What is hydatid disease?
Hydatid disease is a parasitic disease that dogs can pick up from eating meat, especially offal containing cysts from the Echinococcus tapeworm. It can be contagious to the human members of their family! Hydatid worms are relatively prevalent in the ACT area and ACT veterinarians are never complacent.
After the cysts have been eaten by a dog, the immature tapeworms inside the cysts are released. They grow into adult worms inside the dog’s intestines and start producing eggs. Dogs shed these tapeworm eggs in their faeces, and these eggs can then be eaten by other animals, such as sheep and kangaroos, that graze in the area. These animals develop cysts and the cycle continues.
The worms usually don’t affect the dogs very much, except in severe cases. However, humans can come in contact with eggs – for example, while working in a garden with eggs in the soil exposed to dog poo, or while patting a dog with eggs still on the fur. Humans can also be infected with the cysts if they then accidently consume the eggs.
This can lead to severe health problems and in some cases, the cysts become so big they have to be removed surgically. Not good!
To protect yourself and your family – both human and furry, from hydatid disease there are some simple steps you can take.
Worm your dog
Ask your vet about worming medication that works against hydatid cysts, especially if your dog has a tendency to wander around looking for dead things to eat. It’s often thought of as a farm dog disease but if your dog is wandering one of Canberra’s beautiful nature reserves and is likely to chow down on a dead kangaroo given half a chance then they and you could be at risk. Worming to protect against Hydatid disease is often a little more frequent with treatment recommended every 6 weeks.
Do not feed your dog offal from any species and ensure they are not out eating road kill or dead wildlife. Our dogs are loveable and gorgeous in so many ways but many of them will eat gross things given the chance. If you can’t see what your dog is doing in an area that might contain dead wild life – put them on the leash.
Wash your hands
Always wash your hands after patting any dog and especially before eating to make sure you remove any tapeworm eggs that you may have picked up. Teach your children to wash their hands prior to eating, and after patting the dog. You should also wash any vegetables grown in your garden.
By following these simple rules hydatid worms will no longer be a danger for your dog or for you!