Hydatid disease is caused by a tapeworm of the genus Echinococcus.

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First published:
16 November 2018
Last updated:

The lifecycle of the tapeworm involves two animals. A canine type animal (such as a dog or fox), usually acts as the definitive host. But most mammals (including humans and farm stock) can become the intermediate host.

Suspicion and confirmation

Consult with your vet if you think that your animal is infected with the Echinococcus tapeworm.

Clinical signs

The definitive host of the tapeworms may see few ill effects.

In intermediate hosts, the worms form cysts in various organs. The clinical signs will depend on where the cysts are in the body.

In infected livestock you may see:

  • reduced growth
  • decreased production of milk
  • reduced birth rate

Due to slow growth of the cysts, infected animals may be slaughtered before the effects are clear.

Transmission, prevention and treatment

The definitive host(dog) can become infected by eating an infected sheep carcass.

The intermediate host can become infected by:

  • handling an infected dog
  • coming into contact with infected dog faeces

To prevent the disease:

  • worm your dog
  • avoid feeding raw offal to your dog
  • do not allow your dog to stray in areas where it could scavenge on sheep carcasses
  • always wash your hands after handling dogs
  • ensure livestock carcasses are removed and disposed of appropriately, without delay

Contact your vet for advice, and appropriate worming treatment for your dog(s).