Hunting dogs should be protected against Echinococcus parasites


<p>The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira advises owners to protect hunting dogs against infection by Echinococcus canadensis. Infections can be prevented by deworming hunting dogs both before and after the moose hunting season and by preventing them from eating offal, such as the lungs or liver, from slaughtered moose. In humans, Echinococcus parasites can cause an infection that is difficult to treat. However, human infections are rare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

In practice, the highest risk to humans is posed by infected dogs. Hunting dogs are at particular risk of infection.

“The Echinococcus tapeworm does not usually trouble the dog, but eggs passed into the environment in the faeces or fur of the dog can infect humans. Infection occurs through hand-to-mouth transmission. In infected humans, the eggs can develop into larval cysts filled with fluid (i.e. hydatid cysts) in the internal organs, usually the lungs. These cysts can grow slowly over a number of years and become very large, even several litres in volume,” says Professor Antti Oksanen, Head of Evira’s Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit.

Protect your dog against Echinococcus parasites
Canine infections can be prevented by avoiding feeding the raw lungs or liver of deer to dogs. If used to feed dogs, offal of this kind must be well cooked first.

Effective medication against tapeworms should be administered both before and after the hunting season. The aim of this is to prevent dogs from infecting wild animals in the forest and other animals and people at home. Medication suitable for dogs is available from pharmacies without a prescription.

Samples for Echinococcus tests
Hydatid cysts in moose lungs may be visible on the surface of the organ, or can be hidden deeper within it.  Moose lungs with suspicious cysts or changes – preferably the entire organ – should be sent to Evira’s Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit in Oulu.

Echinococcus canadensis is a tapeworm, which lives in the intestines of canines (wolfs and dogs) and in the lungs of deer as larval cysts (moose, reindeer and wild forest reindeer). The wolf is the main host of the parasite and deer are its intermediate hosts.

Wolves become infected when they ingest the internal organs of intermediate hosts that contain larval cysts. In the intestines of a wolf, the cysts develop into small, adult tapeworms. The worms produce eggs that are passed via faeces into the environment. The intermediate host is infected through the ingestion of parasite eggs in contaminated food plants or water.

For further information, please contact:     
Marja Isomursu, Senior Researcher, PhD, tel. + 358 40 512 1248
Antti Oksanen, Head of Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit, DVM, tel. + 358 44 561 6491


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