New Forest Dog On The Forest Off The Lead

Veterinary Treatments and the environment

Common Darter

By Steve Laycock – local wildlife photographer and conservationist.

The New Forest is a great place for walking dogs. But it is also a delicate environment which can be seriously affected unknowingly by your best friend. Fortunately what is good for the Forest is also often best for your dog.

Flea and tick treatments

These come in various forms: spot treatment, collars, and oral tablets.

A recent study has shown that the chemicals used in the collar and spot treatments have been found in up to 99% of samples taken from various rivers – at levels between 5 and 38 times higher than chronic toxicity limits. Other studies have found contamination in highland streams. In all the studies the conclusion is that the only possible source for these chemicals was flea treatment; with bathing, swimming and even rainfall wash-off considered to be possible routes. Studies from Japan show that negative impacts on dragonfly larvae happen at levels significantly below these toxic levels.

Whilst there have been no studies in the New Forest it is highly likely that these chemicals will find their way into New Forest streams and ponds due to dogs swimming, etc. This will adversely affect the environment. Some dragonfly larvae can spend four years in the water before eventually emerging.  

Many local vets are therefore recommending that oral tablets are used in preference to collars and spot treatments. It has also been suggested that the oral treatments may be more effective against some local ticks. I would encourage owners to discuss the option of oral tablets with their vet.     

The Killer Poo

The New Forest Code, which NFDOG supports, asks people to take home litter and dog waste. Dog waste is often one of the more frequent complaints against dogs and their owners as being unsightly and dirty. But  it can have quite serious environmental consequences when left on the open heaths and forest.

The active compounds of worming treatments remain in dog waste can kill many insects – including dung beetles (we have 86% of all the UK species in the New Forest), and even earthworms. In turn these insects are often eaten by other animals. Localised reductions in beetle populations adversely affect the beetle’s viability over a much larger area.

The livestock in the Forest are herbivores and it is thought that their diet keeps worm issues low. They are usually wormed, in the late autumn, when off the forest. If treatment is given the ponies are required to stay off the open forest for up to two weeks – depending on the treatment.  

Please follow the New Forest Code and pick up after your dog.

The views expressed are those of the author and have not been considered officially by NFDOG.