The hydatid tapeworm might only be 2-4mm in length and virtually undetectable to the naked eye, but the harm it can do is powerful. Hydatids make their home in the bowels of dogs and dingoes, but also infect livestock – particularly sheep – and humans with hydatidosis, or hydatid disease which is the formation of cysts in the major internal organs.
Among humans, this disease is potentially fatal and requires urgent surgery for treatment. In the livestock trade, the presence of hydatids means significant losses because of the downgrading in quality of edible meat by products.It should be noted that dogs, either domestic or wild, and sheep can go for a long time without showing signs of hydatid tapeworm infestation.
Life cycle of hydatids
These pests require two different types of hosts to thrive. The first is the ‘definitive host’, which can be a domestic dog or a wild dingo. The second is the ‘intermediate host’; often a sheep or other form of livestock but can also be the human (see below).
Dogs become infected by eating the uncooked offal of sheep that at some point had become infected with hydatid cysts. The cysts burst and release tapeworm heads that take just six weeks to mature. Every two weeks the potentially thousands of worms inside the infected dog’s body shed a segment of their own. The last segment contains eggs which pass through the dog in its faeces.
The sheep become infected by eating the dog faeces or grazing in areas where it is present. These eggs hatch in the gut of the sheep, releasing embryos that form watery cysts in the internal organs. These cysts are filled with tapeworm heads that mature into fully developed tapeworms.
As mentioned earlier, humans can also become infected. This usually occurs when a person comes into direct contact with the faeces of an infected dog. It should be noted that hydatidosis is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person, but needs to be treated as soon as possible.
TO PREVENT YOUR DOGS becoming infected and being a DANGER TO YOUR LIVESTOCK AND YOURSELF useVetmecAllwormer as part of your standard regular worming process. This way you can treat and control the spread of hydatids.
If a human becomes infected, the most effective form of treatment is surgery which must take place as soon as possible. Patients will also be prescribed the drug albendazole(which can be quite problematic in humans) in order to kill off all remaining tapeworm heads.