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Hydatid disease is caused by a tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus), which lives in the gut of infected dogs.
A dog becomes infected when it eats a sheep carcass containing Hydatid cysts. Worm heads in the Hydatid cyst grow into a small tapeworm in the gut of the dog and produce eggs.
Humans can pick up these eggs when handling infected dogs or coming into contact with dog faeces. The cysts, which can be large in humans, can form in the lungs, liver, brain and other sites.
Surgery to remove cysts is very specialised and great care has to be taken to prevent the cysts from bursting. Should cysts burst, thousands of worm heads can be released and cause extreme shock and long term problems when they develop into further cysts.
As the cysts act like a tumour in the body it is an extremely dangerous disease. There is a particular concern for children who develop the disease. They may have to suffer years of illness and repeated surgery.
Hydatid disease in dogs is known to occur in Wales generally, and at a higher incidence in Powys and North Gwent. The infection rate in dogs has been steadily increasing. This may lead to an increase in the number of humans who contract the disease.
What you can do to help prevent Hydatid disease
These simple rules will help rid our countryside of Hydatid disease.
- Visit your local Veterinary Surgeon who will advise you and supply you with an appropriate worming preparation. To offer complete protection against Hydatid disease, worming needs to be repeated as least every 6 weeks.
- Do not feed raw offal to your dog. Always use cooked meat or prepared dog food (that has undergone a heat treatment) to ensure your dog does not become infected.
- Do not allow your dog to stray, particularly if it could get to areas where it could scavenge on sheep carcasses.
- Remove dead animals promptly for correct disposal (Fallen stock and safe disposal of dead animals).
- Keep your dogs under control when they are not working.
- Visit your local Veterinary Surgeon who will advise you and supply you with an appropriate worming preparation. To offer complete protection against Hydatid disease worming needs to be repeated at least every 6 weeks.
- Sheep carcass and offal are the most likely source of infection for dogs. Do not feed raw offal. Do not allow your dogs to roam and gain access to carcasses of sheep and other wildlife.
- always wash your hands after handling dogs
- report dead sheep to the local authority
- always wash vegetables, salad and fruit before eating.
For more information on Hydatid disease please contact your local Veterinary Surgeon.