In town, springtime can be an ugly reminder of just how many dogs we have, as we dodge the thawing land mines on the sidewalks and trails.
Unfortunately, I am talking about dog excrement, and the reason I am doing so is two-fold. First, we are fortunate to live in a beautiful place and dog feces only serve to detract from it. Dog feces are unsanitary, unpleasant to the eye and to the nose. Secondly, dog feces can potentially transmit diseases to people. The transmission of disease from animals to people is known as zoonotic disease.
Puppies and dogs can carry worms in their intestines without owners knowing it. The worms release microscopic eggs, which are shed in the feces and then contaminate the environment. Several types of worms can be transmitted to people or other dogs through dog feces. Roundworms and hookworms are two of these potential zoonoses.
Children’s play habits and their affinity for putting things in their mouths put them at higher risk than adults for infection. Humans become infected with roundworms by ingesting eggs in the environment, and the resulting infection may cause permanent problems with eyes, brain, lung, liver, or other organs. Hookworms can cause infections in people also by ingestion or through direct penetration of the skin (for example walking barefoot), causing gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes, or other conditions.
Alarmingly, one pile of dog feces can contain thousands of infective eggs, resulting in widespread environmental contamination. In addition, eggs can remain infective in the environment for years. Pet owners can take preventative measures to protect their pets and family from parasites by having routine fecal examinations and prophylactic deworming of pets and by prompt collection and disposal of feces from the environment.
These are perhaps the two most important things that can be done to prevent transmission of disease. Visit the Center for Disease Control’s website for more information on zoonotic diseases at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/animals.htm.
As a community that envisions itself so conscientious, it seems only appropriate that we be self-respecting animal owners also and clean up after our pets. Not only is it a matter of being respectful to our neighbors, but it’s a matter of health and wellness.
– Chris Capaldo, DVM