Risks from Dog Walking on Agricultural Land
The proximity of dogs to livestock can cause a number of risks to health and welfare.
With dog ownership having increased significantly in the past year, and given the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, it is inevitable that dog walking in the countryside has become more popular. This comes with a number of risks to livestock. It is important to take time to educate clients – both farmers and dog owners.
Neospora causes bovine abortions. Dogs pick-up infection through ingestion of abortion material/placentae. Oocysts are shed in dog faeces; cattle are infected by ingestion of oocyst-contaminated feed or by vertical transmission in utero. Once cattle contract Neospora, they are likely to be infected for life, and infected cattle are at a greatly increased risk of aborting. Knock-on effects of infection are reduced milk yields and premature culling. Neospora has been identified in over 6% of diagnosed bovine abortion cases in Scotland in the past five years.
This may cause neurological disease and death in sheep. Dogs ingest cysts from contaminated carcases or from being fed contaminated raw sheep meet. Oocysts are shed in faeces of infected dogs and contaminate pasture, feed, water and bedding. Sheep are infected by eating food and/or drinking water contaminated with oocysts. Infected sheep may show no clinical signs but cysts are present in the carcase, which can lead to condemnation at the abattoir. Neurological disease is more likely to manifest where there is a high level of challenge, e.g. in fields used heavily by dog walkers.
Neither disease is vaccinable or treatable, so prevention measures are vital for control:
- Encourage the lifting of dog faeces by dog walkers
- Do not allow farm dogs to defecate in grazing fields or buildings where animal feed/bedding is stored or where animals are housed
- Prevent contamination of feed and water sources by dog faeces
- Prevent access of dogs to carcases, placentae and foetal material
- Raw meat not certified for human consumption must not be fed to dogs
- If dogs are on a raw diet, owners should be encouraged to seek advice on how to kill parasites before meat is fed
- Neosporosis: Cull positives and/or do not retain daughters of infected stock for breeding
The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 which makes it an offence not to pick up dog faeces, does not apply to agricultural (including grazing) land. Therefore, it is important that dog owners are reminded about the importance of lifting dog faeces.
There have been numerous incidents of stock worrying publicised already this year. Worrying can cause abortions, mismothering, stress, injury and death in livestock. Dog owners must be reminded about the importance of keeping dogs under control, on a short lead where there are farm animals and out of fields where calves or lambs are present.
This poster from the NFU may be useful to display and/or circulate to clients.
Posted by Veterinary services on 27/04/2021