Since the new Spanish Animal Protection Act hasn’t been passed yet, the long awaited article explaining it, and separating definitively truth from hoaxes, will have to wait a bit more. Meanwhile, I’m going to present a list of facts that shouldn’t be reminded if we really were what we are supposed to be: civilized adults. I’m talking of a fact which everyone has suffered several times: dog poo that hasn’t been picked up by negligent pet owners.

Some people may thing this is a minor problem, but the truth is dog poo may be a real health problem, for both pets and humans. I have tried to classify the problems from less to more important:

The way they look and smell

Disgusting, isn’t it? Picking up your dog’s poo and carrying it in a plastic bag till you find the nearest dustbin is not nice, but making our common green areas turn into pig pens is far worse, and, besides, you’ll be fined if caught. In some places you can get caught even by DNA techniques, as we described in an article some years ago.

Stepping in dog poo

A really embarrassing moment, despite we usually say in Spain this means you are to win the lottery.

Infectious and parasitic dog diseases

As anyone can imagine, every dog poo is a small ecosystem, where lots of microorganism, which can be good and bad ones live. When other dogs smell the poos coming from ill individuals, the odds of catching a disease are high.

Intestinal protozoa and round and flat intestinal worms

Infested animals eliminate via faeces millions of eggs, which will colonize the digestive system of any dog which contact the poo. They will produce gastroenteritis (in case of certain worms such as Ancylostoma caninum, that bites the intestinal walls because they have teeth, the diarrhoea may be haemorrhagic).

Viral diseases

Despite the number of cases has come down these last years thanks to vaccines, we should never forget about diseases such as Parvovirus, digestive Coronavirus and canine distemper, whose mortality rates, specially in puppies, are very high. A haemorrhagic gastroenteritis will appear (and, in case of distemper, respiratory and neurological symptoms as well), and, since they are produced by viruses, antibiotics don’t help.

Infectious and parasitic

human diseases
We are talking about zoonosis, that is, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans (and vice versa!). This is a public health problem, and the prejudice in certain cases can be very important.

Round intestinal worms

When somebody asks about deworming, I normally reply is much more important than vaccination, since the diseases you are preventing with vaccines (except rabies!) rarely affect humans, but when living with an infested dog, their worms can easily go to your intestine, specially in case of children. So, apart from picking up your dog’s poo from the street, it’s very important to keep worming treatments up to date. The minimum acceptable is every 3 months, but the more the better. If you provide a monthly treatment, you are also covering heartworm (which is not transmitted via oral-faecal, but by vAectors such as mosquitoes).

Hydatid cysts

I left this one for the end because it’s, by far, the biggest health problem dog poo may cause. We wrote about it at our first GA Advertiser article, but because that was about 15 years ago, I think it’s a good moment to present a small reminder.

The cause of this problem is a tapeworm called Echinococcus granulosus. This parasite has a 2 hosts life cycle, which means it spends the larval part of its life in some species of hosts, and the adult part of its life in other species. The first group of species are called intermediate hosts (in case of E. Granulosus they are ruminants and HUMANS), and the second group are called definitive hosts (in this case, DOGS). One very important thing is the transmission is ALWAYS from intermediate to definitive and vice versa, never from intermediate to intermediate or from definitive to definitive. What do we have so far? Well, now we know that larvae only live in ruminants and humans, and adult worms only live in dogs, and the transmission will always be from ruminants or humans to dogs, or from dogs to ruminants and humans.

What are the transmission mechanisms?

A dog catches the disease when eating contaminated ruminant viscera (this is why it’s so important to do frequent worming treatments in case of shepherd dogs which work with livestock), and ruminant and humans catch the disease when contacting contaminated dog poo. At first sight it doesn’t sound very alarming, isn’t it? Dogs carry adult tapeworms, and ruminants and us carry larvae. A minor problem. Well, it would be a minor problem if E. Granusosus was like many other parasites, but the terrible thing about it, is the adult phase (the one which live in dog’s intestine) is a microscopic tapeworm which doesn’t produce practically any damage, BUT the larval phase, the one which live in ruminants and humans, called hydatid cyst, is a real monster, even more terrifying than the alien foetus displayed at the sci-fi movie “alien”. A hydatid cyst is a sphere that can be over 40 cm diameter and weigh several kilograms, which may appear at liver, lungs, or even brain. The internal surface of this sphere will produce millions of future adults. As anyone can imagine, the only way of treating the cyst is surgical, and the risk of death, specially if the cyst is located at the brain, is very high.


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