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The importance of picking up your dog’s poop

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By Alexandra Bennett

Do you ever walk your dog and see fecal matter left on the grass or sidewalk from other dogs? Unfortunately, if you are like most of us, you see it far too often.

It’s hard to say what people think when they leave their dog’s poop on the ground. Maybe they think the rain will wash it away, or they believe it will fertilize the grass, not realizing the high nitrogen will kill the grass. Perhaps they didn’t have a bag. Most people who have dogs are responsible and pick up their dog’s poop, but the ones who don’t make everyone look bad. What’s worse, they might even be causing your dog to get sick.

Can my dog get sick from sniffing another dog’s poop?

Yep, your dog can get sick from someone not picking up their dog’s poop? Many parasites and diseases are transmitted through poop and the dirt or grass around it.

What parasites are transmitted through dog poop?

Giardia and Coccidia are exceptionally resilient and can survive not only for days but for months or even years in the fecal matter left on the ground or the dirt or grass under it. It’s not just poop-eating dogs that get sick, either. Your dog could accidentally step in it and then later lick his paws. Or he could sniff it, and a cyst gets on your dog’s nose. Later your dog licks his nose, and the parasite cyst is ingested. Once it finds its home in your dog’s gut, it reproduces and populates the gut lining and intestinal tract.

Roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and hookworms are all transmitted through poop. Roundworms, like Giardia, can survive for years in the environment until it finds a new host in your dog. If your dog ingests an infected dog’s feces, the parasite is transmitted.

Parvovirus is transmitted through dog waste and is highly contagious and can survive in the environment for years.  

Could your dog have an internal parasite?

If your dog feels sick to its stomach and has diarrhea that lasts more than a few days, take a fecal sample to your veterinarian’s office for testing.

After testing, if you find out your dog is positive for a parasite and shows symptoms, your vet will likely prescribe a round of dewormer such as fenbendazole or metronidazole. You will likely be advised to retest in 4-6 weeks to see if there is any additional shedding. If your dog is still shedding, they may have to take another round of dewormer. But in some cases, the medication can wreak havoc on your dog’s microbiome or gut bacteria. 

Nursing your dog back to health

If your dog becomes infected with an internal parasite, be patient with them. It can be very uncomfortable for your dog.  Your dog may have more than a few accidents in the house and could lose its appetite for a while. Go gently and with love, and you nurse your dog back to health. A delicate recovery is especially true for seniors or dogs that have an underlying health condition. Even once they are clear of the parasite, it may take months for your dog’s microbiome to return to balance. 

A dash of ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger added to your dog’s meals can be a helpful addition to any prescribed anti-parasitic medication. 

Avoiding internal parasites

Some people choose routine de-worming medication on a monthly or semi-annual basis. Others believe it’s best to not put an anti-parasitic into their dog’s body unless it’s necessary.

It is nearly impossible to avoid all of the many places your dog could pick up a parasite. And it’s a delicate balance between letting them sniff, which is essential for their mental well-being and keeping them away from possibly contaminated grass.  

Try to avoid especially high-traffic dog areas like dog parks, especially if you have an immune-compromised or vulnerable pup. 

And please, always be considerate and pick up your dog’s poop. Scooping the poop is especially important if your dog is infected and is shedding a parasite. Infected dogs need to be quarantined to their yard until clear of the parasite. And you should take extreme care to ensure your dog’s feces do not reinfect them. So even in your yard, pick up your dog’s poop immediately. Your dog’s and everyone’s dog’s health depend on it.

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