A parasite recently arrived in Ontario that can kill dogs and humans will be the subject of a new study by University of Guelph researchers.
Andrew Peregrine and Claire Jardine, both professors in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology, and master’s student Jonathon Kotwa are investigating Echinococcus multilocularis.
Known as the fox tapeworm, it’s found in the intestines of foxes and coyotes, and also affects small rodents such as voles and mice.
Dogs can ingest the tapeworm’s eggs by eating animal feces.
“Prior to 2012, it had never been seen in the province,” Peregrine said. “But since that time, four dogs across southern Ontario have been diagnosed, including one in Guelph.”
When large numbers of eggs are ingested, they hatch inside the animal and the larvae migrate to the liver, forming a cyst-like mass that behaves like a tumour.
It sometimes spreads to other organs, and can be fatal.
The clinical incubation period in dogs is believed to be a minimum of six months to a year.
Although no human cases have been seen in Ontario, people can pick up the parasite by failing to wash their hands after touching infected dogs or their feces, Peregrine said.
The professors say no vaccine exists for the disease, and preventive medication is expensive.