen burn. By contrast, something like cow manure has a lower nitrogen content, making it safer to use as a fertilizer.


2. It can contaminate water


Dog poop becomes dangerous if it gets washed by rainwater into storm drains and out to nearby bodies of water. This will contaminate the water source with pathogens and could lead to human infections or serious algal blooms that can severely harm the local ecosystem.


3. Health risks for animals and humans


Harmful bacteria, parasites, and dangerous pathogens call your dog's stool home. If dog poop is just left to decompose naturally, these pathogens can spread to other dogs, animals, and humans.


4. Foul odor


This is a no-brainer, but leaving animal waste out to decompose by itself will make your backyard smell terrible.


5. It attracts pests


Of course, along with that foul odor, you will see your lawn attract more pests. The longer pet waste is left to decompose naturally, the more flies and other pests will be drawn to this food source.

 

The Benefits Of Composting Dog Poop


The best way for pet owners to quickly decompose their dog's waste is by composting it. All you need to do is mix the poop with carbon rich materials to balance out its nitrogen content. You can find helpful guides online for more details on composting dog waste. There are many benefits for dog owners who make the little effort it takes to compost dog poop.


  • By composting all your dog's poop, you will save hundreds of pounds of animal waste heading to the landfill each year.

  • Once you start your composting pile, you will have a year-round mound of nutrient-rich soil that you can use in your garden or potted plants.

  • If you spend money keeping your garden nourished with fertilizers, you will save a lot of money by creating your compost using your dog waste.

  • When you compost dog poop, you reduce your environmental impact. It helps reduce the use of artificial fertilizers, and it will protect the environment from potentially harmful pathogens found in dog poop.

  • When you poop scoop, you won’t have to spend money on plastic bags for storage. You can simply place the dog waste directly into the doggy compost bin.

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