; The dog population in Britain is estimated at around 6
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The dog population in Britain is estimated at around 6


The dog population in Britain is estimated at around 6

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									                                 Health Risks of Dog Fouling

It is estimated that there are around 6.8 million dogs in Britain, producing around 900 tonnes of
faeces per day. (1)

Dogs can carry a number of diseases that may be passed on to humans as a result of coming
into contact with dog faeces. These diseases include amoebiasis, ancylostomiasis (dog
hookworm), balantidiasis, echinococcosis (hydatid cyst), visceral larva migrans (toxocariasis),
cutaneous larva migrans, and salmonellosis.

Toxocariasis causes the greatest public health concern. Infection can produce an illness called
visceral larva migrans syndrome. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, respiratory
illness and skin rash. If Toxoocara larvae enter the eye, it may cause an illness called ocular
larval migrans disease, which can cause permanent sight problems.

Toxocariasis is passed to humans when mature eggs of the micro-organism Toxocara canis
are eaten as a result of contact with contaminated dog faeces. The eggs can survive in soil for
months after it has had dog faeces on it. So people can be infected by contact with soil where
dogs have fouled in the past. Studies in the UK and USA found up to 30% of soil samples taken
from certain parks contained eggs. (In certain parks in Japan, up to 75% of sand pits contained
eggs). Since young children are more likely to touch soil and faeces in parks, gardens and
other open spaces, they are more likely than adult to get toxocariasis.

The incubation period can be weeks or months. Eye disease can occur as late as 4 – 10 years
after a person has been infected. Since symptoms of less severe forms of the disease are
similar to those of other diseases (fever, etc) it may often go undiagnosed. Some people who
are infected may have no symptoms at all. Studies in Europe show that between 4% – 66% of
children in different countries may have been infected in the past. In the UK, there are around
100 diagnosed cases of toxocaris each year. (1)

The Control of Communicable Disease Manual (2) and the Communicable Disease Control
Handbook (3) recommend the following ways of reducing toxocariasis:

      Regular deworming of dogs, by their owners.
      Hygienic disposal of dog faeces by their owners in public places, particularly play areas
       and areas near houses.
      Encouragement of good hygiene, for example, washing hands after handling soil and
       teaching children not to eat soil.
      Control of stray dogs.


   1. Barnsley MBC website

   2. Chin, J. (2000). Control of Communicable Diseases Manual. American Public Health

   3. Hawker, J. et al. (2005). Communicable Disease Control Handbook. Blackwell

   Liz Walton, Senior Research Officer, East Lancashire Public Health Resource and
   Intelligence Unit. 2009.

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