Dog Boo in the Worm Bin?

Sorry folks – I just couldn’t help fielding this one on the blog! Aside from making me smile, it is actually an excellent question (thanks to Alberto for submitting it!).

Hello , I have four dogs and I’m starting with two worm
compostinting bins, one is going to be for food scrapes and the other
just for dog boo, I was reading that dog boo is very good and that if
you give the worms dog boo that’s all you should give them to eat and
notting else is that true, and is dog boo a good food to give the
worms and does it make a good compost and compost tea. Thank You

Hi Alberto!
I am glad to hear that you are setting up two different systems – one normal one, and one just for dog waste.
While I agree that this material is rich in nitrogen and thus has lots of composting potential, it is not something I would recommend adding to a normal compost/worm bin. Dog feces can contain human pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella etc, so you would need to be extra careful when working with a worm bin containing this material. I would actually suggest setting up a special (preferably outdoor) system for vermicomposting pet wastes – something well separated from your other compost bins. To be totally honest, I wouldn’t directly use the resulting compost, and also wouldn’t make compost tea out of it.

Believe it or not, I am actually very open-minded about the use of ALL types of manure (including our own), and feel that many of our modern methods for dealing with these materials are incredibly wasteful (rather ironic, don’t you think?). That being said, I still think it’s important to acknowledge any potential hazards (without getting overly paranoid) and choose your methods accordingly.

Creating a composting system for your pets would be quite easy. I’d simply dig a hole in the ground, add a nice thick layer of shredded cardboard (or some other carbon-rich material) then start adding the pet waste, making sure to also include some more shredded cardboard or paper each time the dog waste is added. I would likely place a regular plastic backyard composter (one of the solid black ones) over top to help protect the materials from excess precipitation and curious children. Dog feces is a very rich material and would almost certainly need to be aged (or precomposted) before the worms will want to feed on it. I would let the hole fill to the top, then let it age for a few more weeks before adding any worms. In the meantime you could start a second system so you have some place to add your dog waste. If you have a cover over top you will likely need to add some water as you go – but you’ll want to be quite careful with the amount. You want the contents of the ‘composter’ to be moist but not soaking wet. Speaking of which, it is also very important to locate your pet waste composter a good distance (perhaps 100 yards or more) from the nearest water body.

As I mentioned, I would not remove any of the finished compost and use it, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t strategically position the composter near some trees or shrubs (I wouldn’t recommend having it anywhere near your vegetable garden however) so they can benefit from all the nutrients. This way you are making good use of the compost (especially if they happen to be fruit/nut producing trees or shrubs) without having to move the material itself.

I’m actually planning to create a system like this for our cat waste this year. This is another material with a lot of potential as a nitrogen source, but also one that needs to be handled with caution (in fact it should not be handled AT ALL by pregnant women or young children, especially if the cats are allowed outdoors).

Hope this helps!


[tags]pet waste, dog poo, cat poo, dog feces, cat feces, manure, composting, compost, health hazards, vermicomposting, worm composting, compost bin, composter[/tags]

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    • Alison
    • April 2, 2008

    Hi Bentley and Alberto, I read somewhere that E-coli is killed if it goes through a worm and also any e-coli that a worm passes close to is also killed.I will try and find where I read it as it was a really good article.If E-coli can be killed this way maybe the other nasties can be as well.It is always good to be careful where these nasties are present or could be present.

    • Bentley
    • April 3, 2008

    Hi Alison,
    You are absolutely right – there has been some research to indicate the potential for vermicomposting for destroying pathogens (although I hadn’t heard about them killing e-coli when passing close to them). I think for me the problem lies in the fact that fresh dog waste would be continually added to the system, so that at any one time there a decent amount of unprocessed material. One other thing I didn’t mention was the fact that it likely wouldn’t be a fun system to work with. Even with lots of bedding I suspect the odour would be pretty bad at times.


    • Lee in Iowa
    • April 10, 2009

    Gosh, I almost hate to admit this: I use dog poo in all my compost. Never had any problems with it. (It’s all from my own dogs; maybe I’ve gotten immune to any germs they have.) My indoor worms love it. I suppose the outdoor, “free-range” worms must, as well, because it always disappears very quickly. Indoors, it’s the first thing my worms go after. Maybe I haven’t had problems because I’m a bit of a girly-girl and wear gardening gloves?

    But even tho dog poo isn’t a “hot” manure to activate an outdoor compost heap, it adds greatly to your soil’s “tilth” and anyone in my neighborhood would tell you, I’m the uber-gardener. My flowers and herbs and veggies and fruit GROW. 25 years of gardening and no resulting illnesses to report.

    Now I DON’T use cat poo. There you have the potential of histoplasmosis, which can damage a developing human baby, giving the Mom flu-like symptoms. (Moms-to-be, you shouldn’t ever even TOUCH your cat box; time for hubby to do that chore.)

    But dog poo? Oh yeah!

    • Mark
    • October 3, 2009

    Hi Bentley,
    I had been putting some dog poo in one of my wormeries in a slightly half-hearted way – not wanting to add to landfill with plastic bags full of faeces. After reading this I set up a wormery in an old waste-bin and have added quite a bit of the material (we are a 2 dog household!). Now, I was covering it all up with shredded wet cardboard, and I didn’t think it any smell was detectable. However, my wife (who has a freakishly good sense of smell) says she could smell it, so I have had to abandon the experiment. I am a bit fed up about this. I am wondering about going down the home-made doggy septic tank route. My wife also mentioned that she didn’t want to weed flower-bed that had composted dog poo on them (I’d mentioned that I’d use the vermicompost for non-food plants). Unfortunately, my wife is not the sort of person who will listen to reason when it comes to things like this so there’s no point trying to explain that the worms will destroy the pathogens.

    Anyway … just thought I’d let you know of my attempt!

    • Devlin
    • March 14, 2010

    Hey Bentley,
    Me too. I use dog poo. I have 11 dogs, 10 shihtzu and 1 golden retriever. They eat and poo a lot! Yes the poo is stinky, especially if you mash it up, the smell gets stronger.

    One trick I have is to handle the poo with plastic bag as gloves.
    Another trick is to use worm tea on the dog poo.

    I always collect my dog poo into a rubbish bin lined with a plastic bag. I notice there will be flies going after the poo immediately. Then i spray some aerated worm tea. The flies are gone, and the smell is lesser too.

    Probably the good bacteria from the worm tea has out-compete with the bad ones, or create an antibiotic against them.

    Aniway thanks for your correspondence with me, though we are strangers from different sides of the globe!

    • Rich
    • September 8, 2011

    I have read varied reports that the reasons for not using dog and cat feces is due to not only pathogens, but the various drugs that some pets are given, and other nasties like worms in dogs, and toxoplasmosis in cats.

    • Nicole Olding
    • October 24, 2014

    Hi Bentley,

    I was wondering why dog boo compost is not okay for vegetable gardens but okay for fruit/nut trees?

    We are lookong to create a bin near our pine trees and maple trees, but we had considered some fruit trees and just wondered why they would be okay for the food-bearing trees but not the food-bearing plants.


    • Bentley
    • October 25, 2014

    My thinking on it would be in terms of distance from actual food-bearing parts of the plant. With low-lying crops it would be much more likely that fecal matter could be splashed up (etc) onto the plants – whereas with a tree, benefiting from a distance, this wouldn’t be the case.
    As far as I know, (human) pathogens are not literally taken into plants via roots.

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