Next time you take your dog for a walk outdoors, keep an eye out for bird poop – it might just give your furry friend chlamydia.
Whereas chlamydia in humans is sexually transmitted, dogs can catch it as a result of contact with dried bird poo and bird carcasses.
Birds carry the chlamydia psittaci bacteria, so dogs are at risk of getting infected if they frequently run around fields and parks that are highly populated with birds.
Know the symptoms
Although it’s rare, dog owners should familiarise themselves with the symptoms of chlamydia in case their dogs have contracted the infection.
Iain Booth from VetUK has advised owners on what to look out for. He told the Metro newspaper that “Chlamydia in dogs has different symptoms to chlamydia in humans and it’s not contracted in the same way.”
He says that chlamydia symptoms tend to manifest in the eyes: “If your dogs eyes are watering or red and they’re producing certain amounts of discharge, they may be infected.”
The infection can also affect your dog’s respiratory tract, so watch out if your dog is panting more than usual, or becoming lethargic.
As Booth explains, “If they’re scratching or pawing at their eyes or they’re panting for more air, it could be because they’ve come into contact with the bacteria.”
Cat owners beware too – if your beloved cats and kittens are showing similar symptoms, they may have also caught chlamydia from after contact with dried bird poo or feathers.
Get it treated
Thankfully, treatment is simple and straightforward. Your pet will get some oral antibiotics, which will rid your dog of the infection in a matter of weeks.
However, similarly to chlamydia in humans, leaving the infection untreated could lead to more serious symptoms, including pneumonia, pericarditis (inflammation of the sack around the heart), extreme lethargy, and diarrhoea.
Transmission to humans
Dog owners need not worry about catching chlamydia from their pet. As Booth says,
‘This is a different strain of chlamydia than the STD, and you cannot catch an STD from your dog.
‘The chances of catching chlamydia psittaci from your dog would be extremely slim too.”
In order for this strain of chlamydia to be passed from your dog to you, the chlamydia would have to be vaporised, similarly to how dry bird poo or feathers turn into dust, sticking to a dog’s nose and eyes, and germinating from there.
“But to catch it from your dog’s wet eyes would be highly improbable so do not worry.
“Chlamydia psittaci is zoonotic, meaning it can be spread from animal to human. But previous cases have been from birds to humans,” Booth explains.
Humans might catch it by breathing in infected dust particles from plumage or feathers. But, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive website, psittacosis cases are unusual, with only around 50 reported each year in England and Wales.
So there’s no need to panic – you and your pooch can continue to enjoy the great outdoors – just watch out for any signs for doggie chlamydia and book an appointment with the vet to get it checked up.