“Pick up your dogs’ droppings.”
I’ve seen the street signs for years, but I always thought it was the yuck factor. As I’ve grown up and gone through high school biology, I’ve learned that it’s not just the yuck factor, it’s also the sick factor. Dog waste on the sidewalk is a significant contributing factor to the spread many disease, bacteria and protozoa. Some of the common pathogens are tapeworms, roundworms, cryptosporidium, salmonella, e.coli, parvovirus and many others.
One of the worst culprits is the tapeworm. They are the single most common infection transmitted by discarded dog poop in United States.
Tapeworms are caused by the ingestion of flea larvae, but also can be caused if an owner tracks flea larvae-contaminated dog poo into the house and a pet is exposed. In the veterinary clinic I work at during the summers, tapeworms are commonly referred to as rice worms. They’re easily treated with flea preventative and tapeworm treatment, but even more easily prevented by properly disposing of animal poop.
Doggie doo is also an environmental pollutant. If the waste is not picked up it will run into the sewers with the rain. This leads to contaminated streams and seawater.
According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans owned 68 million dogs in 2000, and 40% of these dogs were large dogs over 40 pounds. This adds up to a large mess if owners don’t clean up after their pets.
Pet poop is a problem, but what’s the solution? Many cities have laws concerning scooping poo. Most states will issue a ticket ranging from $25 to $200 for leaving a dog’s business on the sidewalk. Australia has even gone so far as to have their own plain clothes poop police approaching irresponsible owners to change their behavior.
How do we take care of it? Common recommendations are to carry a “doggie doo-doo” sack along when taking a pet out for a walk. Using flea preventative will help prevent a pet from developing tapeworms from ingesting any flea larvae on their own skin, but they are still susceptible to flea larvae in the environment. Annual distemper/parovirus vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian will help protect dogs from parvovirus, which is spread through fecal material.
Most importantly, wash your hands after picking up animal waste. Otherwise get ready for those tapeworms.