There is little doubt dog fouling on pavements and other public places is something which - quite rightly - annoys most people. It is not just the fouling itself but the fear of disease which may be passed to humans, particularly children, that worries people. Toxocariasis is caused by the roundworm toxocara canis. Humans can become infected by swallowing toxocara eggs which are found in dog faeces. After hatching, the larvae wander through the human body causing a variety of symptoms, including damage to the eye. The life cycle is not completed in people and never results in worms.
Despite scare headlines in the newspapers, total blindness from toxocara infection is exceptional. It is rare even for the sight of one eye to be totally lost though vision in one eye can be impaired.
There are about 120 recorded cases per year in the UK, very few of which are serious. However, even one case is one too many and with basic hygiene practices and regular worming of dogs and cats the disease is easily preventable.
You can only get the disease by ingesting, or swallowing eggs from faeces. Freshly deposited faeces pose no threat, the eggs only become infective after about three weeks, so if mess is cleared up immediately there is no danger.
Children, especially toddlers, crawl on grass in gardens and parks. They may pick up the toxocara canis eggs on their hands and then put fingers in their mouths. With proper measures such as cleaning up after dogs in these areas and keeping children's sandpits covered when not in use etc, the risk would be even less. It is important that children should be taught to wash their hands regularly after playing with animals and always before eating. Worms are present in greatest numbers in bitches who are nursing puppies and the puppies themselves. The best way to cut down the amount of eggs is to worm puppies and bitches fortnightly. This should be done from when the puppies are two to three weeks old until they reach six months with worming preparations from your vet, the chemist or pet shop. After that, all dogs and cats should be wormed routinely twice a year.
Ticks tend to be a problem in the warmer months. They live in areas of heathland, moorland and woodland and wait to attach themselves to passing animals. Ticks feed on an animal's blood and can cause problems in two ways – they can cause tissue reactions at the site and time of attachment and they can transmit lyme disease and babesiosis. Both of these can affect humans and cause quite severe reactions.
People can get infected with babesia parasites through being bitten by an infected tick which can happen if you try to remove them with your fingers. It is best to remove ticks from pets with a tick removal tool. They are inexpensive and available from vets or pet shops.
Lyme disease is an infection that derives from a tick bite. The disease has a variety of symptoms, including changes affecting the skin, heart, joints and nervous system. It is also known as borrelia or borreliosis. In dogs some show no symptoms, but amongst those that do they include painful joints, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Vaccines for lyme disease are available, but they are limited to six months worth of protection. If you have any concerns about ticks and your pet, speak to your vet. If you are concerned about ticks and humans, talk to your doctor.
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