Union Opens Debate on Dog Threat to Animal Health

NFU Scotland has met with key stakeholders to discuss the threat posed to the health of Scotland’s farm animals by working and pet dogs being exercised in the countryside.

Of key concern is the rise in abortions in cattle due to the disease, Neospora, which is spread through the faeces from infected dogs.  Dogs initially become infected through the ingestion of contaminated livestock material, such as placentas from newly calved cows. The highest percentage of all cattle abortions reported in the UK is now attributed to Neospora.

There is also a worrying increase in the incidence of Sarcocystosis in cattle and sheep.  The parasite responsible for this disease, which can cause illness and death, is similarly spread through dog faeces contaminating pasture.  Vets from Edinburgh’s Royal Dick Vet School have recently investigated a number of deaths in ewes as a result of Sarcocystosis.

To counteract the growing health threats to cattle and sheep, the Union is looking to improve communications to farmers and the general public who exercise dogs on farmland.

NFU Scotland Vice-President and qualified vet, Nigel Miller said:

“Dogs, whether working animals like the farm collie or pets whose owners are taking access on grazing land, are presenting a growing threat to the well-being of farm animals.   We need to nip this in the bud by raising awareness of the problems.  For those walking or working with dogs in the country, there is a need to recognise the danger that their animal may pose to the health of farm animals and ask them in particular to collect and deposit all faeces.

“On those farms where disease problems have been identified, attempts to control these diseases can be hindered by public access and dog-walking activity.   Efforts to reduce the faecal contamination of pasture by dogs are crucial.  Through highlighting the health threats to cattle and sheep posed by diseases like Neospora or Sarcocystis, I believe the public can be encouraged to lift dog faeces on farmland.  This can also be addressed in any future revisions of the Scottish Access Code. 

“A targeted communications campaign highlighting the danger posed by dogs to livestock has already been undertaken by Stirling District Council, incorporating warnings into existing access posters and sited in farmland areas where dog-walking is particularly popular.   This could provide a model for other organisations and local authorities to follow and be rolled out across a wide range of initiatives such as Paths for All, Local and Regional Access Forums and National Parks.

“Similarly, farmers must play their part.  Because of its role in the diseases, all fallen stock should be disposed of promptly and, if practical, placental material should be collected when cows are calving outside to minimise the risk of it being eaten by dogs.  Failure to do these simple tasks can perpetuate the life cycle of the parasites responsible for Neosporosis and Sarcocystosis.  

“To help farmers, we have pledged, along with other stakeholders, to produce a briefing note highlighting the risks that dogs can pose to livestock health and what measures can be taken on farm to minimise the threat of infection.  The vets present at the meeting have also agreed to write a similar briefing for the veterinary industry.”  

Notes to Editors

  • Recent statistics from VIDA (veterinary investigation diagnosis analysis database) show that the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum, responsible for Neosporosis, is the most frequently diagnosed cause of bovine abortion in the UK.
  • According to the Moredun Research Institute, cattle may become infected with the parasite through consumption of feed or water contaminated with Neospora oocysts (parasite eggs) which are shed by infected dogs. The Neospora oocysts can persist in the environment providing a source of infection for cattle. Once infected, cattle normally show few clinical symptoms however problems occur in the pregnant animal where the parasite can invade the placenta and infect the developing foetus.  Neospora infected animals are 3-7 times more likely to have an abortion compared with uninfected cattle.
  • The Sarcocystis species responsible for Sarcocystosis are protozoan parasites.  Cattle and sheep become infected by eating feed or pasture contaminated with carnivore (usually dog) faeces. Sarcocystosis can cause death and neurological disease.
  • Neosporosis and Sarcocystosis can be prevented by avoiding dog faecal contamination of pasture, feed, water supplies and bedding and by not allowing dogs access to placental material, uncooked meat or livestock carcases.
  • The stakeholder meeting was attended by NFU Scotland, SRPBA, QMS, SNH, Moredun Research Institute, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and representatives from Stirling and Scottish Borders Council.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006



Date Published:

News Article No.: 108/10

< Article List


Report Abusive Comment

Comment Content:

Why it offends me (optional):

Have Your Say

No-one has commented on this article yet. Be the first to have your say...

New Comment


Total Pages:
Total Results:
Page Start:
Page Result #:

Quick Contact

Which Region do you live in?  
Are you a member of NFU Scotland?  

This form collects and sends the information supplied to NFU Scotland. You can read our privacy policy for full details on how we protect and manage your data.
  I consent to having NFU Scotland collect the above details.

Registred Address

NFU Scotland
Head Office
Rural Centre - West Mains
Ingliston, Midlothian
EH28 8LT

Place of registration: Scotland

Company Registration Number: SC214564

Tel: 0131 472 4000

NFU Mutual Logo

Get the App

NFUS App QR Code

©NFU Scotland • All Rights Reserved • Web design by Big Red DigitalLog in


Contact Us




No Robots:

This form collects and sends the information supplied to NFU Scotland. You can read our privacy policy for full details on how we protect and manage your data.
  I consent to having NFU Scotland collect the above details.