Results from the 2020 census show over 1 million increase in the number of people living in the Greater Accra region, analysis indicates an increase in dog ownership in the capital. This shows that people are gradually accepting the furry-friends into their homes and all the great benefits they come with.
The safety of your dog is one of the responsibilities you bore as a ‘furry-parent’ and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are a myriad of problems that dog owners deal with everyday ranging from infections, automobile accidents to inaccessibility of proper veterinary care due to the small numbers of veterinarians in Ghana. One major problem that is mostly overlooked and it’s a major concern is garbage poisoning, a dangerous killer of our four-legged friends.
Garbage poisoning also known as garbage gut or dietary indiscretion is a condition that is a result of ingestion of food, waste, or garbage contaminated with bacteria, bacterial toxins, fungi, or other toxic substances. When a dog feeds on stale table scraps, waste, or drinks water contaminated with bacteria or bacterial toxins, it can lead to the establishment of the bacteria in the digestive tract of the animal causing harm or producing toxins that would cause harm to the animal. When it’s just the microbe in the ingested food in the digestive tract, it’s called an infection, when it’s the toxin produced by bacterial growth in the food or waste material it’s called an intoxication. When the contamination is from fungus, it’s referred to as mycotoxicosis.
Garbage poisoning is very common and sometimes the animal survives within 24-72 hours but most times the animal dies or comes down ill. There are a lot of risk factors even though all breeds of dogs can be susceptible if they have access to any of the causing factors. These factors are the free-roaming of dogs outside, small and toy breed dogs such as Maltese, Miniature Poodle, Shih Tzu because they’re extremely inquisitive and poor waste disposal.
In an every growing city like Accra, the management of waste material is critical to their development but unfortunately waste management in Accra and across the country is poor. The use of the ancient landfills as a major way of disposal in the country predisposes dogs with their inquisitive nature to the perils of garbage poisoning. The lack of proper disposal of family’s small waste materials across the city worsens the situation such that it is very easy to find rubbish lying uncovered. Another issue that pet owners should be cautious about is waste materials on the beaches. The country’s beaches is rated as one of the poorly managed public places across Africa. Taking a walk on the beach with your dog is a very good exercise for you and your fury-friend but one have to be extra careful with the waste materials that can easily be found on the beach. Pet owners have to be extra clean in their homes and keep their garbage away from the reach of their dogs. A dog would always go smushing those rubbish cans if they smell something. Pet owners should endeavor to train their dogs so they can be well behaved.
The symptoms of garbage poisoning are dependent on the type of contaminant ingested such as microorganism, chemical or toxic substances. Some of the most common microorganisms found are Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, Clostridia species (C. perfringens, C. botulinum, C. tetani), Aspergillus, etc. The onset of clinical signs when a dog ingests garbage is sudden and the grave nature of the condition with the possibility of multiple organs damage in delayed veterinary treatment gives this condition its name “Silent Killer”.
On review of post-mortem data of dogs that were sent to the Accra Veterinary Laboratory from 2010 -2020, a total of 402 cases were diagnosed with garbage poisoning. When compared to the total number of cases brought within that period, it shows that 1/5 of dogs sent for post-mortem died of garbage poisoning.
These figures show that poor disposal of waste is not only a hazard to humans but also our little friends. This without doubt indicates that a way to protect your pet is by proper disposal of waste and advocacy for a clean environment. Dogs are curious in nature and their tendency to comb through those trash cans or landfills is high and shouldn’t be punished for it.