Dogs are like very small children in that they explore the world through their mouths. They taste and eat just about anything, including the faeces of other animals. They will also eat the entire carcases of birds or rabbits, including any forming faeces that may happen to still be in the bodies. Dogs often like rolling about in bird droppings. Unfortunately, some serious illnesses can pass from bird or rabbit droppings to your dog.
Dogs can pick up avian flu (H5N1) from the faeces, meat or carcases of infected birds. They can also pick up avian flu from being in contact with or eating the faeces of contaminated cats. Dogs can get coccidiosis or leptospirosis from eating rabbit faeces. In the case of leptospirosis, dogs can also be infected from drinking the urine or eating the faeces of rodents, skunks, possums or already-infected dogs.
Hunting dogs or dogs allowed to wander are far more likely to eat contaminated bird or rabbit droppings than house dogs or dogs kept on a lead or in a fenced yard. Although this doesn't completely eliminate the chances of infected birds, cats or rabbits passing by your property, it does cut down the dog's chances of getting sick.
Dogs can be vaccinated against leptospirosis as early as a puppy and given annual booster shots. Dogs can be trained to not eat faeces and need to be bathed as soon as you realise that they've rolled in bird droppings. Try to keep your dogs from getting into contact with stray cats and try to keep them off of your property. Check your dog's yard frequently to see if any animal droppings are there and clean them up.
All of these diseases are transferable to humans. However, simple hand washing before meals or after getting into contact with a faeces-covered dog or removing animal faeces can often prevent your chances of getting sick.
A dog with avian flu has fever, coughing, difficulty breathing and difficulty walking. The dog needs to get to the vet immediately or they may die. A dog with leptospirosis has fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, disinterest in anything (depression), conjunctivitis and very dark coloured urine. This is also an emergency situation and the dog needs to get to the vet immediately, if not sooner. Although dogs have survived leptospitosis, they often have kidney and liver damage as a result. A dog with coccidosis is usually a puppy or a dog that's just undergone a lot of stress. They get loose, runny stools, sometimes tinged with blood. They are listless, anaemic and often get dehydrated.
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