Fall—especially before the snow starts piling up—is a great time to clean the back yard, which for many Gallatin Valley residents means scooping the dog poop. After all, there’s nothing worse than having that lingering around after the spring thaw. Cleaning up after your dog can be a stinky job, and it’s not a good idea to let it build up. Constant cleanup is necessary for a healthy environment for you and your family.

Here’s the scoop on dog poop:

Is Dog Poop Dangerous?

Love, food, and shelter were all things you actively agreed on providing for your new pet when you purchased or adopted them. Sanitation and cleanup are also important facets of pet ownership that are critical to the health and well-being of your entire family.

On the list of contributors to contaminated water dog feces rank as high as third. Left un-checked, your yard can quickly turn into a mine field of feces in a week or less. On average, dogs do a number two twice per day, which adds up to about 14 piles in just one week, per dog. Contrary to popular belief, dog feces are not fertilizer and do not provide any benefit to the soil.

What’s in it?

Dog feces may contain parvovirus, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, threadworms, campylobacteriosis, giardia, and coccidia. If left unattended, these parasites will contaminate the water, soil, and can even cause infection in both pets and humans (especially children). The microscopic Hookworm larvae can be passed to another pet or person directly through the skin or by accidental ingestion as can other bacteria.

Can Humans Acquire these Parasites?

Humans are capable of contracting hookworms, tapeworms, threadworms, and campylobacteriosis. This is the most significant reason to avoid allowing dogs (especially puppies) to lick your face and mouth— affectionately known as “puppy kisses.” If a dog comes into contact with this infectious material after eating feces or attempting to groom their hindquarters, there is a chance the parasites can be passed directly into your mouth. Children are especially venerable to infection, because they tend to enjoy playing in the dirt, where parasites such as hookworm larvae lay dormant waiting for a new host. Young children may also put dirty hands or toys in their mouth, further increasing the chance for infectious material consumption.

Disease Prevention

Pet feces can be catastrophic to the local water table, contaminating nearby ponds, lakes, rivers, and drinking water. When feces is allowed to remain on the soil for long periods, rainstorms will begin to dilute and break apart the feces and slowly spread the bacteria or other contaminants into local water sources. If your yard happens to hold water for extended periods of time, the problem may be amplified.

What to do

To avoid potential infection, dog feces should be removed from the yard every 1 – 7 days, depending on the size of the dog and number of dogs in the household. Larger dogs will need more frequent cleanup, as will households with more than one dog. A family with one Pomeranian will have a much lower environmental impact than the family with two Great Danes.

If you are too busy to clean up after your dog, or the thought of it just makes you gag, there are services available that will gladly do the dirty work for you.


For any questions or more information, call or email the Gallatin City-County Health Department’s Environmental Health program at 406-582-3120, ehs@gallatin.mt.gov.

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