Ever wonder whether your dog’s coprophagia is dangerous to you or your family? To answer that question, we should first take a look at what the general human risks are when coming into contact with dog feces.
The most common risk to humans is Toxocariasis, a parasitic infection caused by roundworm that can be spread to humans. The eggs are passed in the feces of an infected dog, and may be transmitted to humans who come in contact with them. Humans are accidental hosts, so larvae can’t mature to full blown worms within humans, but they can certainly cause problems for those that are infected.
Most Toxocariasis infections don’t present symptoms, especially in adults, and eventually resolve themselves because the larvae can’t fully mature and reproduce. However, when the larvae are migrating through the body, they can cause problems in some human hosts.
There are three classifications of syndromes associated with Toxocariasis. The first is called visceral larva migrans (VLM) and it results in the inflamation of major organs or parts of the central nervous system. Patients may exhibit fatigue, coughing, asthmatic attacks, pallor, excessive weight loss, anorexia, fever, headache, rashes, tightness in the chest, irritability, abdominal pain and nausea/vomiting. The second classification is Covert VLM, where symptoms are somewhat more subdued, and may include swollen lymph nodes and/or an enlarged liver. The last (and possibly the creepiest) of the classifications is called ocular larva migrans (OLM) and happens when larvae take up residence in one or both eyes. This can result in a gradual loss of vision and eventual blindness.
Dogs that eat infected feces and then lick people and things can certainly spread toxo eggs, and when outside of the host, the eggs can actually stay infectious for years!
The good news is that in order for toxo eggs to become infective, they must remain outside of the host for at least two weeks (meaning that only dog poop that has been sitting for two weeks or more is dangerous). If you keep your yard clean and your dog leashed when you’re walking him the risks is fairly minimal. Cat poop is also a risk for this type of infection, so be sure to clean the litter box regularly!
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photo credit: xmatt