Laytonsville Veterinary Practice
Laytonsville Veterinary Practice

Echinococcus - the risks for dogs and their people


 What is Echinococcus?

Echinococcus is a species of tapeworm that infects wildlife such as canids (primary hosts) and rodents (intermediate hosts) through a fecal-oral transmission. Untreated, this parasite can cause larval cysts that can affect many organs, including the liver, lungs, kidneys and gallbladder.

How do dogs become hosts for Echinococcus?

Dogs can harbor the Echinococcus parasite after ingesting an intermediate host (such as rodents), or by coming into contact with the feces of wild canids (foxes, coyotes).

Can humans become infected with Echinococcus?

Echinococcus is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to humans. The normal life cycle of Echinococcus doesn’t include human infection, but pet owners can inadvertently harbor this parasite if their dog contracts it. If a pet owner interacts with a dog that has been infected, then handles food or touches their mouth, they run the risk of potential infection.

How can we prevent Echinococcus?

The CDC recommends frequent hand washing after petting dogs and before handling food. Additionally, monthly Heartworm preventatives that include the drug Praziquantel have been shown to prevent and kill adult parasites of this species. While this does not make dogs immune to the larval stage of this disease, it does effectively prevent transmission of the disease from dogs to humans. Our current recommendation is to switch to a Heartworm preventative that includes Praziquantel - such as Interceptor Plus.

Is Interceptor Plus safe for dogs with the MDR-1 mutation?

Interceptor Plus contains both Praziquantel and Milbemycin, both of which are safe for use in dogs with the MDR-1 mutation.