Dog lover? Love wildlife and farm animals too!
Many users of our paths are dog walkers. Dogs are a great prompt to get people out and about in the fresh air; they provide good company and encourage healthy regular exercise for their owners.
But, it’s time for some dog owners to make a New Year’s resolution, to clear up their dog’s mess and keep their dogs under close control.
It might be that some dog owners don’t actually know the problems their dogs can cause. But, a news report this week highlights the problems caused by dog fouling ("Somerset farmer blames dog mess for causing cows to abort")
Beyond being unsightly and foul smelling, paths littered with dog mess can turn a pleasant place into a grim place and spoil others' enjoyment, it causes annoyance and can ruin footwear when people step in it. The dog mess from seemingly healthy dogs can spread disease to people, wildlife and livestock as well as between dogs.
For instance, there’s a disease called toxocara which can particularly affect children, causing blindness if not treated. And diseases that spread to livestock can be costly and heart wrenching to farmers, for instance when cattle abort. So, dog lovers can show how they’re animal lovers when they clear up after their dogs.
Also, follow advice about keeping dogs under control, so they don’t worry livestock, wildlife (such as birds that shelter and nest in ground vegetation) other people, or even other dogs.
Chris Simpson, a member of the Joint Local Access Forum (the JLAF), local South Gloucestershire farmer and dog owner, has kindly written a summary below about the diseases that dogs can spread.
And spread the word! If you’re a farmer, Chris encourages you to use his text as the basis of a letter to send to your parish magazines or newspapers to say how this affects you.
Diseases dogs can spread
As many of you will be aware, and many may not, dogs are capable of transmitting various diseases to both humans and livestock. The effects of these diseases can vary widely. In humans, symptoms range from headaches and diarrhoea to organ failure or blindness. In young children the diseases are often more severe. When livestock are infected, these diseases cause meat to be rejected for human consumption at abattoir as well as causing abortion in pregnant animals.
Diseases affecting humans
Campylobacter and Salmonella - these both cause vomiting and diarrhoea in humans, which may be serious enough to require hospitalisation
- Toxocara - a dog worm that typically infects children, growing behind the eye and causing blindness if untreated
- Echinococcus granulosus and Echinococcus multilocularis - these are dog tapeworms that will form cysts and grow in human organs. These cysts can reach the size of footballs in extreme cases
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial infection (Weil's disease) which can cause liver and kidney failure
Diseases affecting livestock
- Neospora caninum and leptospirosis – these are infections that can cause abortion in cattle
- Taenia multiceps and Taenia ovis - these tapeworms will form cysts in meat animals causing rejection of the carcase at abattoir leading to significant financial loss to the farmer
Many of these diseases, especially those caused by worms cannot be treated successfully in livestock. In humans, prompt diagnosis and treatment is essential to prevent serious illness.
Fortunately, these diseases are easy to prevent. With the exception of Leptospirosis (which is passed in urine and also rare in dogs due to annual vaccinations) the source of infection is dog faeces - true for both, humans and livestock. So control of these infections requires five steps:
- Prevent access of the dog to infection - keep dogs on leads in areas where livestock graze - this prevents scavenging as well as being responsible around livestock. Though, in the rare event you are charged by livestock, let your dog off the lead and protect yourself. The dog is more agile off the lead and will do a better job of protecting itself that you can.
- Clean up after your dog - the faeces are the source of infection so removing them removes the risk
- Vaccinate your dog - one component of' the annual vaccine is Leptospirosis cover. This is a disease that is often fatal in dogs as well
- Worm your dog regularly - treatment needs to be for both roundworms and tapeworms - see your vet for advice - they will be able to tell you how often to worm and have access to the most up-to-date and effective wormers, as it is important that all the worms are killed
- Wash hands after handling animals - this applies particularly to children as it is possible for dogs to infect their coats when they groom.
Following these steps is really simple and will ensure that your dog does not cause disease in either humans or livestock.