NSA invites members to take part in important study

12th February 2019

HyData Farm Dog Study:

Participant Information

You are invited to take part in a study about the husbandry and health care of farm dogs, both working and non-working. The study is led by veterinary researchers at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the National Sheep Association (NSA) as part of a larger 3-year research project into tapeworm infections in dogs and livestock in the UK. This information sheet gives details on the purpose, process and outcomes of this research and is designed to help you decide if you wish to take part. Please read this information sheet carefully and feel free to raise any questions, comments or request clarification about any part of the study.

What is the purpose of this study?

HyData is a study to investigate the UK distribution of the dog tapeworm, Echinococcus granulosus. This small parasite causes hydatid disease, resulting in considerable economic loss to the UK livestock industry and posing an infection risk to many species, including humans. This parasite is present in the UK, but information about where in the country it is found is currently lacking.

The tapeworm does not often pose a disease risk to dogs, but infection spread by them to livestock, such as sheep and cattle can lead to significant production losses for livestock farmers. In the rare event that a person is infected, this can result in debilitating disease that is difficult to treat.

Through our study, we hope to find out more about Echinococcus in dog populations and livestock. Alongside farm dogs, the overarching HyData project also includes sampling Echinococcus in sheep and cattle at slaughter, hunting hounds and canine zoo animals in the UK. With this information, we aim to improve and inform on the welfare, safety and health of people, at-risk dog groups and livestock in our country.

Who is conducting the study and who is it funded by?

The study is led by researchers at the University of Liverpool and is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The study is conducted with full ethical approval from the University of Liverpool Veterinary Research Ethics Committee.

Why have I been chosen to take part?

All UK NSA members that own dogs on-farm, both working and non-working are invited to take part in the study, either by anonymous random selection and invitation or by volunteering to take part after hearing about the study through NSA communications and events. Collaboration with NSA members offers an ideal opportunity to work with a large membership base of sheep farmers interested in best practice in animal health.

What does taking part involve?

You are being invited to help in two ways; firstly, to complete a short questionnaire, which should take no more than 10 minutes. Secondly, you are asked to submit a sample of faeces from the dogs you have on the farm, via a sampling kit we provide free-of-charge. No direct contact with the dogs is involved in the process.

Do I have to take part?                                                                                                

Taking part is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

Will taking part in the study be confidential?

Yes. Any information you give, including contact details to receive your sampling kit, will be held in strict confidence in a secure, password-protected database at the University of Liverpool in accordance with the Data Protection Act (2018). All information will be fully anonymised and will be destroyed within 5 years of study completion. Questionnaires will be identified by a unique code, which will be used to link samples to the right questionnaire. Your personal details, your dog(s) and farm address will not be identified through published research. By providing contact details, completing the questionnaire and submitting samples, you are giving informed consent for your data to be included in the study.

What will happen to the information and samples I provide?

The questionnaire data will be safely stored and later analysed to investigate the national distribution of Echinococcus, and possible risk factors for infection in a rural setting. Faeces samples from the dog(s) will be tested in the laboratory to see if it or they contain the Echinococcus parasite. Although our research doesn’t represent a validated diagnostics service, like that of a commercial laboratory, we think the information we are gathering is important and we will report the results of the laboratory tests to you free of charge via the contact details you provide. We encourage you to discuss the findings of the test with your veterinary surgeon and take the project information sheet with you when you do.

What are the benefits and risks of taking part in the study?

Collection of samples is not expected to cause any undue health risks above those encountered during normal daily care of your farm dogs and disposal of their faeces. We do recommend that you use the disposable gloves provided during sample collection and follow the instructions as show on the kit. Taking part will help us gather vital information that may help protect your dogs, the livestock and people that share our countryside from a potentially harmful parasite.

What will be the outcome of the study?

We aim to publish the results of the study in appropriate scientific journals, present the findings at scientific meetings, and work with parasitology experts to develop evidence-based advice on tapeworm protection for dog owners. Again, no participants will be identifiable from any published or presented results.

What if I no longer wish to take part?

If you change your mind and no longer wish to take part, even after you have answered the questionnaire and submitted samples, we will delete your answers and destroy the samples so that they are not included in the study. Simply contact us to request this.

What should I do if I have a problem?

If you are unhappy with any aspect of the study or encounter a problem, please inform the lead researcher, Marisol Collins (details below) or the Principal Investigator, Dr. Phil Jones on 0151 795 6056 and we will endeavor to help. If you have a complaint that you do not wish to share with the project team, please contact the Research Governance Officer of the University of Liverpool at [email protected] with the name and description of the study, so it can be identified.

Yes! I want to help the study by taking part, what next?

If you would like to take part in the study, please contact the lead veterinary researcher via email or telephone via the details below for advice on receiving your questionnaire and sampling kit:

CONTACT DETAILS

Ms. Marisol Collins MRCVS

Institute of Infection and Global Health

University of Liverpool

Leahurst Campus

CH64 7TE

Tel: 0151 795 6040

Email: [email protected]