Since 2012, we have been receiving reports of dogs developing a serious disease caused by the tapeworm, Echinococcus multilocularis (E. mulit for short). While tapeworms are not unusual in dogs and cats, most are more of a nuisance than a serious health concern. E. multi is a new game in town.
This tiny parasite (3 mm long as an adult) infects wild canids, particularly coyotes and foxes. Microscopic tapeworm eggs are ingested by an intermediate host, typically small rodents, and dogs and cats become infected when they ingest these rodents. In this situation, the dog or cat will develop the intestinal adult parasite in their gut and begin shedding tapeworm eggs also.
Unlike common tapeworms, however, dogs and people can become accidental intermediate hosts for the disease by accidently ingesting the tapeworm eggs directly from contaminated from coyote or fox feces. In this situation, the tapeworm can form cysts in the liver or lungs of the dog or person, a condition known as Alveolar Echinococcus, and this is what we have been seeing since 2012. A dog may present with expanding and large cysts within its liver or lungs, gradually destroying the normal tissues. In people, this condition can take 5 to 15 years, making diagnosis difficult.
A recent study of Ontario coyote populations demonstrated 23% of fecal samples were infected with the tapeworm, raising concerns for pet and human health. Please read the article from Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph for more information: https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2019/01/articles/animals/dogs/echinococcus-multilocularis-ontario-canada/ or at https://www.emultiontario.com/.
Prevention of Echinococcus can only be directed at the intestinal form of the disease by treating dogs regularly with Praziquantal, a safe and effective dewormer. Dogs that may be at risk are those that may ingest rodents or wildlife poop. Unfortunately, the Alveloar form of the disease that develops from eating coyote feces is more difficult to prevent.
We now carry Interceptor Plus for prevention of tapeworms in dogs. As you may be aware, monthly Interceptor pills are used for Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm prevention during the summer and fall. Interceptor Plus contains Praziquantal also and can be used to prevent Echinococcus infection. Used for this purpose, it can be given monthly during anytime of the year that the dogs are considered at risk (may eat rodents or coyote/fox poop).
Please take the time to read the attached information on E. multi and speak to our staff if you have further questions or would like to use Interceptor Plus for your dog.
Dr. Nigel Gumley
Cedarview Animal Hospital