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Prevalence of intestinal helminths on stray dogs
In July 2008 to December 2011, there was a cross sectional study aiming at determining the prevalence of intestinal helminths of stray dogs in Grenada. In addition, the study aimed at determining the relationship between of age, sex and feed taken by the stray dogs and the prevalence of the intestinal helminths. Attaining this was through an examination of the fecal samples collected from stray dogs.
In the study, there were significant difference between prevalence of the intestinal helminths in stray dogs depending on their sex and as well their age. Young stray dogs had higher traces of the helminths as compared to adult stray dogs (Hinz, 1980). On the other hand, female stray dogs had a higher prevalence of the intestinal helminths compared to male stray dogs (Taylor, 2007). The high prevalence of intestinal helminths on dogs in Grenada is due to lack of access to veterinary services. Therefore, in Grenada, people are at high risks due to the high prevalence of stray dogs. More so, there is a need of developing control measures aimed at reducing the risks posed on children living in Grenada (Hinz, 1980).
Dogs have many pathogens. Intestinal parasites, which are both helminths and protozoa, are the most common pathogens present in dogs. There is a consideration that stray dogs are important health problems in many societies (Hinz, 1980). This is because they carry these dangerous pathogens. It is important understanding the prevalence of pathogens in the stray dogs and the effects that they pose on people. Intestinal pathogens are among the most common pathogenic agents encountered by veterinarians. In addition, they remain as the main cause of pathologies of the intestinal tract in dogs. As any other canines, dogs act as definitive hosts for many intestinal parasites. Most of the parasites are responsible for causing zoonotic diseases such as hydatids (Irwin, 2002).
In dogs, intestinal helminths poses challenges to the dog. This is because the pathogen lowers the resistance to infectious diseases (Irwin, 2002). Resulting to the pathogen, the stray dog experiences a stunted growth and as well general ill health. Numerous symptoms describe a dog suffering from intestinal parasites. Some of the common symptoms observed are, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and as well loss of condition. Since dogs and humans live in proximity, there is a possibility of transmission of some zoonotic diseases. The transmitted diseases cause serious health consequences among the victims (Bowman, 2009).
Transmission of these diseases can either be through direct contact with secretions and excretions from the dog with the pathogen and as well indirect contacts with the dog. Prevalence of the pathogens differs with the geographical region (Robertson, 2000). Considering the threat that the pathogens poses to animal health and as well to the human health, study of parasitic infections among dogs should be a continuous task having an aim of developing some control measures of dealing with the prevalence of the pathogens and preventing the zoonotic diseases transmitted to humans living near the stray dogs. The study focuses on the prevalence of intestinal helminths and protozoa among stray dogs in Grenada, West Indies and the importance of the concept of the prevalence on public health (Irwin, 2002).
Intestinal helminths remains as a major concern among many people. This is due to the possible effects that the pathogens cause in humans (Taylor, 2007). There are epidemiological studies aimed at identifying the factors associated with the presence of pathogens in stray dogs. These studies on the other hand equip researchers with details pertaining the appropriate measures applicable while controlling the prevalence of the pathogens among the stray dogs (Robertson, 2000).
Materials and Methods
During the rabies control program by the ministry of health and the veterinary department of Grenada, it was possible to catch 449 stray dogs. Following the capture of these dogs was their transportation to the pathology laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Later, there was the collection of their feces. Storage of the feces was in large containers. More so, there was recording of the stray dog’s age and sex (Bowman, 2009). During the collection of fecal samples, labeling corresponded with the dog’s age and as well its sex. The criteria for inclusion in this study were the finding of intestinal helminths and protozoa.
Examination of the fecal samples was on the day of collection. There was the use of sedimentation and floating techniques during the examination process of the prevalence of the intestinal helminths (Hinz, 1980). The procedure of fecal floatation was as follows: mixing of three grams of feces with a flotation solution (zinc sulphate), strained into a centrifuge tube and centrifuged at 1500 rpm for 10 minutes. Later there was the filling of the centrifuge tube to the brim with more zinc sulphate and a cover slip placed on top of the tube (Taylor, 2007). Removal of the cover slip from the centrifuge tube followed where we placed a glass slide for microscopic examination. Identification of helminths and coccidian was through a description made by Williams8 and Soulsby10. Since eggs of Oesophagostomum spp. (80x40μm) And Strongyloides spp. (45x27μm) Were larvae, their identification was through on their size (Bowman, 2009).
In the study, there were 449 sample dogs. Majority of the dogs were female (Macpherson, 2005). Examination carried out on the prevalence of the intestinal helminths on the sample dogs sample showed that the highest prevalent pathogen was ancylostoma caninum. Trichuris vulpis was the second most prevalent intestinal pathogen (Taylor, 2007). While investigating the prevalence of the intestinal pathogens depending on the age of the stray dogs, it showed that there were higher prevalence of the pathogens among puppies than adult dogs.
In addition, gender affected the prevalence of the pathogens (Bowman, 2009). Females had a higher prevalence of the pathogens as compared to male stray dogs. As stated earlier, the prevalence of intestinal helminths among stray dogs is dependent on the geographical location of the dog. Among dogs collected from St. Mark’s, St. Patrick’s, St. Andrew’s and St. John’s had higher intestinal helminths prevalence as compared to dogs from St. David’s and St. George’s regions. The tables below shows a summary of the prevalence of intestinal helminths among the collected stray dogs in the study (Robertson, 2000).
Table 2 Prevalence of intestinal helminths and protozoa by Age in stray dogs of Grenada, West Indies.
(N= 30) Puppy
Ancylstoma 300 (74.1%) 18 (60%) 7 (87.5%) Trichuris 65 (16.0) 3 (10) 2 (25) Toxocara 13 (0.7) 0 (0) 4 (5) Coccidia 3 (0.7) 3 (10) 0 (0) <.0001> Srogylodis 5 (1.2) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0.01
Table 3 Prevalence of intestinal helminths and protozoa by Gender in stray dogs of Grenada, West Indies.
Ancylostoma 175 (73.8) 150 (72.1) .07
Trichuris 38 (16) 32 (15.4) .04
Toxocara 10 (4.2) 7 (3.4) .21
Coccidia 3 (1.2) 3 (1.5) .87
Srogylodis 2 (0.8) 3 (1.4) .36
Table 4: Prevalence of intestinal helminths and protozoa by Parish in stray dogs of Grenada, West Indies.
Ancylostoma 36(81.8) 27(69.2) 139 (66) 23(76.4) 84(82.4) 16(84.2) .60
Trichuris 8 (18.2) 4 (10) 16 (7.6) 7 (23) 31(30.4) 4 (21.1) Toxocara 0 (0) 2 (5.1) 14 (6.2) 1 (3.3) 1 (1) 0 (0) .12
Coccidia 1 (2.3) 0 (0) 3 (1.5) 0 (0) 2 (2) 0 (0) .88
Srogylodis 1 (2.3) 0 (0) 4 (1.4) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) .58
Note: SA = St. Andrew, SD= St. David SG= St. Georges, SJ= St. John’s, SM= St. Mark and SP= St. Patrick
Ancylostoma caninum and Trichuris vulpis are the most prevalent helminths of dogs in Grenada. Most of the pathogens detected in the study have a worldwide distribution. However, their prevalence in both larval and adult stages respectively in humans and stray dogs are different. Stray dogs do not have an owner. As a result, there are high chances that they have never taken an anti-parasitic drug (Taylor, 2007).
Considering their shelter and their sources of nutrition, their intestinal infections are natural. The high prevalence of the parasites in the fecal samples of the stray dogs shows that their environment conditions in Grenada are conducive for the survival and as well the transmission of the parasites. There is a possibility that Ancylostoma sp. Might have developed resistance to the common drugs used against it (Despommier, 2003).
On the other hand, the prevalence of T. canis as observed in the study shows that age and sex influence the survival of the parasite. Age distribution as in the study shows that young stray dogs acquire infections more than adult stray dogs. In Grenada, there is a belief that the young stray dogs acquire the parasites through congenital transmission. This makes its prevalence more as compared to adult stray dogs (Taylor, 2007). On the other hand, Trichuris vulpis is common intestinal helminths in Grenada. The helminths’ prevalence in the study falls in the range as provided by authors and as well other researchers.
The overall prevalence of the intestinal helminths as in the study have a confirmation from researchers who had an earlier report on the prevalence of the helminths as 5.9%. In addition, other reports proves the results of the study. The similarity in the values of the prevalence of intestinal helminths among stray dogs is probably due to the similarity in the population sample collected (Macpherson, 2005).
As with the examination carried out on stray dogs in Grenada, it is clear that puppies are at higher risks of suffering from the helminths as compared to adults. This suggests that the intestinal helminths found a certain immunity on dogs as their age developed. In addition, the immune system of young stray dogs is not mature completely. During the pregnancy period, the larvae found in the lining of the fetus remains inactive (Despommier, 2003). This poses a risk to the fetus since they are chances of being active and infecting the fetus through Trans placental route and as well the puppies through the Trans mammary route.
As a result, they are at higher risks of suffering from the intestinal helminths as compared to adult stray dogs. More so, it is due to one or more exposures made on the young stray dog as it develops in age (Macpherson, 2005). The significance of the zoonotic diseases caused by the intestinal helminths makes it important for residents of Grenada to understand their interaction with the stray dogs and as well preventive measures that applicable against the intestinal helminths (Despommier, 2003).
Among female dogs, the prevalence of the intestinal helminths was higher as compared to male stray dogs. This is because the larvae of these parasites remain in the state of latency in the muscular layer of bitches. As a result, they are at higher risks of having the parasites as compared to the male stray dogs (Robertson, 2000).
On the other hand, the prevalence of intestinal helminths depends on the food taken by the dog. Stray dogs rarely feed on cooked meat (Despommier, 2003). In addition, they rely on wild food for their survival. As a result, they are at higher risks of getting intestinal helminths as compared to other dogs that rely on cooked food. Cooking food can kill and as well inactivate infective eggs and as well cysts of the intestinal helminths. On the other hand, their shelter remains as the other cause of the intestinal helminths in Grenada. This is because the parasites have a capability of surviving in the dogs shelters where their transmission to other stray dogs using the same shelter takes place (Robertson, 2000).
The study reveals that infection with intestinal helminths is endemic for stray dogs in Grenada. There is a high prevalence rate of these parasites as encountered in the study carried out. These parasites pose a health danger to the public (Macpherson, 2005). Walking bare foot and as well taking food with their hands unclean increase the chances of getting these infections. Different intestinal helminths cause different conditions on dogs and as well on humans.
Therefore, it is crucial for taking control measures of preventing the prevalence of the intestinal helminths among stray dogs in Grenada. Improving shelters of the stray dogs by ensuring that Grenada areas are clean may be a control measure of ensuring that the prevalence of the intestinal helminths reduces. The study confirms that among the different age groups of dogs, young dogs were at higher risks of getting intestinal helminths infections as compared to adult dogs. In addition, the study showed that the prevalence of the intestinal helminths is dependent on gender and as well the food taken by the dogs (Bowman, 2009).
The work incorporated in the paper took place using the research grant by the laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine, St. George’s University. Researchers in the study are grateful to the college and in particular, to the government of Grenada in general for funding the research carried out. On behalf of other researchers involved in then examination, I use the opportunity to thank the managers and directors of the rabies program who assisted us during the collection of the stray dogs.
Bowman D. D., (2009) Georgis’ Parasitology for Veterinarians (9th ed.)W.B. Saunders Elsevier, St Louis, MO (2009) pp. 451
Macpherson, C.N. (2005) Human behaviour and epidemiology of parasitic zoonoses. International Journal of Parasitology 35, 1319–1331.
Robertson, I.D., Irwin, P.J., Lymbery, A.J. & Thompson, R.C. (2000) The role of companion animals in the emergence of parasitic zoonoses. International Journal of Parasitology 30, 1369–1377.
Irwin, P.J. (2002) Companion animal parasitology: a clinical perspective. International Journal of Parasitology 32, 581–593.
Hinz, E. (1980). Intestinal Helminths in Bangkok stray dogs and their role in public health.
Taylor, A.M., 2007. Veterinary Parasitology. 3rd Edn.Blackwell Publishing, USA.
Despommier D. 2003. Toxocariasis: clinical aspects,epidemiology, medical ecology, and molecular aspects. Clin. Microbiol. Rev. 16:265.