Sunday, July 15, 2012


You're out for a pleasant walk in the neighborhood, in the park, or on the trail.  Before you know it, you step in...yep, that's right...a big pile of soft and messy dog poop.  In addition to probably messing up your shoes and possibly your clothing, it sets a lousy tone for the walk, right?

Well, the bad news is that you've not just inconvenienced've also possibly exposed yourself to any number of pathogens, some of which are also a problem for people.  Unless many dog owners become much more responsible about cleaning up after their dogs, those pathogens will be multiplying as they are spread to other dogs as well as people.

Dog Poop Poses Disease Risk: Scoop Fido's Feces While It's Still Fresh

Once a week, Dwight Farias-Rios visits Max's yard to clean up after him. The owner of Call of Doodie, a pet waste removal service in New Jersey, is typically welcomed by about 14 mounds of the American Bulldog's feces -- some droppings fresher than others.

"Poop is gross," Farios-Rios told The Huffington Post. "It's also not healthy."

That can go for both pets and their human companions.

In fact, Max had been suffering sequential bouts of giardia infections before his owners hired Farias-Rios to do his weekly dirty work. "A vet had fixed Max up," he told The Huffington Post, "but then he kept going back out into the yard and catching [giardia] again because the owner didn't clean up his waste."

A long list of potentially infectious agents are known to live in dog and cat feces -- from E. coli to tapeworms. But perhaps less well known is the fact that a lot of these parasites actually become more infectious as the poop ages.

"It takes many types of parasite eggs a while to ripen," said Dr. Emily Beeler, an animal disease surveillance veterinarian for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Toxoplasmosis, which is more common in cats than in dogs, typically takes more than 24 hours to become infectious, she explained. Roundworm can take up to three weeks, and then may remain infectious for years in contaminated soil and water. (A recent CDC study found 14 percent of Americans tested positive for roundworms.)

Of course, this is not to say that fresh is always best. Newly dropped doo-doo still contain tons of bacteria, noted Dr. Beeler, which may also pose a health risk.

"People just tend to think [old poop] is not as smelly, a little less disgusting," and therefore easier to scoop or simply ignore, added Dr. Beeler, who co-authored a report on the link between animal feces and infectious disease this summer.

In his song "Ordinary Average Guy", quoted by a HuffPost reader WarrenPease in the comments section of a July poop-scooping story, Joe Walsh reflects this common attitude:

"Every Saturday we work in the yard /
Pick up the dog doo /
Hope that it's hard (woof woof)"

While Farias-Rios noted that Max is back to being a happy and healthy hound, Emily and other experts warn that once-a-week poop-scooping -- which is also typical of other businesses in the arising industry such as The Grand Poobah, Entremanure -- is still not enough to ensure the safety of pets and people.

"We recommend daily pickup of stool, no matter who is doing it," Dr. Beeler told HuffPost.

Max actually does his "doodie" in the front yard, potentially exposing neighborhood dogs in addition to himself. Further, both he and the neighboring mutts could also share the parasites, viruses and bacteria with their owners. When HuffPost spoke with Farias-Rios, he had just returned from doing an estimate at another potential client's home. The family's dogs use the backyard as their bathroom and end up stepping in their own poop and tracking it inside.

"Now there's a possibility of E. coli poisoning for the kids and family," he said. Of course, not all pathogens affect humans, and not all pathogens that affect humans show symptoms in pets.

Janet Geer, spokesperson for Seattle-based Puget Sound Starts Here, a partnership of regional governments dedicated to improving local water quality, also urges more frequent clean-up to limit these risks. As HuffPost reported in July, her organization is leading a campaign, complete with a music video to the tune of "No Diggity," aimed to persuade people to pick up after their pets. The public service announcements instruct how to "bag it up" and toss it in the trash.

Since the launch of Dog Doogity, Geer said she continues to see increasing social awareness and decreasing evidence of fugitive feces. Some Puget Sound-area cities have recently instituted new laws, even going as far as to require the removal of pet waste from private property every 24 hours, on top of an all-out ban on leaving any poop in public.

The education campaign continues. "A lot of people around here still think of it as organic fertilizer," she added.

Like many parts of the country, local water pollution is a growing concern in the Seattle area. When it rains, feces left on sidewalks or yards can wash into storm drains and ditches, which then flow untreated to the nearest lake, stream or wetland and ultimately wind up in the Puget Sound. Even in small doses, E. coli can get into the water system and cause significant trouble.

In addition to releasing nutrients into the water that can feed on algae and kill marine life, excrement contamination can also send unlucky beach-goers home with bouts of diarrhea or hives.

As performer Martin Luther sings in the video, "Hey yo, you don't want to swim in poo."

The Washington State Department of Ecology has studied the local sources of pollutants and linked higher counts of fecal coliform -- an indicator for the potential presence of harmful pathogens -- to residential compared to commercial areas. "This spells out dogs," Geer told HuffPost.

So what can be done to protect the public from parasitic poop, and help them to enjoy only the health benefits of pet ownership?

Some communities are enlisting high-tech solutions such as DNA testing or video surveillance to track culprit dogs and their owners.

But Michael Brandow, author of "New York's Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process," doesn't see these strategies catching on. Instead he suggested on Pet Life Radio that the answer is far more simple: peer pressure and the "policing of each other" that comes with increased awareness.And this peer pressure can be of the active variety, as described by another HuffPost reader. "I've gotten into the habit of always carrying extra bags with me when I take my dogs out," wrote NatureNerd in a comment on July's story. "When I see someone not picking up after their dogs, I will walk up to them and say, 'Oh, did you forget a bag to pick up after your dog? That happens to me too. Here, have one of mine.' So far, has worked every time."

In addition to regularly cleaning up after their dog -- or hiring help to do the task -- pet owners should also make sure that they get their animal regularly checked for parasites, advised Dr. Beeler.

"They should follow any treatment protocols that their vet recommends," she said. "This helps protect people too."

Adapted from:
One of the interesting human viruses that has recently been shown to be carried in dog feces is Norovirus:
Pet Dogs Can Carry Human Norovirus, Study Shows

While dogs may indeed be man's best friend, it turns out that they also have the ability to harbor one of man's most common enemies - norovirus.

A study out of Finland has shown that pet dogs can carry human strains of norovirus and pass them on to people in the household.  Researchers at the University of Helinski's Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health took 92 fecal samples from dogs living in households where either the dog or family members had recently experienced vomiting or diarrhea - the most common symptoms of norovirus infection. They found human strains of norovirus (HuNov) in 4 of these samples.

Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis, or what is commonly thought of as stomach flu symptoms, in the United States. It affects 23 million individuals in the country each year. While most cases resolve within a few days, some can be severe and in rare cases fatal.
Until recently, it was thought that animals did not carry human noroviruses, since "generally species barriers seem to be rather stong for viruses," explains Carl-Henrick von Bonsdorff, co-author of the study and member of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.  However, "with the great number and variability of human norovirus strains the idea of animal reservoirs has become more interesting," von Bonsdorff told Food Safety News in an e-mailed statement.

The results of this study - published this month in the Journal of Clinical Virology - show that it is indeed possible for animals to carry human strains of norovirus. In fact, 2 of the dogs whose stool tested positive for human norovirus had even displayed symptoms of infection themselves.  When asked whether this means that dogs might not only carry human noroviruses but actually be sickened by them as well, von Bonsdorff noted that this study cannot answer that question.
"Infection transmission will require more rigorous studies. The study just shows that it is possible," he said.

So where do these dogs come into contact with the virus? Von Bonsdorff says the most likely source is family members who have the disease, specifically small children. Norovirus is most highly concentrated in feces, he explains, but can also be transmitted through saliva and vomit.

This does not mean that dogs can't also pick up HuNoVs outside the home by sniffing, licking or eating contaminated materials, notes von Bonsdorff.

But before you lock up Fido and stop the children from playing with him, keep in mind that the most common path for norovirus transmission is still human to human.  "Viruses are in general rather species specific. It seems very unlikely that the transmission would be as easy between man and dog," says von Bonsdorff.

The next step for studying HuNoVs in animals is to look at whether the virus can multiply within a dog's intestines, or whether it simply passes through the animal.  For now, scientists have proof that dogs are capable of carrying the disease, and can pass it on to their owners.

While von Bonsdorff says it is possible that other animals, such as rodents, may also carry HuNoVs, as of yet there is no hard evidence that this occurs.

Adapted from:
Might there also be some concern about possible spread of infection through the air???
Dog Pollution? Study Finds Fecal Bacteria in Air

There’s a new reason to crack down harder on dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets. Samples in two cities found that in winter the most common bacteria in the air is from feces — probably that of dogs.

"A significant percentage, anywhere from 10 to over 50 percent of the bacteria, seem to be derived from feces," Noah Fierer, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told

"As best as we can tell, dog feces are the only explanation for these results," added Fierer. "But we do need to do more research."

Fierer and colleagues looked at air samples taken in winter from four cities in the Midwest — Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Mayville, Wis.

Adapted from:

Potentially a scary thought, huh?

Anyone who has had a dog and taken it to their veterinarian for an office visit and examination, has undoubtedly had to bring along a stool specimen from their dog or have one collected as part of the exam.  Why is that necessary?  What kind of information does it provide?

Poop as a diagnostic tool

Dr. Sandy Willis, a small animal internal-medicine consultant at Phoenix Central Laboratory in Mukilteo, Washington, answers this week's questions.

Question: Vets typically want to test a stool sample from our pets during an annual exam. It can be a smelly and messy collection, and many pet owners ignore the request. How valuable a diagnostic tool is poop?

Answer: The importance of a routine fecal examination and deworming has grown in recent years.

A fecal exam is very helpful in health and disease. It will identify most gastrointestinal parasites in a healthy pet and those that may be causing disease in a sick pet with a variety of signs, including diarrhea, vomiting, poor skin and hair coat, weight loss, etc.

Most pets acquire parasite infections from the environment because parasite eggs often can exist for long periods of time in the soil and grass. Fecal examinations in healthy pets will identify asymptomatic shedders, allowing us to treat them, eliminate shedding, serving to reduce overall contamination and exposure of other pets to infection.

Some parasites, such as toxocariasis (roundworm infections) and toxoplasmosis are zoonotic, meaning that if eggs are ingested by people, they can develop disease. This occurs rarely, but routine fecal examination and deworming of our pets is important to the health of our families.

Furthermore, restricting access of children to contaminated areas, such as sandboxes, pet-walk areas and other high-traffic areas, is important.

An important zoonotic parasite is the raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris. Raccoons defecate in areas called latrines, and surrounded soil can be contaminated with Baylisascaris eggs.

People should discourage raccoons from their yards but not feeding raccoons or other animals around their homes, carefully removing any raccoon fecal material, and not allowing children to play in areas where raccoons have been.

Question: What can a fecal sample tell you about a dog's health?

Answer: Fecal examination will identify internal parasites, such as worms, coccidia, giardia, and sometimes larvae such as lung worms.

In puppies, parasite infections often come from the mother, so the health of the puppy and bitch can be assessed by a fecal examination.

But the exams do not identify all infections, and, thus, routine deworming is important even if fecal tests are negative.

This is particularly important in the puppy and in recently infected older dogs. In these dogs, worms are present in the intestines but they are not yet shedding eggs, resulting in a negative fecal examination.

Our common antiparasiticals have become so much more advanced in recent years.

They are safer, easier to administer and kill and prevent more infections. However, the fecal examination remains important to make sure we are treating the dog or cat with the most appropriate antiparasitical.

Clients should seek advice from their veterinarian on which dewormers are best. There are many out there, some less effective than others, and the veterinarian's advice can save costs by making sure the right one is selected from the beginning. We also have to be careful with cats and make sure they receive dewormers appropriate for the feline.

Question: What can't a fecal sample tell you?

Answer: There are other causes of diarrhea, including pancreatic insufficiency, small intestinal disease, hormonal problems, even cancer. Routine fecal examination will not diagnose these.

Bacterial causes of diarrhea are rare in small animals. A fecal culture, looking for unusual bacteria in the stool, is needed to diagnose a bacterial diarrhea. Parvovirus diarrhea is not diagnosed on a routine fecal examination, but there is another fecal test for this viral diarrhea.

Question: What specifically are you looking for in fecal tests?

Answer: We are looking for worms, small, moving organisms such as trichomonas and eggs of common gastrointestinal parasites.

Question: Is one stool sample usually enough?

Answer: Generally, yes. Sometimes we prefer to check multiple fecal samples because shedding may be intermittent, which can be the case with a giardia infection. In a patient with diarrhea, we may end up treating for gastrointestinal parasites even though a fecal sample is negative because a negative result does not absolutely rule out all parasites.

Question: What kinds of common issues are typically found?

Answer: The worm eggs: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia in small animals. Stomach worms, tapeworms, some whipworms and hookworms are seen in large animals.

These must be distinguished from common contaminants in stool, including environmental yeasts and fungi, pollen and other plant material, grain mites and parasites of other species (such as rodents, amphibians, large animals and horses) that are acquired from eating the species (i.e. frogs) or their stool (sheep and cattle).

Parasites from other species are just passing through, cause no disease in the dog and cat and do not require treatment.

Question: What are some of the more unusual diseases detected?

Answer: We can occasionally find organisms that are not related to the gastrointestinal tract, such as skin parasites like demodex and sarcoptes. These are mites that are usually picked up in skin scrapings made of the skin, placed on a slide and examined under a microscope. Sometimes the itching dog or cat will ingest these mites, they will pass unchanged through the gastrointestinal tract, and we will find them in the stool. Pretty cool, but not indicative of an intestinal problem.

We have occasionally seen a huge load of worm eggs from a species other than the one being sampled, such as deer worm eggs seen in the feces of a dog that routinely ingests deer poop!

We occasionally also see eggs that might cause significant disease in a sheep, goat or llama -- in the stool of a dog. It is not necessary to treat the dog for the parasite, because these worms are generally species specific and only cause a problem in the natural host, but it is important to contact the owner of the pasture and have them do a routine deworming of their livestock.

Question: What is the worst thing it can reveal?

Answer: Sometimes we see such large infestations of parasites that the patient must be really ill. Overwhelming gastrointestinal parasitism can cause severe illness and death, particularly in young and immunocompromised patients.

In the Pacific Northwest, we also see a disease called salmon poisoning. Salmon poisoning occurs in domestic and wild dogs from northern California and Washington. This disease can be fatal if not identified and treated.

It is caused by a small microscopic organism called a rickettsia. Clinical signs include fever, not eating, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody. Signs are severe and dogs can become very ill, needing immediate veterinary care.

The interesting aspect of salmon poisoning is this: the rickettsia, called Rickettsia helminthoeca, is carried within a trematode or fluke. The fluke requires two other life-forms, the snail Oxytrema, which is only found in fresh and brackish stream waters in our coastal areas, and salmonid fish (salmon), certain nonsalmonid fish (such as trout) and the Pacific giant salamander. The dog becomes infected by eating or sometimes even licking a fish or salamander. We diagnose the infection by finding the fluke eggs in a stool sample. It is rare to find the rickettsia agents themselves.

Salmon poisoning only occurs from the ingestion of raw fish. Cooked fish do not present a problem. Thus owners should really discourage their dogs from eating any raw fish.

This disease is not seen in cats.

Question: Which diseases, parasites, etc., can only be detected in an analysis of poop?

Answer: We can only detect the presence of gastrointestinal parasites, such as worms, trichomonads, coccidia, etc., by a fecal examination. There are no blood tests for these organisms.

Question: Are there any situations in which diseases/problems can be caught early by examining poop, before more serious symptoms develop?

Answer: We can occasionally detect fecal parasites before we see signs of disease such as diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss, poor skin and hair coat and condition, etc.

In addition -- and more importantly -- some parasites are zoonotic, meaning they can cause an aberrant infection in man, such as roundworms and certain hookworms. Thus we do want to make sure our pets are parasite free by performing routine fecal examinations and deworming.

In salmon poisoning, if we find the fluke eggs on a routine fecal examination, we will generally treat to prevent the disease with a tetracycline antibiotic.

Question: Vets usually want the samples to be "fresh." Why?

Answer: Even the finding of one egg can be diagnostic, thus we want the samples to be fresh. With time, samples and eggs dry out and disintegrate.

Also, fecal samples in the environment can quickly become contaminated with fly eggs, free living larva or worms from the soil, and other contaminants that can be confused with real parasites.

Question: What is the best way to collect a sample? What do you suggest it be scooped up with?

Answer: The sample can be scooped up with anything clean and submitted in a special fecal vial provided by the veterinarian, a clean dry cup of any type with a lid, or even a plastic bag. The key is to not gather up too much of the environmental contamination, such as leaves and dirt and little box clay.

We usually only need one to six grams of a sample, thus the owner does not need to provide a huge amount. When there is diarrhea, the sample size should be larger. With firm stool, we need less.

Question: What is the best sanitary way to keep a sample if you can't get to the vet immediately?

Answer: Keep the sample in a container with a lid, or in a bag that is closed. I would keep it in a cool place.

As pets defecate at least one to two times a day, samples should be collected on the day they are submitted or the day before so they shouldn't need to be kept for long periods of time.

Question: How is a fecal sample prepared for examination?

Answer: Fecal samples are analyzed either at veterinary diagnostic laboratories or within the veterinary hospital/clinic. The basic technique of the fecal procedure is to first identify any large parasites within the sample.

We may take a small sample, mix it slightly with water and do a direct examination under the microscope for any moving parasites. Then, another small sample is prepared for a fecal flotation. A flotation technique uses a solution (can be sugar solution, zinc sulfate, sodium nitrate, etc) and either passive ( the sample sits on the counter for a given length of time) or active (centrifugation of the sample) flotation to separate parasite eggs from debris in the sample and allow them to be identified under a microscope by egg size and morphology.

Question: How much does an analysis usually cost?

Answer: This varies depending on the technique and whether the fecal sample in done in the veterinary clinic or sent out to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Costs can vary from roughly $25 to $45. Clients are urged not to shop tests based on cost alone because the cheapest fecal test may not be run the complete way with centrifugation. Also, a clinic is not going to simply run a fecal test without a physical examination, an interpretation of the results and appropriate therapy.

Adapted from:

The National League pounded the American League in the All-Star game this past week, which will give the NL the home-field advantage in the World Series this fall.  So, the LA Dodgers get back their 2 big stars, Kemp and Ethier, and what do we do???  We lost 2 of 3 games to the San Diego Padres, the last place team in our away late-game leads in both losses!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have found a new happy hour location in town that features $2 fish tacos and sliders, along with $2 Tecates...right in the heart of downtown Flagstaff!

Also, still strumming the culinary guitar, Desperado made up a batch of the pink lemonade with lavender recipe we picked up down at the Arizona Lavender Festival...and it's a bona fide winner!

We saw Woody Allen's new movie, To Rome With Love, on Thursday...enjoyed the scenes of the city, the music, and the story lines...but, compared to Midnight In Paris, this one was only average at best.

By the time you read this, we will be up in the central Rocky Mountains for my bike ride over Vail Pass...the 2nd highest point on I-70 as it crosses the Rockies.  I finished my training schedule on Friday and I'm as ready as I can be for the adventure.  John Denver had a little bit to say about this location...enjoy: 

Rocky Mountain High

I'll have more to say about it next week...after I try to touch the sun.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

  1. Hey, HB--

    Go get 'em on the bike ride! Hope it's a thriller!

    Fellow Buckeye