Diseases in Dog Feces

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Worm eggs and certain parasites from dog feces can remain in the soil for years.
Worm eggs and certain parasites from dog feces can remain in the soil for years. (Image: scoop the poop image by Joyce Wilkes from Fotolia.com)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned dog owners about the health dangers posed by dog feces, which are swarming with coliform bacteria. Certain pathogens are also communicable from dogs to humans. These transmittable diseases are known as zoonoses. Owners should clean up after their dogs and make sure their dogs' vaccinations are up to date. The EPA also warns against walking your dog by a water source and using feces to fertilize your lawn.

Parvovirus

This deadly and highly infectious canine virus enters the body through the dog's mouth and latches on to the digestive tract, killing cells that help absorb nutrients. Excessive diarrhea or vomiting leads to severe fluid loss, which can cause death. Parvovirus can also exist on blades of grass; sunlight is the most effective way of disinfecting contaminated grass. Symptoms also include lethargy and fever. Younger dogs are susceptible to heart failure as the virus also attacks the immune system.

Worms

There are several worms found in dog feces that can spread to humans, among them roundworms and hookworms. The latter eats away at the intestinal wall, in some cases causing anemia or inflammation. Roundworms, or ascarids, attack the lungs and digestive system. Whipworms burrow into the intestinal wall and are difficult to diagnose and treat. Symptoms include vomiting, weight loss and diarrhea, and can give rise to anemia. When found in large concentrations, these worms can have damaging effects and, in rare cases, can cause death.

Giardia

This is often caused by dogs eating the feces of another dog infected by these one-celled parasites. Giardia, which often causes diarrhea, usually is difficult to detect. However, once it has been diagnosed then the disease can be treated by one of two anti-parasitic drugs, Fenbendazole and Metronidazole.

Preventive Measures

The EPA suggests disposing of dog waste by flushing it down the toilet, burying it or throwing it in the garbage, as allowed by law. Dog droppings on a lawn or backyard should be cleaned up at least once a week and especially before rainfall, as the runoff will carry away the bacteria and possibly contaminate a nearby water source. Furthermore, the EPA recommends that dog feces not be used to fertilize your lawn. In fact, it can damage your lawn, causing discoloration.

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