Can Dog Poop Be Vermicomposted?

Question from Bruce:

I would like to help a local animal shelter who has a problem with too much dog poop by using a worm bin to decompose the dog poop and creating fertilizer that could be sold to help fund the shelter. Can this be done?

I have read that you can only use the dog fertilizer for flowers not food related plants correct? how long do you think it would take to start harvesting fertilizer for sale?

Hi Bruce,

The short answer is that, YES, dog poop can certainly be processed by composting worms. My brother-in-law tosses most of his dop poop (during warmer times of the year) in a basic backyard composter containing Red Worms, and they readily convert it into rich compost.

Would I suggest doing this on a larger scale and then selling the compost to the public? Not likely. Or at least not without a lot more steps/processes in place.

Composting worms have been found (in multiple academic studies) capable of destroying human pathogens, so there is a reasonable chance you could end up with a fairly safe end product simply by vermicomposting the material. The thing is, though – would you really want to take a chance? Even with a specialized, professional flow-through system and a high density of worms, there is no guarantee that all the waste materials will end up passing through the digestive system of the worms.

And then there is the public perception – perhaps the biggest hurdle of all. Regardless of what these worms are capable of, people just tend to think of any type of animal waste product as “dangerous” – largely thanks to the over-hyped media coverage of e-coli and salmonella outbreaks etc.

If you were really serious about this, and had the resources available, my recommendation would be to mix with dog poop with lots of absorbent, carbon-rich bedding materials and hot compost it for at least a couple of weeks before feeding it to the worms. The retention time in the vermicomposting system should be at least 60 days, especially if you plan to use anything other than a professional grade flow-through bed. Upon completion of the process, the compost would absolutely need to be tested on a regular basis to ensure that no disease organisms were present.

I still think it could be a worthwhile project to help the shelter turn their poop into compost – don’t get me wrong. You might simply focus on using the compost on their property instead of selling it. As alluded to above, you will need some larger systems, though – not just a few “worm bins”. A low-tech approach might simply involve heaping the poop and bedding up to the point of initiating the hot composting process – and then perhaps spreading the pre-composted material out into windrows for the worms. Operating at that level (with those volumes) I’m sure you would need to look into local regulations on manure handling, however. Bare minimum, I’m sure all this would at least need to be done up on a concrete pad of some sort. You would also need to make sure there was no run-off into the surrounding environment.

A contained system – something similar in design to a composting toilet, for example, might be one alternative that would involve less red tape from your local governing bodies. But it doesn’t sound as though this is a project with much in the way of funding, so you’d have to decide if this was feasible.

Bottom-line, I’m definitely not trying to be a wet blanket here (lol), but this is definitely the sort of project that should involve a LOT of due diligence if you plan to start on a large scale and/or get the public involved.

Hope this helps! Good luck.

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    • John W.
    • March 17, 2014

    I use to compost a lot of dog poo. I had 3 dogs, and 1 small back yard.
    You have two concerns that I had to always remember.

    1)You have to know the dogs were not treated with some kind of monthly de-wormer.

    2)The second even larger problem I had was fly larva. It was impossible to keep worms away from a big bucket of poo. The fly larva would begin to out compete the worms for “food” The poo would disappear and be broken down, but I don’t think the final product would be considered safe or vermicompost. There worms were always there, but in much smaller numbers due to the competition.

    • Bentley
    • March 17, 2014

    Yeah, great points John!
    I’m not sure where Bruce is located, but if it is anywhere semi-warm, fly larvae could definitely create hassles. This would be another advantage of hot composting the material first (partial stabilization would reduce the appeal for flies – and of course the heat of the composting process would kill off most of the eggs/larvae).

    • tom
    • March 18, 2014

    why not use it for agriculture field crops

    • Jeremy W
    • March 19, 2014

    I’ve been pondering how I could use my red worm processed cat and dog waste as fertilizer for my lawn. I’m thinking there must be something I could mix with dried vermicompost to aid in spreading it with my lawn fertilizer spreader. Or maybe nothing at all? Just dry it out and spread it on the lawn? Has anyone done this?

    • Andy L.
    • March 19, 2014

    Another method can be use for dog waste is Bokashi as a pre-compost. The company Bokashicycle have a pet waste composting system. This might work to lower the chances for diseases and pathogens in dog waste in the vermicompost. Just let ferment for 2 weeks and add some carbon source, maybe the worms will like it.

    • Ian
    • May 25, 2022

    John W. You mentioned fly larvae. I have an in ground digester that I put nothing but dog and water in. The only goal is to get rid of dog waste, I do not want to harvest it as compost.

    The lid is sealed to keep the smells contained and has worked but I could remove a small portion of the seal to allow flies in. As gross as it would be for the bin to be full of maggots if they would keep the level down they are welcome.

    Will they help the level go down?

    • Ian
    • May 25, 2022

    Correction. Dog poop and water!

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