Practice good hygiene if you enjoy canine kisses

Take precautions: A lot of people don't know that parasites like tapeworm and other intestinal worms can spread from dogs to people.
Take precautions: A lot of people don't know that parasites like tapeworm and other intestinal worms can spread from dogs to people.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember your dog is not human. We talk to them, include them in family activities and even share our bed with them.

A recent survey of more than 1000 Australian dog owners by Elanco Animal Health found that only 12 per cent describe their dog as 'a pet', and that more dogs are sleeping in their owners' bed at night (27 per cent) than are sleeping outside the home (21 per cent).

The research also found that:

  • 42 per cent celebrate their dog's birthday
  • one in three cook their dog its own meals
  • 42 per cent 'only buy the best food and products' for their dog, and
  • 32 per cent regularly buy gifts for their dog.

Further, nearly half of survey respondents take their dogs on holiday at least once a year (60 per cent of Gen Z dog owners) and many also join their owners at cafes and restaurants (32 per cent on average vs 57 per cent of Gen Zs).

But according to Elanco Animal Health, alongside all this love and pampering is widespread risky behaviour that could be helping to spread parasites, such as tapeworm, from dogs to people.

The survey showed that 62 per cent aren't concerned about their dog spreading parasites to people and therefore aren't taking adequate precautions. For example, only 35 per cent of owners said they always wash their hands after their touching their dog while 58 per cent let their dog lick their hands, and 36 per cent let their dog lick their face.

Dr Claude Stanislaus, Technical Veterinary Manager at Elanco Animal Health, said we need to remember that while we love our dogs, they are not people and a casual approach to dog hygiene can help spread parasites to people.

"Unlike us dogs do not take daily showers, they stick their noses in each other's bottoms, they sometimes eat animal poo if they find it, and we then hug them and invite them into our beds. What a lot of people don't realise is that we could also be inviting harmful parasites such as hydatid tapeworm into our bed too.

"Even if you have the cleanest, most well cared for dog, you can't vouch for any of the canine friends that they hang out with. A lot of people don't know that parasites like tapeworm and other intestinal worms can spread from dogs to people. And while rare, cases of hydatid tapeworm being transferred from dogs to humans can lead to serious illness in people, and in very extreme cases, even death."

The research also found that 31 per cent of all dog owners admit to not picking up their dog's poo in public (44 per cent of Gen Z). This behaviour could inadvertently be leading to health risks, as tapeworm can be spread to people through contact with dog poo.

"Simple steps such as washing your hands after playing with your dog, regularly de-worming your dog with a broad-spectrum all-wormer product and making sure you regularly pick up your dog's droppings so nasties such as hydatid tapeworm can't be transferred to people, are all simple things we can do to protect our furry family members, and us, from intestinal worms," Dr Stanislaus said.