DOG owners are being warned about the risk of their pets catching chlamydia - especially if they have been near birds.

Like humans, dogs can be infected with the disease, although they are likely to acquire it from dried bird poo and bird carcasses - not from being sexually active.

Iain Booth, from VetUK, said dogs with chlamydia have different symptoms to humans with the disease, and it is not contracted in the same way.

“In dogs it’s likely to manifest itself in the eyes, but can affect their respiratory tract too and make them pant more. They can also become lethargic.

“If your dog’s eyes are watering or red and they’re producing certain amounts of discharge, they may be infected.

“If they’re scratching or pawing at their eyes or they’re panting for more air, it could be because they’ve come into contact with the bacteria.

“This bacteria is called chlamydia psittaci or psittacosis which can infect them when they come into contact with bird poo. Many birds carry it.

“One potential hazard of contact is when your dog is out running in fields heavily populated with birds, putting them at a higher risk,” Iain added.

He stressed that the chances of a person catching the disease from their dog are “extremely rare”.

“This is a different strain of chlamydia than the STD, and you cannot catch an STD from your dog,” he said. “The chances of catching chlamydia psittaci from your dog would be extremely slim too.

“For its transmission you’d have to have the chlamydia vaporised, as in dry bird poo which turns into dust form and sticks to a dog’s moist facial parts like the nose and eye. From there the disease can stick and germinate.

“But to catch it from your dog’s wet eyes would be highly improbable so do not worry. Chlamydia psittaci is zoonotic, meaning it can be spread from animal to human. But previous cases have been from birds to humans.”

To diagnose chlamydia in your dog, Iain says a vet will looks for discharge running out of the animal’s eyes.

“Luckily it’s pretty straightforward to treat a dog with chlamydia,” he said. “They can be given oral medication to fight the infection.”

He added affected dogs will likely be fully recovered within four to six weeks. If left untreated, however, more serious health issues can develop.

According to a NHS UK Standards for Microbiology investigations report on Chlamydial Zoonotic Infections, other symptoms in dogs can also include lethargy, anorexia and diarrhoea. Severe cases of the disease in dogs could lead to pneumonia, pericarditis (inflammation of sack around the heart) and even death.

Although dog chlamydia isn’t an STI, there are still similarities to the human version. Both dogs and humans don’t always show signs of carrying the infection.

But they can develop into more serious problems if the infection goes undetected and untreated in dogs and humans alike.

“Yet whereas chlamydia in humans tends to affect their reproductive organs, in dogs it affects eyes and their breathing,” Iain said.

“Humans catch it from bodily fluids, dogs get it from dried bird droppings.”

Fortunately Psittacosis isn’t that common in the UK.

According to the Health and Safety Executive website, a UK government agency responsible for health and safety in the workplace: “Around 50 of Psittacosis cases are reported each year in England and Wales.

“It is transmitted from birds to humans by breathing in aerosols or dust of contaminated material, eg dried faces or feathers.

“Alternatively infection may be oral, usually via infected plumage or feathers.

“Only brief exposure to infected material is required for infection.

“Psittacosis is not generally spread from person to person.”