Puppy parasites


By Andy Coghlan BEWARE of the dog, particularly if it’s a puppy. It could make you seriously ill. That’s the message from Clement Ng and his colleagues at the Milwaukee Health Department, who have found potentially deadly parasites lurking in the faeces of many pet dogs in the Milwaukee area. When Ng and his colleagues examined 300 stool samples from show dog clubs, boarding kennels and veterinary clinics, they found Cryptosporidium in 7.3 per cent of the animals and Giardia in 11.7 per cent. Samples contained adult parasites, eggs, larvae, or highly resistant cysts. Ninety per cent of the dogs testing positive for Cryptosporidium were puppies 30 weeks old or younger, while for Giardia, puppies accounted for 76 per cent of the affected animals. However, the dogs appeared perfectly healthy, and none of them displayed symptoms of infection. “People should be a little more careful with a young dog,” Ng says, because they are more likely to defecate in the house. Children are also more likely to play with puppies, he says. Ng’s advice to dog owners is to have puppies checked for the two protozoan parasites—vets do not routinely test dogs for their presence, he says. People should wear rubber gloves when clearing up dog dirt, and clean the area scrupulously, particularly if there are toddlers in the house. Children and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk, Ng warns. Milwaukee has a history of problems with Cryptosporidium; 100 people died and over 400 000 became sick when drinking water was contaminated in 1993. “At the time, the lab was flooded with stool samples for testing,” says Ng. However, Ng is convinced that the dangers posed by infected dogs are not unique to Milwaukee. More on these topics:
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