This is the time of year when geese are literally all over – on the ground, on the water and in the air.
Cat owners are spared much of this angst because outdoor cats tend to avoid stepping in any fecal material if at all possible. If they do, and then lick their paws clean, they would have the same risks as dogs who eat it.
Dogs in general love goose poop. They like to roll in it and eat it. When a large flock lands in fields by you, it can be very hard to avoid that goose poop while walking your dog!
An adult goose may eat as much as four lbs of grass and other forage daily. That leads to about two lbs of goose poop daily! Depending on the area, that poop may be dispersed in ponds or lakes or it may end up on land. Unfortunately ideal goose habitat is often ideal human and pet habitat too. Golf courses have even resorted to using dogs to keep “flushing” the geese away and keeping greens clean.
But while it may not be great to have your dog eating or rolling in goose poop, can it actually be harmful? The answer is: possibly. As with most fecal material, goose poop has Salmonella and E coli present. So, a small amount of these bacteria could be ingested. Luckily, most of them would get destroyed in your dog’s stomach and intestinal tract.
Perhaps of more concern is that Canada Geese may help to spread bacteria that have antimicrobial resistance. A CDC study (Center for Disease Control) on a resident flock of Canada Geese in Georgia and North Carolina showed that antibiotic resistant E coli could be carried by the geese. There was great variation depending on the water areas the geese were inhabiting. Water sources located near intensive farming operations such as pig farms, tended to support geese with more antibiotic resistant bacteria. Migrating geese could spread those bacteria, though on a very small scale.
Looking at goose poop from geese in the park no antibiotic bacteria were isolated. So the habitat of the geese is a big factor – not the Canada Geese themselves.
Of more concern for our area is Giardia and Cryptosporidium in the ponds and lakes. These pathogens can cause diarrhea and intestinal problems. They are spread by many wild animals and birds – not just geese.
To avoid most problems, carry water for your dog when you hike so he isn’t drinking out of the ponds and lakes. Keeping him on leash can help to prevent him from eating goose poop (and deer and rabbit poop too!). Try to avoid areas where you know large groups of geese hang out.
If your dog rolls in goose poop, bathe him thoroughly and make sure you wash your hands carefully afterwards as well. With a few precautions, we can enjoy our beautiful flocks of Canada Geese and stay healthy too!