Deadly Dog-to-Human Parasite Lands In North America

Dogs are susceptible to many different types of parasites. Most they keep to themselves. However, a new parasite can be transferred from dogs to humans. 

Pet owners are pretty diligent about treating their pets for parasites, using products like Frontline monthly to treat ticks, fleas, and heartworm. Often, dog parasites can be transferred from dog to dog, but not usually from dog to human. However, researchers recently released data with the discovery of a new zoonotic disease that is caused by tapeworms, a parasite that your pooch can give to you.

What Is This New Parasite? 

The study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by Stan Houston said the parasite initially came from Europe. However, now it has made an appearance in North America, specifically Canada.

"Alberta is clearly the hot spot. There could be a number of people out there in the community incubating the disease that we haven't found yet, but time will tell."- Stan Houston

Researchers said that 17 cases of AE in humans between the ages of 17-78 were diagnosed in a seven-year time frame.

The infectious diseases researchers in Canada are concerned about the zoonosis of the intestinal worms. It can spread fairly easily from dogs to their owners through contaminated soil and feces. It can be life-threatening if it is left untreated.  The parasitic disease can also take 15 years before symptoms start to show, making for a very long life cycle.

In 2019 there were 18,000 cases, with most of them occurring in China.

Signs You or Your Dog May Have Alveolar Echinococcosis 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high-risk people are hunters, trappers, veterinarians, and those who have contact with foxes and coyotes. Dogs and cats can contract the disease by eating rodents who are infected. The cyst-like tapeworm larvae grow in your body very slowly.

The internal parasites can cause their intermediate hosts, your dog or cat, to have some gastrointestinal discomfort. But your risk of infection can be pretty high if your pet has an internal infestation of these worms.

Most people contract the tapeworm infection by ingestion, accidentally eating the microscopic eggs of the Echinococcus multilocularis. The tiny eggs get into people's food, and then they ingest them. The parasite can travel through your intestinal tract in large numbers. The parasitic worms can cause weakness, abdominal pain, and weight loss in those who contract the parasitic infection. The symptoms mimic that of liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.

How to Treat Echinococcosis (AE)

While AE in humans is very rare, it can be very damaging if humans contract it. A blood test diagnoses the disease. According to the CDC, surgical removal of the cyst is the most common method of treatment. Out of the patients who contracted the disease, some needed liver transplants. Some needed to have parts of their lungs removed. Two died of liver failure. One patient has the AE infection resurface in their brain almost five years after their initial treatment. Unfortunately, this patient died.

If you feel ill, you should go to the doctor to see what may be going on. Don't rely on your immune system to do all of the work.

Preventing This Dog To Human Parasite

RELATED: Tick or Skin Tag? How to Know What's On Your Dog

You can take preventative measures to ensure that you do not pick up this or any other zoonotic parasites from your furry friend. One of the best things you can do is wash your hands frequently after playing with your dog or cat, especially if you have been around their feces. Make sure you always wash your hands after cleaning a litter box too.

Young children can also pick up parasitic diseases from animals by playing in sandboxes, either at home or at the playground.

Some other suggestions from the CDC for prevention are:

  • Do not touch dead or injured foxes, coyotes, or wild animals. 
  • Do not eat fruit that has fallen on the ground without washing it first.
  • Wash hands with warm water.
  • Do not allow pets to eat rodents.
  • Take dogs and cats to the vet for preventive action if you think they have eaten a rodent. 

Some researchers have suggested that deworming DVM's may be an action they should take yearly as a preventive measure against this and other diseases.

Common Intestinal Parasites

There are many other worm-like infections that your pet can contract. Some of the parasites are:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • ?Whipworms
  • Ringworm

Hookworm infections can lead to you getting Toxocara if you eat food that is contaminated. It is prevalent in undercooked meat leading to toxoplasmosis. In addition, the infection can cause anemia and affect your nervous system. To prevent toxoplasma infections, ensure you wash your hands, especially around your cat.

Has your dog or cat ever gotten any of these parasites? What steps did you take? Tell us over on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page.

READ MORE: 5 Common Microscopic Reasons for Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats