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Pets Not Pests

Dogs are our companions. We share their fun. We boost our own health through  exercising the dog. We also share their problems, and too many dogs get a bad name because the owner does not deal with these problems.

We must be sure that our dogs don’t run out on their own. We must ensure that our dog does not chase or jump up on people. Most of all we must ensure that our dog leaves no mess behind. Nothing antagonises non dog owners more than somebody’s dog doing the toilet in a public place and its owner does not take on the responsibility of cleaning it up.

Always clean up after your dog.

Anti-dog propaganda goes further. Dogs’ dirt is not just unsightly, it is a threat to human health. Dog faeces might carry eggs of dog worms which will pass onto humans.

The best answer to this is to clean up after your dog and deworm your dog regularly at least once every three months..   Do all dogs have worms  ?      Probably not, but almost all will have had worms at some time. The culprit most commonly mentioned is Toxocara Canis from dogs and foxes, and although less often mentioned there is Toxocara Cati from cats

This worm can be passed in dog faeces as an egg which develops into a larva which can be picked by another dog, fox, cat or human. It takes between 10 days to three weeks for a larva to become infective so it is not just dog’s dirt it is the soil in the vicinity that can be contaminated. Larvae in soil are viable for 1 to 3 years. The worm is not a natural parasite of a human so in most cases it does not develop and will die out.

In a very small number of cases the larvae will survive and may cause health problems. It is difficult to know how often this happens since doctors are not obliged to record every case. About 20 years ago a hundred cases were recorded each year in the British Isles. With responsible dog ownership and increased deworming the number of cases have reduced and may be as low as 10 per year.

Many of the cases in humans involved infection in the eye, and was more common in children than in adults. This is very distressing but fortunately the success of treatment has increased and the damage caused has decreased. However the first and most important element in the fight against this parasite is always clean up after your dog and deworm regularly. Your vet can advise the best treatment but supermarket and pet shop remedies are usually effective.

One feature of Toxocara is a problem. When a dog has a worm in its intestine some larvae will migrate into other tissues where they can lie dormant but viable.   In cases of severe illness or pregnancy  the adult dog’s immunity to worms declines and  these larvae can become active migrate to the intestines and become adult worms or pass into the tissues of the unborne puppy and then become worms in the puppy’s intestine at 2-3 weeks old. All newborn puppies may have worms and should be dewormed every 14 days from 3 weeks until three months  At present there are treatments which can kill the dormant larvae but they are expensive and can cause side-effects and it is cheaper and effective to treat the worms in the puppy.

There are other worms which can be present in dogs.    Mostly they are harmless and do not infect humans and will respond to deworming treatments.   Exceptions are Echinococcus which can be picked up from dead sheep and can pass to humans.   It is very, very rare but potentially serious and there are  lungworms which are picked up by dogs sniffing at slugs or snails and can be serious for the dog but do not pass to humans.


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