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Title: Contact between dogs, and between dogs and people
Author: Westgarth, Carri
ISNI:       0000 0001 3566 2088
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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Dogs are popular pets in many countries. The interactions that occur between dogs, and between dogs and humans, are of interest to behavioural, welfare, psychological and social sciences. As dogs are a potential source of zoonotic infections to humans, such interactions may also impact on public health. Interactions between dogs, for example whilst walking, may also transfer infectious diseases (zoonotic or non-zoonotic) through the pet dog population. Despite their popularity as pets, there have been no in-depth studies into the contacts that occur between dogs, and between dogs and people; this thesis uses a variety of methodologies to examine these contacts. A census-based, epidemiological study was used to investigate factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs, in a semi-rural community of 1278 households in Cheshire, UK. This study supported the suggestion that dogs are more common in families who have older children (6-19 years), as has been generally observed in other countries. Dog owners were also more likely to have contact with dogs other than their own, compared with those not owning a dog. A questionnaire survey of 260 dog owning households in this community found that the contacts that these dogs have, with people and other dogs, were highly variable and affected by: size, gender and age of dog; individual dog behaviours; human behaviours and human preferences in management of the dog. A number of situations were identified that may be of particular importance in relation to zoonoses, including: sleeping areas, playing behaviours, greeting behaviours, food sources, walking, disposal of faeces, veterinary preventive treatment and general hygiene. Faecal samples were provided for 183 of the dogs and forty-six (25%) were identified, by either culture or direct PCR isolation methods, as carriers of the zoonotic pathogen Campylobacter upsaliensis. Multivariable logistic regression identified risk factors for C. upsaliensis carriage as: living with another positive dog; living in a household with pet fish; size of dog; age of dog; being fed commercially-bought dog treats; and being fed human food tit-bits (particularly the act of feeding leftovers in the bowl, although letting the dog feed directly from a plate had a protective effect). These results have implications for prevention of C. upsaliensis carriage in pet dogs and the subsequent possible transmission to people. Social network analytical approaches were used to investigate potential networks arising amongst 214 of the dog owning households, through their utilisation of public space during walking. A high level of potential contact was demonstrated and this has implications for infectious disease transmission. Most households walked their dogs in only a few areas, but a small number visited many areas. In addition, behavioural observational studies of focal dogs were used to investigate the interactions with other dogs, people and the environment that may occur on dog walks. Dogs were observed to interact with other dogs much more commonly than with people. A multivariable model of percentage duration spent sniffing suggested that day of observation, UK Kennel Club Breed Type and observing urination were important. Whether a dog is on lead or not whilst on a walk: could affect the frequency in which it interacts with other dogs and people that it meets. An experimental study of ten dogs was conducted and hierarchical multilevel modelling suggested that lead status of both dogs in an interaction is important in influencing whether or not the interaction will occur; therefore if used as an intervention for reducing disease spread, both dogs should be on a lead. The work in this thesis provides new insight into the dog-human. relationship and presents information of use to those interested in reducing infectious disease transmission between dogs, and between dogs and people.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available