Health expert warns of dog fouling dangers
As part of our month-long campaign to encourage pet owners to ‘scoop the poop’, the Evening Mail is publishing a series of articles looking at the impacts of dog fouling.
As well as the aesthetic benefits of having clean pavements, Doctor Nigel Calvert, NHS Cumbria’s associate director of public health, says picking up dog dirt can have a positive impact on our health.
Toxocariasis is a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites, which is spread from animals to humans via their infected faeces. Although rare, if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to blindness.
Dr Calvert said picking up after your dog and practicing good hand hygiene is the best form of prevention.
He said: “The toxocara worms live in the dog’s gut and the eggs pass out in the faeces, so it can pose a risk to humans. It is rare, but potentially quite serious.
“Dog mess carries all sorts of bacteria in general, things like Campylobacter which causes upset tummies.
“You generally need to have direct contact with the faeces to contract anything.
“Kids seem to be more prone because they’re less aware of hygiene practices and wash their hands a bit less than adults do.
“But the root cause of it is the dog poo being there in the first place. The way to tackle it is to get people to clear it up.
“We would also encourage good hand hygiene.”
South Lakes youngster Elisabeth Willoughby knows all too well the dangers of toxocariasis. The eight-year-old has a damaged right eye after contracting the infection as a baby.
Mum Becky Willoughby said she first noticed a problem when Elisabeth, a pupil at Staveley Primary School, failed an eye test at school.
After being referred to hospital for further tests, the optometric consultant recognised the signs straight away.
Mrs Willoughby said: “My daughter has got off lightly, only having a damaged eye, but some children have gone blind. The doctors think either I passed it on to her when I was pregnant or she has picked it up when she was a tiny tot and crawling.
“She’s always had damaged eyesight, so she didn’t know there was a problem. She just automatically adjusted to the fact that one of her eyes was damaged.
“If you cover her left eye, to read an eye chart for example, she turns her head sideways because if she looks at it straight on her vision is blurred in her right eye.
“At the minute there is no way of fixing it. The back of her eyeball is scarred by the passage of the worm as it has wiggled across.”
Although the infection is dormant, Mrs Willoughby said there is a possibility it may return and has urged others to pick up after their dogs to prevent others contracting the condition.
She said: “Elisabeth is very keen on getting people to clean up after their dogs.
“She just wants people to realise what the consequences are of not picking up after their pets.”
By Ian Dunstan
Source: North-West Evening Mail