An Australian first study on canine intestinal worms in dog parks has revealed that almost half of the parks sampled were contaminated (42.6 per cent).

The study, conducted by The University of Melbourne, was investigating the risks, prevalence, and distribution of canine intestinal worms in dog parks across Australia.

Dog parks provide an ideal urban space where dogs and their owners can exercise, play, and socialise. These parks can, however, increase the risk of exposure to parasites for both dogs and people if dog poo isn’t picked up, as most types of canine intestinal worms can also infect and cause disease in humans (known as a zoonotic disease or zoonosis).

Contamination of parks was highest in the tropical north, with contamination of 100 per cent of parks tested in Far North Queensland.

The rate of contamination was lower in sub-tropical and temperate regions, however remained as high as 43 per cent in Melbourne and 20 per cent in Hobart.

The results of the study highlight the importance of education to raise awareness of responsible pet ownership, including monthly deworming, to minimise the animal and public health risks associated with these parasites.

Rebecca Traub, Professor of Veterinary Parasitology at The University of Melbourne and the primary investigator of the study, says now is the right time to highlight the risk of disease transmission between pets and people.

“Preventative measures, such as regular deworming, and responsible pet ownership, such as the immediate removal of dog poo in parks, should be encouraged to minimise the health risks associated with canine intestinal worms to both dogs and humans.

“Many dog owners are aware of intestinal worms in dogs and the health issues they can cause, including vomiting, diarrhoea, and anaemia. Less well known are the effects, potentially very serious, they can have in humans. With five of the seven worm species identified in this study being zoonotic, the high rate of contamination in parks coupled with a lack of awareness of the risk they pose in humans, may have significant consequences. Fortunately, the same simple measures used to reduce the risk in dogs, that is monthly deworming of dogs and regular removal of dog faeces, are very effective in reducing the risk of human infection with these parasites.”

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