Calgary dog owners will get an unusual request in the mail next week from the University of Calgary and the City of Calgary; donate their dog’s poop in the name of science.
As part of a program to determine the gastrointestinal health of the registered dog population in Calgary, registered dog owners will receive a request to fill in an online survey in addition to providing a sample of their dogs’ feces for university researchers to analyze.
The study, led by Alessandro Massolo from the Department of Ecosystem and Public Health in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, is supported and sponsored by the City of Calgary, Parks, and Animal & Bylaw Services.
Researchers are examining the prevalence and strains of some gastrointestinal parasite species in park-attending and non park-attending dogs living in close proximity to six popular recreational sites. These results will be compared with samples from coyotes and wild rodents in the same parks that are being collected within another project carried out by the same research group.
“We hope the findings will shed some light on how parasites are passed between and among domestic and wild animals in urban parks,” says Anya Smith, the PhD student who is leading the study in Massolo’s lab.
In return for handing over a doggy sample and filling out the survey, dog owners will receive the results of the lab analysis of their dog’s feces. This analysis, which can cost more than $100, will provide specific information about their dog’s health to share with their veterinarian, if needed.
“The results we hope to obtain from this research could prove invaluable from a research perspective,” Smith says. “This will provide insight into dog gastrointestinal health in city parks and help identify potential sources of infection.”
The study will focus on dogs from communities neighbouring parks in Nose Hill, River Park, Southland, Bowmont, Weaselhead and Fish Creek Provincial Park.
The project is part of a larger partnership between the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine, and the City of Calgary to examine the interactions of domestic animals, wildlife and people in urban environments. It’s jointly funded by the City of Calgary, the Canadian Institutes of Health research (CIHR), Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) and the Institute for Public Health (IPH).