Urban wild dog research reveals public health threat

Urban wild dog research reveals public health threat

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Australian scientists have declared that wild dogs in urban areas carry a range of parasites that pose a risk to public health.

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Australian scientists have declared that wild dogs in urban areas carry a range of parasites that pose a risk to public health.

The research, published in the journals Wildlife Research and Australian Mammalogy identified that four in five wild dogs tested were infected with parasitic worms known as helminths, and over half of wild dogs tested were positive for a hydatid tapeworm known as Echinococcus granulosus, which can cause disease in humans, if they come in contact with infective eggs which are shed into the environment through wild dog faeces.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions lead researcher Lana Harriott said that the research showed that urban wild dogs should be considered a significant public health threat, as well as a major predation threat to native wildlife.

"Wild dogs can live within 1000 metres of residential houses at all times, and repeatedly cross roads, suburban backyards and frequently utilised public areas such as school yards and parklands," she said.

"The research is prompting new strategies to minimise the risks wild dogs could pose to human and animal health to protect native wildlife, domestic animals and the public."

Dr Harriott's initial research was undertaken as a part of her PhD supported through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.

It also found that wild dogs preyed heavily on macropod species, such as the swamp wallaby, and this could be a significant reason for seeing such a high occurrence of the hydatid tapeworm within wild dog populations.

"We analysed the stomach contents of 170 urban wild dogs for prey and then associated this with their known infection status of key zoonotic pathogens. Wild dogs that had adult hydatid tapeworms in their intestinal tracts were significantly more likely to have consumed swamp wallabies,"Dr Harriott said.

"The findings demonstrate the importance of managing the complete tapeworm lifecycle and the important role that wild dog diet plays in the ability for the tapeworm to survive."

Dr Harriott said the research improved understanding of the potential impacts of wild dogs in urban areas so that management strategies and options can be developed for land managers.

"It identifies the importance of protecting domestic dogs from these threats, through ensuring they have regular worming, as well as the importance of personal hygiene particularly for professional wild dog controllers. These simple steps can all assist in mitigating the risk posed by parasites carried by the urban wild dog population," she said.

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