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Are dog owners risking their health in the name of love?

New research reveals that it really is a dog’s life! 

One million Australians sleep alongside their dogs while they are also regularly going on holidays, visiting cafes, going shopping and heading to work with their ‘fur babies’.

New research released today has revealed the true nature of our relationships with our dogs, and the pampered lives our ‘fur babies’ are living as a result.

The Elanco Aussie Dog Survey[1] found that seven out of ten dog owners (72%) now consider their dog to be part of the family, while 16% describe their dog as ‘a mate or friend’ and just 12% describe their dog as ‘a pet’. It also found more dogs are sleeping in their owners’ bed at night (27%) than are sleeping outside the home (21%). This means there are more than one million Australians sleeping with their dog every night[2].

The research also reveals that we are treating our dogs as if they are people:
  • 42% celebrate their dog’s birthday
  • 1 in 3 cook their dog its own meals 
  • 42% ‘only buy the best food and products’ for their dog, and 
  • 32% regularly buy gifts for their dog. 

Aussie dogs are also living very social lives, with younger dog owners leading this trend. Nearly half of all dog owners (47%) take their dogs on holiday at least once a year – while this increases to 60% of Gen Z dog owners. Dogs are also joining their owners at cafes and restaurants (32% on average vs 57% of Gen Zs), at the shops (26% on average vs 52% of Gen Zs) and at work (14% take their dog to work at least once a month vs 29% of Gen Zs). Meanwhile, 80% of Aussie dogs are regularly exercising with their owner (62% once a week or more, 30% every day) and two thirds (67%) regularly visit dog parks.

Annika from Darling Point is representative of many dog owners as she lets her dog sleep in her bed, crafts specialised meals for each of her pets and takes her dog on holidays with her.

However, alongside all this love and pampering is widespread risky behaviour that could be helping to spread parasites, such as tapeworm, from dogs to people. In addition to the one million dog owners sleeping with their dog each night, the survey reveals that 2 in 3 (62%) aren’t concerned about their dog spreading parasites to people and therefore aren’t taking adequate precautions. For example, only 35% of owners said they always wash their hands after their touching their dog while 58% let their dog lick their hands, and 36% let their dog lick their face.

Dr Claude Stanislaus, Technical Veterinary Manager at Elanco Animal Health, says that we need to remember that while we love our dogs, they are not people and a casual approach to dog hygiene can actually help spread nasty parasites to people.

“Unlike us dogs do not take daily showers, they stick their noses in each other’s bottoms, they sometimes eat animal poo if they find it, and we then hug them and invite them into our beds! What a lot of people don’t realise is that we could also be inviting harmful parasites such as hydatid tapeworm into our bed too.”

“Even if you have the cleanest, most well cared for dog, you can’t vouch for any of the canine friends that they hang out with. A lot of people don’t know that parasites like tapeworm and other intestinal worms can spread from dogs to people. And while rare, cases of hydatid tapeworm being transferred from dogs to humans can lead to serious illness in people, and in very extreme cases, even death.”
Picking up after your dog is part of responsible dog ownership - Photo Credit: Jon Harris Photography
The research also found that 31% of all dog owners are not picking up after their dog poos in public, this increases to 44% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennial dog owners. This behaviour could inadvertently be leading to health risks, as tapeworm can be spread to people through contact with dog poo.

The Elanco study also looked at spending patterns and surprisingly, Gen Z dog owners are most likely to be pampering their dogs. A third of young owners (32%) say they spend more than $3,000 per year on their dog, more than they spend on phone and internet access or public transport[3]. The research also found almost half (45%) of all owners are spending more than $1,800 a year on their dog.

“Aussie dogs have never had so much fun, going on holidays with us and even sleeping in our beds, but it’s important to know that ‘normal behaviour’ like this can also increase the risk of spreading parasites from your dog to you and your family.

“Simple steps such as washing your hands after playing with your dog, regularly de-worming your dog with a broad-spectrum all-wormer product and making sure you regularly pick up your dog’s droppings so nasties such as hydatid tapeworm can’t be transferred to people, are all simple things we can do to protect our furry family members, and us, from intestinal worms,” said Dr Stanislaus.

Facts about Hydatid Tapeworm

Source: Department of Agriculture and Food, 
Western Australia

1. Hydatid tapeworms are very small parasites found in the intestines of dogs and other canines (e.g. foxes).
2. In dogs, the hydatid tapeworm does not cause any obvious disease, however if transmitted to people it can cause a potentially serious, and sometimes fatal, disease called hydatidosis.
3. People contract this disease when they ingest hydatid eggs shed in the faeces of infected dogs.
4. Accidental ingestion can happen through hand-to-mouth transfer after close contact with dogs (e.g. whose fur is contaminated with eggs) or contact with dog faeces containing hydatid eggs.
5. Treating your dog at least every 6 weeks with a product that kills hydatid tapeworm reduces the risk of contracting this deadly disease.

Other findings from Elanco Aussie Dog Survey:

  • Dog owners in the metropolitan suburbs, and women, are more likely say that their dog is part of the family (74% and 77%) while dog owners in rural areas are less likely (67%).
  • Less than 5% of dog owners think their dog is dirty, while 40% think their dog is clean. 
  • 88% of dog owners are under the impression their dog is protected against all of the ‘Big 5’ parasites (ticks, fleas, heartworm, intestinal worms and tapeworm). 
  • More than three quarters of dog owners (77%) got their dog for the company and companionship, while 42% got their dog to reduce stress and 23% to encourage them to exercise more. Meanwhile, 21% got their dog to help entertain the kids, 26% for security and 7% received their dog as a gift. 
  • It’s not just the basics where our dogs are hitting our hip pocket with half of all dog owners (47%) saying where they choose to go on holiday is influenced by their dog while 46% say their dog has affected their housing choice. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 say their dog affects their purchasing decisions when it comes to the clothes they wear, the furniture they have and the car they drive (all 20%). 

  • Dog owners in the inner city are:
- more likely to take their dog to cafes and restaurants (61%), shopping (49%) and on holidays (41%)
- more likely to outsource key parts of dog ownership include dog walking (18% vs 7% on average), dog sitting during the work day (33% vs 22% on average) dog washing (28% vs 24% on average)
- spending more on their dog – with 56% spending more than $150 per month and 20% spending more than $250.

  • Dog owners in rural areas are:
- more likely to say their dog sleep in their bed with them (33%), hug their dog (84%) and cook their dog its own meals (37%)
- less likely to let their dog lick their face (25%) or hands (54%)
- spending less on their dog – 68% spend less than $150 per month, compared to 55% on average.

  • Owners of big dogs are:
- more likely to celebrate their dog’s birthday (46%)
- more likely to let their dog lick their hands (60%)
- spending more on their dogs, with 58% spending more than $150 on their dog each month and 14% spending more than $250)
- more likely to say their dog has impacted their choice of home (51%) and the type of car they drive (33%).

  • Owners of small dogs are:
 - more likely to cook their dog its own meals (35%), put music on for their dog (23%), get ‘only the best products’ for their dog (45%) and outsource grooming (44% vs 33% on average)
- more likely to let their dogs lick their face (41%) and sleep in their bed (39%) and least likely to wash their hands after touching their dog (32%).

[1] Survey of 1,013 Australian dog owners conducted by PureProfile on behalf of Elanco Animal Health in February 2019
[2] AMA Pet Ownership in Australia 2016 Report – 3.6 million households own a dog
[3] https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/english/live-in-australia/living-costs

About Elanco Animal Health 

Elanco (NYSE: ELAN) is a global animal health company that develops products and knowledge services to prevent and treat disease in food animals and pets in more than 90 countries. With a 64-year heritage, we rigorously innovate to improve the health of animals and benefit our customers, while fostering an inclusive, cause-driven culture for more than 5,800 employees. At Elanco, we’re driven by our vision of food and companionship enriching life – all to advance the health of animals, people and the planet. Learn more at www.elanco.com.au

About the Big 5 Protection Pack

· Protect your dog inside and out with one simple pack
· A tasty chew protects against heartworm and intestinal worms, including tapeworm
· The flavoured tablet treats and controls paralysis ticks and starts killing fleas in just 2 hours.
Read the enclosed Interceptor Spectrum and Credelio leaflets for full instructions. Bundle pack can only be used in dogs from 2.5kg and 8 weeks of age. Credelio should be given with or following food. Learn more at www.thebig5.com.au

MEDIA RELEASE, 19th August 2019
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