Why are there still people who refuse to pick up after their dogs in the South Loop? There’s even a website called South Poop! On each and every walk I take with my dogs, I pick up at least two extra poops my dogs are not responsible for. Do I do it because I am such a nice person, or a good neighbor? No. I do it for very simple reasons. One: My Leo will eat it if he sees it before I do (how nasty and dangerous is that?). Two: If it is dark out, I have exactly the kind of luck that will put my foot in it every night. Aside from the gross factor, there are significant health issues to consider.
What is it? A dog who has ingested a flea or a poop that has tapeworms in it will become infected. According to the vets at peteducation.com, tapeworms are flat, segmented worms that have a head, neck, and a number of other segments. The head has suckers that help it to attach itself to the dog’s intestine. It feeds off the nutrients in the dog’s digestive system, because it has no digestive system of it own. As the worm matures, it casts off the older segments of its body, which are passed through the poop. Each cast off segment has its own reproductive organs. If it is ingested by a new dog, it will produce offspring in the intestine of the new host. This new host can also be human.
How do you recognize it? The segments that are cast off and passed through the poop can be seen poking out of the dog’s anus or climbing out of a fresh pile of poop. If it is recently passed, it will pulsate or throb in an elongating and constricting pattern. If it is not so recently passed, they will look like cucumber or sesame seeds, or like uncooked rice. This is how most cases are diagnosed. “In heavy infections, we may notice abdominal discomfort or nervousness in the animal. The animal may vomit. The active segments around the anal area may cause an animal to lick or ‘scoot’ on the floor, say Drs. Foster and Smith. The best way to prevent the spread of this infection is to clean up after your dog.
Here are the other diseases that are spread by poops that our neighbors leave behind, as borrowed from another article on peteducation.com:
Parvo Virus is one of the deadliest diseases in the dog population, particularly among puppies. Gaining entry through the mouth, the virus attacks the digestive tract and kills cells that are critical in the absorption of nutrients. Severe fluid loss through diarrhea and vomiting can lead to death. Parvo also temporarily affects a dog’s immune system, and can lead to heart failure in some young dogs.
Whipworms are blood suckers, tunneling into the wall of the intestine for their blood meals. Vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss are common symptoms, and in large numbers, these parasites can cause anemia. Difficult to diagnose, they are even harder to eliminate because they are often present in very large numbers.
Hookworms are blood suckers, attaching to the intestinal wall where they suck plugs of the intestinal tissue into their mouth structures. Anemia and/or intense inflammation can result. Hookworm infections can be passed to humans.
Roundworms (ascarids) can affect the lungs and the digestive system, with typical signs being vomiting and diarrhea. Convulsions can occur with heavy infections and the disease can spread to humans.
Giardia are one-celled parasites that can cause diarrhea in cats and dogs. Infection with Giardia is often difficult to diagnose and treat effectively.
Coccidia are also one-celled parasites that can cause diarrhea, especially in puppies and kittens.
Parting thoughts: If your dog steps in a poop that someone did not clean up, and then walks on your carpet and sits on your sofa and sleeps in your bed, think of all the things that you are walking, sitting, and sleeping on in your own home. Be safe and mindful. If you see a poop, pick it up. If you see someone not picking up after his or her dog, ask, “Do you need a poop bag?” I always carry spares, even though there are bags available the South Loop dog parks. I am not asking you to be the neighborhood watch, because who wants to be known as that kind of neighbor. I am only asking for those who don’t clean up to think twice about it, and for the rest of us to help each other keep our homes and our animals as disease-free as possible.
Jill Aronson is a former SLDogPAC board member who lives in the South Loop with her dog Leo. ©2012 Jill Aronson. This article originally appeared at Examiner.com.