Warmer weather means that gardening season is here! What will be in your garden this summer? Will it be plants, flowers, vegetables… or perhaps parasites and protozoa?
Yes, your garden holds the possibility of being a haven for parasites and protozoa, many of which are zoonotic (transmissible to humans). You may be curious as to how these organisms make their way into your garden. Many parasites including roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms (more common in humid climates) as well as protozoa including toxoplasma are frequently deposited into sandboxes and the soil of gardens or planters by pets and/or wildlife. Not to mention giardia, found in soil and water in many locations (Colorado in particular). Gardeners are often challenged with keeping furry four-legged thieves out of their vegetable gardens, but there is not much that can be done to keep the, often, microscopic organisms out as well. Aside from planting your garden in a completely enclosed greenhouse or similar structure, it is often easier to work on preventing yourself from being susceptible to the unwelcome guests that reside in your garden. Fencing and/or netting off your garden to keep cats, dogs, and wildlife out will certainly help; however, it does not provide a guarantee that your garden will be parasite free. This is where prevention comes into the picture. Covering all scrapes and cuts, wearing gloves and protective clothing, and thoroughly washing hands immediately following garden work can all prevent parasite and protozoan infestations. Vegetables harvested from the garden should also be carefully washed prior to consumption. A vast majority of people contract parasites and protozoa through oral ingestion of infected fecal matter. Special caution should be used when gardening with children as they are more likely to place their hands in or near their mouths. Pregnant women should also be extra cautious as toxoplasma is thought to be introduced into gardens by cats. Toxoplasma can pose fatal threats to an unborn fetus and mothers-to-be should speak to their doctor about the associated risks of gardening during pregnancy. Having pets dewormed and tested for parasites on a consistent basis can also assist in reducing your likelihood of becoming infested.
Ask us at Animal Central for more information on parasites and gardening or visit: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2365/
Dr. George Stroberg, DVM and Staff