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White dots in dog poop.
(Image credit: Alex Lek / Shutterstock.com)
These dots in your pet's feces is not just a cute but an ugly fact of life.
The dots are actually microscopic, hard-to-see flecks of plastic — and they are in pet's poop and urine.
You'll often find them in your dog's food and treats, too.
While it's true that some dogs can get a lot of plastic, not everyone has the same level of exposure.
Dogs can be found on beaches and play with a lot of plastic debris in their environment. So, it's not just what you're feeding them — it's what they're eating around them.
Plastic in the environment can come from toys, packaging, food and drink containers.
More on that below.
A new study from UC Davis found that dogs' poop is filled with these invisible micro-plastic bits. It's the first time that this has been scientifically studied in dogs.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports in March and it surveyed almost 400 dog poop samples from owners.
What was found?
In short, plastic in dog poop is a very real problem.
According to the study, nearly one-third (29.4 percent) of the poop samples had detectable plastic.
This means that your dog is exposed to the material. It may even cause health problems.
"Microplastic debris can become lodged in the stomachs of pets and other animals, leading to increased gastrointestinal problems and possibly systemic toxicity," according to the study.
That's one reason why the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared microplastics a "serious health hazard" to humans.
"Pets are an essential part of our families and an important part of our society, yet we must take a more active role in protecting their health by controlling the sources of plastic pollution in our environment," said Dr. Marie Claire O'Neill, the assistant director-general for the WHO's department of the Environment.
"This is an issue that affects all of us, and so we must work together to protect the health of all animals and, ultimately, protect the health of humans."
Why do dogs have microplastics in their poop?
The study said the most common type of plastic in dog poop is the type commonly used in food wrappers. This is because it is an easily breakable and lightweight material.
There are two more types of plastic found in dogs' poop: a type of biodegradable plastic used in milk containers and a type that is very difficult to break down.
How much plastic do dogs really get?
The study said it's very difficult to get a solid answer on how much plastic your dog is getting. This is because there is a limit to how many samples the scientists could analyze.
But, they were able to get a good guess, based on the plastic they found and how common they were.
On average, it was found that every dog has at least one plastic particle every 20 days.
Plastic particle count by dog's size, location and breed:
What's the impact of microplastics in dog's poop?
While many studies have been done to understand the impact of microplastics in humans' health, there are still not enough studies that focus on the issue in dogs.
But, it's important that we start looking into this as the number of dogs living in our world continues to increase.
"Dog owners are increasingly taking steps to help protect their pets' health by minimizing exposure to plastic pollution, but there are also steps they can take to help protect the health of other animals," said the study.
"For example, it is critical that they be aware of the risks of microplastics in pet food and to limit their dog's consumption of food packaging. They can also make a difference by bringing their own, plastic-free products when they shop and encouraging their local community to eliminate plastic litter from its streets and beaches."
This doesn't have to be that hard. If you're thinking about getting your dog a new dog toy, be sure to buy a natural, rubber, or wood one.
You can also make sure to throw away or recycle your old ones.
And be sure to check the packaging before giving your dog a treat, too.
If there's plastic in the packaging, that can cause your dog to have digestive issues.
What can you do about it?
The study said that it's important to take responsibility for your own pet's health. That's why it's important to keep your dog's diet and environment as free of plastic as possible.
You can also do the following:
Buy your dog's food in bulk
Ask that your dog not eat anything packaged in plastic or that was exposed to plastic
Wash your dog's bowls in hot water
Check the packaging of any food and toys that your dog has been eating around
If you find a plastic bag in your dog's waste, get rid of it.
What's the best way to get rid of plastic in your dog's waste?
The study suggested that you should wash all of your dog's waste in hot water.
However, if you can't wash the waste in hot water, the best option is to use a plastic-free waste disposal option.
These can be found at many different pet stores. Your local animal control center should be able to give you more details.
If you don't have a plastic-free waste disposal option, you can also bring your waste to a local animal shelter.
What's more, you can use the hashtag #stopplastic to help raise awareness.
Are there studies on microplastics in dog's urine?
Yes, the study said there are studies on this topic. This includes one done in 2009 that looked at the presence of microplastic particles in dog urine.
While the researchers found no microplastic particles in urine, they did find