Content continues after advertisement

Clostridium difficile in Sandboxes

J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM, FCAHS, Ontario Veterinary College, Ontario, Canada

Sign in to Print/View PDF

In the Literature

Orden C, Neila C, Blanco JL, et al. Recreational sandboxes for children and dogs can be a source of epidemic ribotypes of Clostridium difficile [published online July 7, 2017]. Zoonoses Public Health. doi: 10.1111/zph.12374

From the Page …

Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic bacterium and an important cause of disease in humans and some animal species. C difficile can produce hardy spores that can survive for years in the environment—and as more environments are studied, it becomes more clear how widely this bacterium is distributed. 

In this study, researchers visited public playgrounds in Madrid, Spain, and collected sand samples from 20 pairs of sandboxes for children and for dogs. C difficile was isolated from 52.5% of samples—from 12 of 20 (60%) samples from sandboxes for dogs and from 9 of 20 (45%) of samples from sandboxes for children. Of the C difficile isolates tested, 40% were strains that carry toxin genes and can thus cause disease; most of those were types commonly found in humans and animals.

Although the results were not surprising, this study provided evidence that C difficile is a ubiquitous organism that is present in food,1,2 water,3-5 and many animal species.6-9 How C difficile got into the sand is hard to determine because it could have come from humans, dogs, or other animals.10,11 This study highlighted the fact that any fecal-origin bug can be widely disseminated in places where multiple individuals of any species congregate. From a patient-care perspective, this does not mean dogs should not be taken to parks. Exposure to myriad micro-organisms is unavoidable. Further, the role of C difficile in canine diarrhea is unclear.

Human health risks are similarly unclear and likely quite low. Sandboxes have been implicated in outbreaks of various diseases,12-14 and C difficile is probably low on the list of important sandbox-associated pathogens. However, this study provided another reason to follow basic practices (eg, hand hygiene), to prevent children from putting sand or sandy objects in their mouths, and to cover sandboxes that are not in use to keep animals out.

… To Your Patients

Key pearls to put into practice:


C difficile is a ubiquitous organism with an unclear role in canine diarrhea.


Organisms of fecal origin may be widely disseminated in places where animals congregate; however, this does not mean that dogs owners should avoid taking their pets to parks.


There are a number of important sandbox-associated pathogens. Basic hygiene is important.

References and Author Information

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

All Clinician's Brief content is reviewed for accuracy at the time of publication. Previously published content may not reflect recent developments in research and practice.

Material from Clinician's Brief may not be reproduced, distributed, or used in whole or in part without prior permission of Educational Concepts, LLC. For questions or inquiries please contact us.


Clinician's Brief:
The Podcast
Listen as host Alyssa Watson, DVM, talks with the authors of your favorite Clinician’s Brief articles. Dig deeper and explore the conversations behind the content here.
Clinician's Brief provides relevant diagnostic and treatment information for small animal practitioners. It has been ranked the #1 most essential publication by small animal veterinarians for 9 years.*

*2007-2017 PERQ and Essential Media Studies

© 2023 Educational Concepts, L.L.C. dba Brief Media ™ All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | DMCA Copyright | Privacy Policy | Acceptable Use Policy