Potentially Fatal Tapeworm Discovered in Ontario

A tapeworm, spread by foxes and coyotes, that can be fatal to dogs and humans has been found in southern Ontario. The Echinococcus multiocularis tapeworm was previously only found in Western Canada.

Foxes and coyotes, which do not become ill from the infection, spread the disease by eating infected rodents such as field mice. Dogs that eat the feces of the infected wildlife (containing parasitic eggs) or dogs that hunt and eat infected rodents, can develop a severe infection called alveolar echinococcosis or AE.

Humans can become infected immediately if the parasitic eggs somehow enter their digestive systems. The more prevalent cause of infection occurs when owners unsuspectingly allow the infected dogs to sleep in their beds.

The parasite goes largely undetected and can produce no signs or symptoms in dogs or humans. Both can carry the infection for years but over time, it aggressively attacks the liver, becoming potentially fatal.

Studies are underway to determine if this is a North American strain (which is established in Western Canada) or a European strain which is much more virulent in humans.

To learn more about this parasite visit Ontario Animal Health Network or speak with your physician or veterinarian.