The importance of poop scooping, dog breed trends in Ireland, fat-bergs on the beach, and listeners’ questions: Pete the Vet on the Pat Kenny Show

The danger of dog poo

Dog poo is not just an issue of aesthetic importance (although no-one likes getting the stuff on their shoes). It’s also an important public health issue, due to the risk of humans being infected by the common dog roundworm. Toxocara canis is the dog roundworm and most people know that it can infect children, potentially causing blindness. The worm larvae can damage a child’s eye, leading to blindness, and it can also cause epilepsy. There are said to be two cases per million human population so this is exceptionally rare but it still makes sense to take all possible precautions to prevent it. Toxocara canis affects a high percentage of pups (between 20 – 94%). They can be infected in three ways:

  • Across the placenta from their mothers, before they are born
  • In their mother’s milk
  • From their mother’s faeces

Once pups are infected, the worm eggs develop through several life stages in the pup’s body, with worm larvae migrating through the pup’s tissues including the liver and lungs before returning to the intestines. They then become adult worms, which can be up to 20cm long, producing eggs after 4 weeks that are passed in the dog faeces. This movement of the larvae through the dog’s body tissues is known as ‘visceral larval migrans’, and it does not normally cause the dog any physical harm. This process of migration through tissues can also occur in other species, including humans, if they accidentally eat a worm egg (e.g. children sucking dirty fingers after playing in an area that has been contaminated by dog faeces). These migrating larvae can sometimes end up in brain, spinal cord and eye tissues of humans, causing the blindness and epilepsy mentioned above.
To prevent this rare complication, it makes sense:
1) To worm all dogs regularly using a broad spectrum wormer (e.g. every 3 months but ask your vet for an individual recommendation)
2) To insist that owners pick up after their dogs in public areas
3) To keep dogs completely away from areas frequented by young children (e.g. playing parks)
4) To ensure that children always wash their hands before meals

the rise of brachycephalic dog breeds in ireland

The increasing popularity of brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds of dogs. This was a topic discussed in the UK media this week, as the French Bulldog is set to overtake the Labrador Retriever as the country’s most popular breed by the end of next year. There are serious welfare implications from this trend:  basically brachycephalic dogs often cannot breathe properly and many need surgery just to survive.
Here in Ireland, the situation is different – see below for the total Kennel Club registrations, comparing 2006 with 2016. Basically the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has become much less popular, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are still the most popular, but French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and Pugs are now in the top 12, while they didn’t feature at all ten years ago. So the same trend is happening here as in the UK, but just a bit more slowly.

2006 figures

  1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  2. Labrador Retriever
  3. Boxer
  4. West Highland White Terrier
  5. German Shepherd Dog
  6. Retriever Golden
  7. Spaniel English Springer
  8. Spaniel Cocker
  9. Yorkshire Terrier
  10. Bichon Frise
  11. Shih Tzu
  12. Rottweiler

2016 figures

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. Golden Retriever
  3. German Shepherd Dog
  4. Spaniel English Springer
  5. Spaniel Cocker
  6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  7. Bichon Frise
  8. French Bulldog
  9. Schnauzer Miniature
  10. Boxer
  11. Bulldog
  12. Pug

Fat bergs

There have been reports in the Irish media of “fat bergs” washing up on Irish beaches. These are concretions of solidified palm oil, sometimes as big as a football. Dogs are attracted to them, and they can have fatal consequences if eaten. The message is simple: keep your dog on a leash rather than allowing them to snuffle in flotsam and jetsam when out at the beach.

Listeners’ queries

  • Can a dog be trained to go to the toilet in a particular part of the garden?
  • My son had a very bad experience with a dog as a infant…and is terrified of dogs ….the problem he is a dog lover!! We got a dog last year as we believed he was ready and had overcome his fear but after five weeks the effects on my son where unmistakable and we had to give back the most wonderful dog. It has broke our hearts and we miss him terribly. My son is so upset and guilt ridden because he believes it’s all his fault. He really wants a dog so badly but I don’t know how to help him with his fear, any ideas?
  • We’ve just started letting our cat out, having been inside since she was a kitten. But she’s staying away longer and longer, I’m afraid she won’t come back! Should I be worried?

To find out the answers to these queries and to hear discussion of the topics above, listen to the podcast below.

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