Have you heard of this tapeworm in social media or the news lately?
E. multilocularis has had a lot of recent media attention because it can cause severe disease in humans and can be carried by our loving canine companions.
This has a lot of dog lovers asking important questions,
so we are here to answer them for you!
What is E. multilocularis:
– A tapeworm that lives in the intestines of carnivores (dogs, coyotes, foxes), and sheds microscopic eggs into their feces
– Rodents eat the eggs, then develop cysts in their organs that contain part of the tapeworm life cycle. These cysts cause severe, cancer like, disease in the rodent
-The carnivore eats the rodent and is infected again
The risk for humans contracting this disease is: Ingesting parasite eggs
-Humans can take the place of the rodent in this life cycle. If we ingest these tapeworm eggs, we can develop cysts in the liver that can cause severe disease.
– As noted in an article by the University of Calgary (https://www.ucalgary.ca/news/ucalgary-research-shows-local-emergence-human-disease-caused-parasites-coyotes-and-foxes), the risk of contracting disease after contact with eggs is higher for those with decreased immune system function (young children, the elderly, organ transplant patients, chemotherapy patients, etc.)
The risk for dogs:
– Dogs generally don’t have symptoms from the disease, but they can also develop the cyst form of the disease from eating the eggs and become ill
How can our pets carry parasite eggs:
1. Eating rodents: Then infective eggs would be in their feces, shed onto their fur likely, and around wherever your dog defecates (yard, garden, etc)
2. Rolling in coyote/fox feces: If that coyote was infected, the eggs are now on the dog’s fur, which could lead to your hands
We have realized that there are more infected rodents and wild carnivores in the Calgary area than expected, but actual human cases are still quite low.
Best methods for prevention of human illness are:
1. Hand washing
2. Promptly picking up feces after your dog defecates
3. Monthly deworming: This would prevent tapeworm egg shedding into the feces even for dogs that are exposed to E. Multilocularis often.
4. Wear gloves while working in the dirt/gardening (wild animals might defecate here)
5. Wash fruits and vegetables well: This is because wild animals and possibly pet dogs could defecate in the garden area
Contact your veterinarian for further questions or to plan for your pets’ deworming program.