Pet Waste At Dog Parks Can Make Your Pet Sick
Visiting a dog park or other community area is a great way to give your pet the exercise and socialization she needs to be happy and healthy. Unfortunately these places can become contaminated with deadly microorganisms found in dog waste and other bodily fluids. These are the facts about 4 common diseases spread in contaminated pet feces.
Background: Parvovirus appeared in the 1970s. Since then it has spread around the globe and is considered ubiquitous (potentially everywhere) in the environment. This virus’s rapid proliferation was due in part to its hardy nature. Parvo is often fatal so any dog that has symptoms that suggest infection should receive immediate medical care.
Symptoms: Rapid dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, high or low temperature, lethargy and/or muscle weakness, loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes in mouth. Infected animals become sick 3 to 7 days after exposure.
How It Spreads: Parvovirus is primarily spread through infected dog feces so be careful to avoid it. However other bodily fluids including urine, saliva and vomit can also spread Parvovirus. Once this pathogen gets into soil it can remain active for months and freezing temperatures don’t kill it. Parvovirus survives best in shady, cool, moist areas so the dirt near things like trees, bushes or playground equipment are favored spots for this virus.
Prevention And Treatment: Puppies receive their initial vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age followed by a booster shot a few weeks later. Adult dogs receive a yearly booster shot. Parvovirus can be killed with bleach on nonporous surfaces like plastic, metal or cement however it is not possible to completely disinfect porous surfaces like soil. If infection occurs veterinarians can offer supportive care until the body is strong enough to mount a successful response to clear the virus.
Background: Roundworms are the most common worm parasite that infects dogs. Adult Roundworms live in the stomach and intestines of a host and shed their eggs into the environment through the host’s feces. These parasites are several inches long and look like thin, white or light brown worms in feces. Nearly all dogs will become infected with Roundworms during the course of their lives. Infestation in puppies can lead to serious illness or even death. Dogs older than 6 months develop a natural resistance to this parasite and usually don’t suffer from severe infestations or show symptoms of infection. Roundworms can infect humans and cause serious illness in children.
Symptoms: Diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, stunted growth, dull coat and hair loss.
How It Spreads: Roundworm eggs are shed into the environment through the host’s feces and become infectious approximately 3 to 4 weeks later. These eggs have a tough outer shell and can remain active in dirt or sand for years. If your dog or child ingests contaminated soil or sand infection can occur. In addition if your dog eats a dead animal that is infected with Roundworms it can become infected. These parasites can also be spread to puppies before they are born or through their mother’s milk during nursing.
Prevention And Treatment: There is no known way to prevent Roundworm infection. Veterinarians can prescribe worming medicine that treats Roundworm in puppies and adult dogs.
Background: Whipworm is a common species of parasitic worm that infects dogs. They are extremely small and difficult to detect in the feces of infected dogs. Whipworms burrow into the walls of the large intestine and appendix, suck blood and lay eggs that are shed in the dog’s feces.
Symptoms: Mild infection may not produce symptoms but severe infection can cause abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and in rare cases death. Symptoms may not begin for a month or more after exposure.
How It Spreads: The only way to become infected with whipworms is to ingest a Whipworm egg. Unfortunately this is very easy for your pet to do. A dog can become infected if it eats contaminated feces, soil or grass. In addition if a dog rolls in contaminated soil it can become infected when it cleans it’s fur and ingests the eggs. Whipworm eggs have a thick outer shell that protects the core and allows them to survive for years in the environment. These eggs are best adapted to cool, moist, well shaded soil and they can survive freezing temperatures. Sun and heat can destroy Whipworm eggs by drying them out.
Prevention And Treatment: Like Roundworm there is no known way to prevent infection with Whipworms. Veterinarians can prescribe worming medicine for puppies and adult dogs.
Background: Campylobacteriosis is a common gastrointestinal disease caused by bacterial infection. Up to half of all dogs carry the bacterium that causes Campylobacteriosis but few show any symptoms. This disease is most dangerous in puppies younger than 6 months of age and adult dogs with compromised immune systems. Occasionally this disease is mistaken for Parvo because the symptoms can be similar. However unlike Parvo most cases of Campylobacteriosis run their course in 1 to 3 weeks and this disease is rarely fatal if prompt medical care is administered. Humans are susceptible to this infection so care must be taken around dog waste.
Symptoms: Mild to severe diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite. Symptoms start within 48 hours of exposure.
How It Spreads: Campylobacter is not a hardy germ. It can only survive for a few days at room temperature and can’t efficiently reproduce unless it’s inside a digestive tract. Unfortunately exposure to less than a thousand Campylobacter can trigger illness. At a park the major mode of transmission for this bacterium is fresh dog waste. Campylobacter can also spread through infected food or water.
Prevention And Treatment: Antibiotics can treat this disease. A veterinarian may provide other supportive care as needed.
When you visit a dog park or other community area the number one way to protect your pet is to keep her away from strange dog feces. If your community doesn’t clean up dog waste consider having a pet waste removal company do the work. Most cities have companies that offer this service. If you suspect that your pet has become sick with any of these diseases take your dog to a veterinarian immediately. Clean or dispose of any old toys, bones and bedding to reduce the chance of reinfection and to protect other healthy pets. Exercise and socialization are important for your pet’s health and well being. So watch out for landmines and keep your trips safe and fun!