The dog tapeworm, Echinococcus granulosus exists in domestic and feral dogs, foxes and dingoes. The intermediate hosts are sheep and to a lesser extent cattle, goats, wallabies, kangaroos and pigs (including feral pigs).
This tapeworm is different to the more common flea tapeworm’s segments which can be seen in your dog’s faeces. The Hydatid tapeworm is microscopic and you will not be able to see the segments although they too will be passed in the pet dog’s faeces.
People and more commonly sheep, are infected by ingesting the ova or eggs that are present in dog (dingo or fox) faeces. The embryos hatch, pass through the intestinal lining into the portal blood system. From here they lodge in the lungs, brain, kidneys, bones or other tissues where they form cysts. There may be no symptoms or symptoms may develop according to the organ affected. Treatment is surgical removal of cysts.
Hydatids can be a dangerous and potentially fatal disease to people. The dogs at risk (and therefore the people) tend to be those in rural, agricultural areas or those who visit these areas from the larger metropolitan centres.
To prevent infection:
1. Treat dogs at risk with a drug called Praziquantel (Droncit, Virbac Tapewormer, etc) at least every six weeks, in particular working and hunting dogs. This is the length of the Hydatid tapeworm life cycle.
2. Do not feed uncooked offal (farm or native animals) to dogs.
3. Prevent dogs from wandering or scavenging.
4. Dispose of sheep carcasses appropriately (incineration, disposal pit).
5. Prevent children playing with unknown dogs.
6. Wash hands after playing, bushwalking and before eating.
7. Educate school children, particularly in sheep farming areas, of the dangers of tapeworm infection.