Echinococcus Multilocularis: What is it and why we should worry?

Echinococcus Multilocularis: What is it and why we should worry?

What is Echinococcus Multilocularis?

Echinococcus multiocularis is an emerging tapeworm here in Ontario. Echinococcus is found across the globe and is especially prevalent in the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and North America. Prior to 2012, Echinococcus multilocularis had never been seen in wildlife nor in domestic animals in southern Ontario. Since that time, it has established itself here. It is also now firmly established in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although the risk is extremely low people need to be made aware of it.

antique antique globe antique shop antique store

Why Should We Be Worried?

Echinococcus multiocularis is a small tapeworm that can cause big problems in humans. People who are infected with this tapeworm do not typically show signs for 5 to 15 years due to their incubation period. It then typically presents itself as a cyst on the lungs or liver, but cysts can develop anywhere. Once the cyst is large enough to cause compression on other parts of the body, that’s when we typically find out we have it.

people in front of macbook pro

Now that we know our wildlife here in Ontario can be infected, we have to think about the possibility of our canine and feline friends being exposed to it, as well as ourselves.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

Echinococcus multiocularis is typically found in foxes, coyotes, and dogs. Larval stages can be transmitted to people through ingestion of food, water or fecal material contaminated with tapeworm eggs. Follow these easy steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from a potential infection:

  • Do not allow dogs to eat rodents or other wild animals.
  • Avoid contact with foxes, coyotes, stray dogs and other wild animals.
  • Do not encourage wild animals to come close to your home and do not keep them as pets.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling dogs or cats, and before handling food.
  • Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection.
  • Deworm your dog regularly.
  • Inform your veterinarian if you notice white rice-type looking segments on your dog’s feces or anus.

Protecting Our Feline Friends!

Spring and summer time are often synonymous with dogs and heartworm prevention. But what about our feline friends – did you know that they can be affected by internal and external parasites as well? 

This time of year, worms and other parasites are more easily transmittable and cats are just as susceptible as dogs

Whether your cat is strictly indoors, or if they spend some time outside as well, there are many ways that they can contract these pesky little parasites, which can wreak havoc on their skin, intestinal tract and more. Some are even transmittable to humans!

The most common parasites that we deal with here at Snelgrove Vet Services are:


Fleas are probably the most easily identifiable parasite that you can find on your cat. If your cat goes outside, they can come into contact with fleas if they visit an area where another animal with fleas has been. If your cat stays indoors, fleas can also make their way inside by hitching a ride on the back of another pet and then jumping onto yours. In any case, fleas are not something that most people enjoy dealing with, as treatment involves both your animals and your home. Luckily, only animals can be hosts to fleas, not humans.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are much harder to spot, although not impossible, since they are so tiny. They typically live within the ear canal, but can also be found on the surface of the skin. They present as a dark, crusty discharge seen in or around the ear, with your cat shaking its head and scratching excessively at the affected area. Ear mites can be passed through direct contact, although again, they cannot live on humans, only animals.


Tapeworms are a type of internal parasite that are ingested and then attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine of your cat. Once the tapeworm becomes an adult, they can also travel to the stomach. Segments of the tapeworm can sometimes break off and be spotted in the stool (they look like bits of white rice), or if the infestation is large enough, your cat may vomit them up. Most often, your cat will become infected with tapeworms from eating mice or being bitten by fleas. These nasty little creatures can also be transmitted to humans. Yuck!


Roundworms are another type of internal parasite. While they can infect your cat at any age, they are most harmful to kittens and senior cats. Clinical signs include a distended abdomen, vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as a decreased appetite. Again, this is a type of worm that is transmitted through ingestion – either from eating a smaller host (like a mouse or bird), picking it up off of the ground after walking through an area where infected stool has been, or even through the milk from the kitten’s mother. Roundworms also pose a risk to humans, especially young children.

Luckily, we have an arsenal of tablets and topical medications in our pharmacy that can combat these unwanted visitors!

Of course, prevention is always preferred to treatment

The doctors here at Snelgrove Vet recommend a monthly dose of either a tablet dewormer called Milbemax and/or a liquid medication applied directly to the skin called Advantage Multi. Contact our office today to learn more or if you suspect that your feline friend may be affected by parasites. We are always here to help!

For additional information on these, and other, parasites, visit the Pet Health section on our website – it has loads of great articles, all written by veterinary professionals.