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Beware Canine Intestinal Worms at Dog Parks across Australia!

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health
has collaborated with The University of Melbourne to conduct a study on the ‘faecal prevalence, distribution and risk factors associated with canine soil-transmitted helminths contaminating urban parks across Australia.’

The study— due for publication in the International Journal for Parasitology later this year— is the first of its kind in Australia and involved the collection of 1,581 environmental faecal samples from 190 urban parks across Australia.
Faecal prevalence, distribution & risk factors associated with canine intestinal worms 
contaminating urban dog parks
across Australia

Seven species of canine soil-transmitted helminths were identified in the study, including whipworm, threadworm, roundworms, and hookworms.

Dog parks provide an ideal urban space where dogs and their owners can exercise, play and socialise. These parks can, however, increase the risk of exposure to parasites for both dogs and people, as most canine soil-transmitted helminths are zoonotic and can also infect and cause disease in humans.

Overall, the study revealed a high rate of contamination of canine intestinal worms in dog parks across the nation:
Woman refilling a water bottle in
Fawkner Park, Melbourne

✔️ Up in Far North Queensland, the contamination rates were the highest in the country, with 100 per cent of the parks tested in the region found to be contaminated!

✔️ 66 per cent of Brisbane’s dog parks were contaminated.

✔️ Rates were also high in other capital cities such as Perth with 50 per cent contamination and in Darwin with 70 per cent contamination.

✔️ In Melbourne alone, almost half (43 per cent) of all dog parks were found to have been contaminated, while in Hobart 20 per cent of parks were contaminated.

✔️ In Sydney and Adelaide, however, rates were lower, with just 8 per cent of Sydney dog parks and 11 per cent of parks in Adelaide contaminated with the parasite.

Coinciding with World Zoonoses Day on July 6, the results of the study highlight the importance of education to raise awareness of responsible pet ownership, including monthly deworming, to minimise the animal and public health risks associated with these parasites.

“Preventative measures, such as monthly deworming of dogs, and responsible pet ownership, such as the immediate removal of dog faeces in parks, should be encouraged to minimise the health risks associated with canine intestinal worms to both dogs and humans,” said Rebecca Traub, Professor of Veterinary Parasitology at The University of Melbourne and the primary investigator of the study.

“Canine soil-transmitted helminths are endemic to Australia and, as shown by this study, are highly prevalent in some areas.

“Many dog owners are aware of these worms in dogs and the health issues they can cause. Less well known are the effects - potentially very serious - they can have on humans.”

You may be diligent and always pick up after your dog at dog parks or whilst on walks, but can you say the same for other dog owners? 

The worm parasites are passed in the faeces via eggs and /or larvae and if even a small amount of faeces remains on the ground, another pet is exposed.

This study if also a reminder of the importance of regular worming of your pets with good quality worming products. Puppies should be wormed every two weeks until twelve weeks of age, then monthly until six months of age

Once they have reached six months of age, a puppy can transfer onto an 'adult' worming schedule. All adult dogs need to be wormed a minimum of every three months for effective protection.

People can get parasites from their pets

Parasites, like intestinal worms found in dogs and cats, can be transmitted from dogs to humans

The worms that have been detected in the samples from the park pose a health risk to both the pets and the people that visit it. Your dog could potentially be infected by either rolling in the soil (in the case of hookworm), or by licking or eating the contaminated dirt

People can also be infected without careful hygiene practices, such as hand washing after picking up faeces

Tapeworm is another intestinal worm that is common in both humans and pets.

Signs your dog could be infected by intestinal worms

If your dog becomes infected from parasites at the park, it is unlikely to be immediately obvious, however within days to weeks after picking up the worms, your dog could develop:

✔️ Diarrhoea
✔️ Vomiting
✔️ Lethargy
✔️ Weight loss

How to protect your dog from getting parasites

Based on the high numbers of parks and faecal samples found to contain canine soil transmitted worms, some recommendations have been made to minimise the health risk to both pets and people that visit parks across Australia. 

The guidelines from the Australian Companion Animal Zoonoses Advisory Panel include:

✔️ Intestinal worming of pets monthly
✔️ Treat pets for external parasites such as fleas all year round
✔️ Regular veterinary checks for your pet
✔️ Ensure good hygiene practices (dispose of dog faeces, washing hands)

It should also be noted when handling raw food, you should wash hands thoroughly and ensure meat is from a trusted source.

About the writer:

Dr Lydia Matheson
BVSc (Hons) graduated in 1996 and completed a 
Feline Medicine post graduate course in 2003. She is a practicing vet in the Melbourne area and an animal lover, passionate about providing the very best of care and products.

With over 20 years’ experience, she has seen the health and lifespan of dogs and cats compromised by inadequate parasite protection.

She is also the technical consultant to Pet Lovers Club, a Melbourne-based company that assists pet owners in maintaining their pet's health, by providing cover for fleas, flea allergy, tick paralysis and heartworm disease delivered monthly to your door.

Monthly protection options from trusted brands cover all relevant intestinal worms as well as tapeworm protection every 3 monthly as vets recommend.

For more information, visit 
You can follow Pet Lovers Club on Facebook at 
and on Instagram @petloversclub.aust

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