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Farm biosecurity: Keeping dogs free of hydatid tapeworms

Carey Hobson, Livestock Biosecurity Network, 07/12/2015
Carey Hobson, LBN regional officer WA.The focus of farm biosecurity practices is often on what can be done to protect your livestock and land from unwanted diseases, pests and weeds.

Hand-in-hand with those benefits comes the management of some risks to human health, particularly for those working on the land.

One risk that can occur when people, livestock and dogs are cohabiting in the environment is the dog tapeworm. Children are particularly susceptible.

Hydatid disease in humans and livestock (both sheep and cattle) is caused by a dog tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus).

Hydatid tapeworms infect dogs and the tapeworm eggs are shed in dog faeces. Sheep and cattle can pick up the hydatid tapeworm eggs by eating pasture contaminated with dog faeces.

Once livestock have consumed the hydatid tapeworm eggs, they can then develop hydatid cysts in their internal organs. Dogs get re-infected by eating these cysts when they scavenge on a carcase or are fed offal.

Humans can become infected through contact with dog faeces containing tapeworm eggs. Depending on which organs in the human are affected, at worst an infected person may suffer from hydatid cysts forming in their vital organs, requiring surgical removal and anti-parasitic drug therapy. Untreated, the disease can be fatal.

If dogs can be kept free of hydatid tapeworms then the lifecycle is broken and the disease wiped out.

There are five things to remember:

  • don’t feed your dog raw or cooked offal
  • don’t let dogs scavenge on carcases and correctly dispose of carcases as soon as possible
  • keep dogs away from grazing paddocks when not working
  • treat dogs with an efficient tape-wormer (praziquantel)
  • ensure contractors’ and hunters’ dogs are treated before entering your property.

All visitors should advise the land owner if they are bringing dogs onto property. Suitable areas to restrict the dog movements will help to stop any potential ‘roaming’ and minimise risk of faecal contamination on pasture and grazing areas.

  • Carey Hobson is the WA regional officer for the Livestock Biosecurity Network and is based in Perth. For biosecurity advice contact her on 0488 100 426 or emailchobson@lbn.org.au.

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