Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tapeworm not an excuse to kill predators

    I thought your readers might appreciate some facts on echinococcus, the tapeworm that is transmitted between canids (wolves, foxes, dogs) and wild ungulates (deer, elk, sheep).
    The disease appears as a pretty harmless (and very tiny) tapeworm in the canids, but can make hydatid cysts in the liver, lungs, abdomen and other places in ungulates and people. These cysts can act as slow-growing tumors. There are two strains of echinococcus—the wild strain (fox, coyote, wolf and deer family), and the pastoral strain (sheep, dogs). Humans get worse disease from the pastoral strain.
    While it is prudent to deworm a dog in an area where there is echinococcus, a tapeworm dewormer is a must, and these are not usually found over the counter. Consult your veterinarian. The introduced wolves were dewormed twice and are not a source of echinococcus. They could have gotten the infection since from elk or deer carrying echinococcus.
    It is important to wear gloves and wash hands when handling canid carcasses or ungulate carcasses. Since elk and sheep carry a form of echinococcus, a hunting derby is not going to affect the distribution of the parasite. By all means, be aware, but don’t let it be an excuse to kill predators that are important to the ecosystem.
Chris Albert, DVM
Lebanon Junction, Ky.



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