Dog faeces left in farmer's fields aren't just unpleasant - the diseases they carry can also pose a serious risk to livestock and other dogs, costing the average herd £3000 a year.
Dogs walking on farmland can become infected with Neospora after eating the afterbirth of an infected cow, and the eggs shed in their faeces and left in fields are infectious for up to six months. Cattle then consume these eggs in pasture land or in feed and water.
A report by FAI farms has revealed that the disease is the most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion in cattle in the UK, with 17% of dairy cattle demonstrating exposure to the parasite in England and 90% of dairy herds in the south-west of England showing evidence of previous infection.
Neosporosis is also dangerous to dogs, causing illness in adult dogs and death in young puppies.
Laura Higham, veterinary surgeon at FAI farms, said: "Neosporosis is an infectious disease of cattle caused by a parasite transmitted in dog faeces, and is the most commonly diagnosed cause of abortion in cattle in the UK. At FAI, around 5% of our cattle aborted this year due to neosporosis. The disease is estimated by DairyCo to cost the average herd £3000 per year due to abortions, reduced milk yields and poor fertility, presenting a significant constraint to sustainable cattle production in the UK."
Whilst no effective treatment or vaccine is currently available, dog walkers and farmers can reduce risks of disease in both dogs and livestock by following these steps:
1. Do not allow dogs to eat fallen stock, after-birth or birth fluids from livestock.
2. Always collect and remove your dogs’ faeces during walks.
3. Regularly worm your dog with a suitable treatment as recommended by your vet.
4. Be aware that feeding a bone and raw food (BARF) diet to your dog can present disease risks to both your dog and livestock. Discuss other dietary options with your vet and ensure that any meat and offal is thoroughly cooked before feeding it to your pets.
5. Farmers should promptly and hygienically dispose of fallen stock and after-birth materials, and should keep livestock feed covered and locked away to prevent access by dogs, other pets and wildlife.
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