Debate on Dog Threat to Animal Health

UK - The National Farmers' Union Scotland has met with key stakeholders to discuss the threat posed to the health of Scotland’s farm animals by working and pet dogs being exercised in the countryside.
calendar icon 16 July 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Of key concern is the rise in abortions in cattle due to the disease, Neospora, which is spread through the faeces from infected dogs.

Dogs initially become infected through the ingestion of contaminated livestock material, such as placentas from newly calved cows.

The highest percentage of all cattle abortions reported in the UK is now attributed to Neospora.

There is also a worrying increase in the incidence of Sarcocystosis in cattle and sheep.

The parasite responsible for this disease, which can cause illness and death, is similarly spread through dog faeces contaminating pasture.

Vets from Edinburgh’s Royal Dick Vet School have recently investigated a number of deaths in ewes as a result of Sarcocystosis.

To counteract the growing health threats to cattle and sheep, the Union is looking to improve communications to farmers and the general public who exercise dogs on farmland.

NFU Scotland Vice-President and qualified vet, Nigel Miller said: “Dogs, whether working animals like the farm collie or pets whose owners are taking access on grazing land, are presenting a growing threat to the well-being of farm animals.

"We need to nip this in the bud by raising awareness of the problems.

"For those walking or working with dogs in the country, there is a need to recognise the danger that their animal may pose to the health of farm animals and ask them in particular to collect and deposit all faeces.

“On those farms where disease problems have been identified, attempts to control these diseases can be hindered by public access and dog-walking activity.

"Efforts to reduce the faecal contamination of pasture by dogs are crucial. Through highlighting the health threats to cattle and sheep posed by diseases like Neospora or Sarcocystis, I believe the public can be encouraged to lift dog faeces on farmland.

"This can also be addressed in any future revisions of the Scottish Access Code.

“A targeted communications campaign highlighting the danger posed by dogs to livestock has already been undertaken by Stirling District Council, incorporating warnings into existing access posters and sited in farmland areas where dog-walking is particularly popular.

"This could provide a model for other organisations and local authorities to follow and be rolled out across a wide range of initiatives such as Paths for All, Local and Regional Access Forums and National Parks.

“Similarly, farmers must play their part. Because of its role in the diseases, all fallen stock should be disposed of promptly and, if practical, placental material should be collected when cows are calving outside to minimise the risk of it being eaten by dogs.

"Failure to do these simple tasks can perpetuate the life cycle of the parasites responsible for Neosporosis and Sarcocystosis.

“To help farmers, we have pledged, along with other stakeholders, to produce a briefing note highlighting the risks that dogs can pose to livestock health and what measures can be taken on farm to minimise the threat of infection.

"The vets present at the meeting have also agreed to write a similar briefing for the veterinary industry.”

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