There are several types of tapeworms that our pets can get from eating things out in the wild and previously they have mostly been an issue to just the pets. Unfortunately, now with this new tapeworm called Echinococcus multilocularis, it is not the case.
This tapeworm is found in the intestinal tract of animals such as coyotes and foxes, but they can also affect dogs. The intestinal form that dogs get is not a problem and seldom makes them feel poorly. The problem is when a human ingests the eggs of the tapeworm it becomes a big concern. The form that people get is not one that stays within the intestinal tract it spreads to the liver and causes us to grow cyst-like structures on our liver.
Usually, the tapeworm eggs get shed from the wild coyotes, etc. and are eaten by rodents, the rodent then grows a cyst. Later the wild animal eats the rodent, and the tapeworm grows in the gut and eggs are shed in the stool. The concern for humans and our dogs is that we can be like the rodents and develop the cysts.
There has been a lot of testing of wild coyotes and other animals in Ontario, and they are finding many of them to be carrying this tapeworm. It is starting to become widespread in Ontario and hard to control. Testing that was done in Ontario recently found that ~ 23% of wild coyotes and such were positive for Echinococcus.
I know some of the hunters who supplied animals for this positive testing, and they were very local to us here in Kitchener. These hunters were asked to be routinely tested by their medical doctors six months after their last touching of these infected animals. These tests show that there is a risk locally to our dogs and ourselves. Dogs that eat stool or dead rodents are at the highest risk. If you think about how often we hear of coyotes in town, or you see a fox at night the chances of coming into contact with an area that has contaminated feces is large.
Another huge concern is that it can take a long time before you know you are sick with it. It could take between five to fifteen years before there are obvious signs. We can do several things to avoid becoming infected and lower our dog’s chances of being infected. It is as easy as using Interceptor Plus monthly, as it contains a tapeworm dewormer along with its usual Heartworm and Intestinal parasite treatment and prevention. It will help both your dog and you.
Written by: Lisa Clifford, RVT