By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

In a word, DON’T.

If you have a dog the size of a Shetland pony, with resulting sized poop, you may be tempted to compost it. After all, it’s free and you have to pick it up anyway. Forget about it!! Both dog and cat manure may carry organisms that can cause human problems. Dog can carry large roundworm and it is estimated that about 90 percent of young puppies are infected with ascarids, or roundworms. People get it by getting the eggs on their hands when handling dog poop and then transferring it to their mouths. Especially young kids who may pick it up from contaminated grass. The eggs then hatch in the small intestine. The larvae get into the blood stream and float to the liver. From the liver they get into the blood stream that goes to the lungs. Some may enter general circulation. They have been found in the human heart, brain, spinal column, and skin.  If they infect the eye, they attack the retina and cause blindness. Until recently, the only treatment was removal of the eye.

The eggs and larvae can live in the soil for years, depending on the soil conditions.

These infections are probably more common than figures show as it is a difficult disease to specifically diagnose. Doctors aren’t required to report it so there are no accurate statistics. A test in 1978 done by the U. S. Public Health Service on 2,606 human samples showed 30 percent positive for ascarids. It also reported 37 percent of all retinal diseases in children’s eye were positive for dog ascarid larvae. One would hope that those statistics are no longer accurate but since doctors aren’t required to report this problem, who knows. At any rate, do scoop poop in your yard and anyplace you walk your pup.

Cat poop isn’t any better.  It carries toxoplasmosis , an intestinal parasite that affects intestines and other tissues. It is shed as cysts. Pregnant woman should never clean the litter box as infection can cause malformation of the unborn child or even abortion.  

A test of outside cats in Wisconsin found the infection in 45 percent of them. The organism is spread for about 7 to 10 days after infection, then they become resistant and fewer eggs are shed. Humans can be infected by garden produce contaminated by the feces or by cats using your kid’s sand box for a litter box. Kids will invariably put their hands in their mouths getting the eggs on their fingers. 

Now that you are thoroughly icked out, composting is still a great way to add tilth to your soil. It lets sandy soil hold water longer and makes clay soil more permeable. Just be judicious about the type of poop you add to it. if you don’t want to make your own, cow and chicken compost is available in bags. Raw horse manure is full of weeds, so it needs a very hot compost.

Now to change the subject, it has been very dry this spring. If you don’t get at least an inch of rain a week, water. All growing plants, including trees, need at least that much to grow, especially now when plants are producing stems and leaves. Mulch now to help keep any moisture we do get from evaporating. It also keeps weeds from sprouting so you won’t be out in mid- July sweating like a horse pulling up weeds. Wouldn’t be nicer to sit in the screened porch, drinking lemonade and reading a steamy romance novel when the temperatures are in three digits?