New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead


The media recently reported the tragic case of a New Forest farmer whose cows had aborted their calves. His vet said the cause was Neosporosis, caused by ingestion of dog poo while grazing on the open forest. There was no supporting fact.

Neosporosis is a horrid disease, and affects all canids – thirty two types of animal of which domestic dogs are one, alongside wolves, coyotes, foxes and others. The disease causes difficulty in breathing, muscle atrophy, paralysis, and swallowing problems which in severe cases can be fatal.

There is a cycle. Raw meat containing the disease is eaten by canids, who then pass the disease through their poo. This, if not picked up, contaminates the ground and water, and cows can get the disease, and as reported they can abort their calves. These foetuses and placentae can end up being eaten by wild animals, or if the farmer sells the carcass or feeds their own dogs, find their way into raw meat dog food. Cows may also have Neosporosis without it being obvious, and again, their uncooked or untreated meat can find its way into the dog food chain. Neosporainfected cattle are assumed to be infected for life. 

But this omits the fact that Neosporosis is only passed by canids which have become infected by eating untreated raw meat. Even in a rural area this is reckoned to be a small minority of dogs according to DEFRA.

Most dogs eat cooked meat or processed food such as canned meat or pellets (dry food). Of those which eat raw meat, most is sourced commercially and by law has to be treated (for example freezing to minus 20º which destroys the Neosporosis) overseen by the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association.

Ironically, according to Farm Health Online, most dogs which are fed raw bovine meat are farm dogs. But this is a small minority.

Far more likely as a source is other canids, foxes, which live on an exclusively scavenged raw meat diet, and are prevalent across the New Forest, 24/7. Aborted animals in the forest will be a food source, causing the circle of the disease.

As usual the latest story started the ‘anti-dog’ lobby going, for example in social media.

Armed with some of the facts they again demanded dogs permanently on leads, banned from many areas, and so on. NFDOG fully support picking up poo as responsible behaviour (if it is realistic) just as we agree that dogs which aren’t trained and under control should be on a lead. But we strongly don’t agree with the more repressive suggestions which half-truths feed.  

NFDOG believes that rather than pick the convenient ‘anti-dog’ facts which vilify owners, the full story should be told, and in this case, the fox is a more likely culprit, with an exclusive raw meat diet, scavenged as it roams across the forest.