Scientific challenge: 

Our rivers are chronic recipients of sewage. The implications of this on the health of dogs that use our rivers for swimming, playing and drinking have not been assessed. Transmission of antimicrobial resistance or even pathogens from our rivers to dogs also has potential implications to the owner's health.

Project overview: 

Andrew Singer from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Oxford Interdisciplinary Microbiome Project members Jamie Lorimer and Carmen McLeod are collaborating on a pilot study in Oxfordshire involving dog walkers and their dogs.

The aim of the study is to gather data that begins to map out the microbes that dogs are exposed to when interacting with the river Thames, as well as gathering associated qualitative data from dog walkers. This research will involve a mixed methods approach, including the analysis of genetic material from dog faeces and a qualitative survey, with follow up interviews and a focus group with dog owners. The team will be linking up with the OH-STAR project out of the University of Bristol, to provide additional microbiological analysis and perspective.

Method: 

Dog walkers who take part in the study will be asked to complete a short survey about their dog and any interactions with the River Thames, like swimming or drinking. We will also be asking for a sample of their dog’s poo, which will be sequenced in the lab by Andrew and a PhD student, Holly Tipper, in order to find out what microbes are present and the prevalence of genes that indicate exposure to river water. Dog owners who participate will be invited to provide their contact details if they wish to find out the results of the data collection, and to discuss the results of the sequencing at interview and in a focus group.

Wallingford dog poo study (November 2017)

We are commencing our study on Saturday 18th November 2017 at the Bullcroft Park in Wallingford from 9 am (Waitrose-side entry; OX10 0BX), so if you are walking your dog in the area and are interested in finding out more, please come along and say hello to the team. If you've already been out with your dog earlier in the morning, feel free to bag up your dog poo and bring it to our stall!

Partners: 

  • University of Oxford