A Foul Subject
Dog fouling is not only dirty and smelly but it potentially has serious health effects, especially for young children. It is estimated that nearly all puppies are born infected with Toxocara, which is a tape worm that can cause serious eye disorders in those it infects.
Questions and Answers
Are there different types of Toxocarisis?
Yes, there are two types of Toxocara. Toxocara canis is found in dogs and foxes. Cats produce Toxocara catis! Both come from the same round worm Toxocara.
How many parks are infected with Toxocara eggs?
Random soil surveys have found that the majority of parks throughout the UK are infected with Toxocara eggs in various stages of development.
If the parks are disinfected would that eliminate the Toxocara?
No, the eggs are resistant to disinfectants and freezing, they can survive for over 10 years.
Are all dogs infected?
It is reasonable to assume that all puppies are born with Toxocara canis, and they will produce larger numbers of eggs than adult dogs. This is why it is very important for dog owners to worm their dogs regularly, to rid their animals of infection, and for them to remain free, as the dogs will themselves become re-infected when they come into contact with the eggs. 54% of dogs owners have never wormed their dogs.
Are there many eggs in dog mess?
A single dog mess can contain approximately 1 million eggs.
If foxes carry the infection, why do we just pick on dogs?
Foxes are a significant host for Toxocara canis and this does need to be taken into consideration. However, foxes generally do not defecate in parks and other open spaces that humans frequent, but rather stick to farmland and wooded areas in which they live.
Is it safe to clear up after my dog?
Freshly deposited faeces are not infectious, and you can safely clear up after you dog. Toxocara eggs become infectious when they 'embryonate', usually 2-3 weeks after they have been deposited by the dog.
It is good practice not to come into contact with the dog muck when clearing up anyway. You should place your hand inside a carrier bag (without holes on the base), pick up the dog muck and then turn the carrier bag inside out, trapping the mess inside. Tie up the carrier bag and discard the mess into a dog bin. If there are no dog bins around in the district you can use normal litter bins, but you must tie the bag!
Toxocara in humans
How many people in the UK are infected with Toxocarisis?
It is not known exactly how many people are infected because there hasn’t been a full study undertaken since the early 1970’s. It is therefore estimated that between 1 and 4% of the population are infected with Toxocarisis.
Approximately 100 new cases a re reported each year, 50 having serious eye damage, nearly all of those affected where children.
What are the symptoms of Toxocarisis?
Eye disorders are commonly associated with Toxocarisis, this is because the larvae are often transported to the eye, where they cause the growth of non-malignant tumours or the development of detached retinas.
Other flu-like symptoms - such as muscle aches and pains, dizziness, nausea, asthma and epileptic fits - can be associated with Toxocariasis although this not easy to confirm.
Are there any treatments or cures?
How do you contract the disease?
Humans contract the disease as a direct consequence of swallowing the eggs. The eggs can stay in the soil for two years after the faeces have rotted away. Once swallowed the infection lasts between 6 and 24 months. Often the infection is transmitted from the hands of the individual but also from wheels of toys, soles of shoes or the dogs themselves.
This is why it is very important to teach children to wash their hands after playing outside and especially before meals. Young children often try to out things in their mouths, toys etc, and this should be discouraged, especially when outside.
Where are the Toxocara eggs likely to be found?
Many infected soil samples have bee taken from child play areas and parks, this is why many dogs are now banned from children’s play areas within the district, and other dog ban areas have been established.
How big are the worms?
The average size of the worm is between 2 and 10cm long.