Trichinosis - An Unusual Internal Parasite That Can Affect Dogs

Trichinosis is a type of parasite that is more commonly found in people than in dogs, but one that dogs can catch nonetheless, either directly from people that carry it, or from certain pork-based food products that you may give to your dog as snacks or scraps.

Trichinosis is caused by the Trichinella parasite, which is a type of intestinal worm that falls into the roundworms category, and as such, can be eradicated by most complete intestinal wormers used for dogs. However, infestation with Trichinella can be hard to identify in dogs, as it does not usually have as acute symptoms as a heavy load of other intestinal parasites can, nor has as severe an effect as the parasite causes in people.

In this article, we will look at Trichinosis in dogs in more detail, including how dogs can become infected with it, how to identify an infection, and how to treat it. Read on to learn more.

More about Trichinosis

Trichinosis is a type of roundworm that is most commonly found in pigs, but that is equally happy crossing the species divide into other animals, including humans and dogs! Very few dog foods contain pork as an ingredient, however many people of course eat pork in its various forms as part of their staple diet, in the form of chops, bacon, sausages, roasting joints and all of the other various options.

Eating pork that has not been cooked thoroughly can lead to the person ingesting it to become infected with Trichinosis as a result-however, the correct storage, preparation and cooking of pork kills the parasite and negates the problem.

Trichinosis is a very hardy parasite too, which can thrive within its host for many years before it will begin to die off naturally, and during this time, the worms are apt to multiply in great numbers if left unchecked.

The larvae of the worms are laid in the form of muscular cysts that attach themselves to the muscles of their host animal, and that can remain dormant for up to a decade before hatching and becoming a problem!

How can dogs catch Trichinosis?

If your dog eats any type of pork scraps or treats, there is a potential risk for the parasite to be passed on. This includes table scraps of products like sausage, bacon and pork in any other form, if its preparation, storage and cooking wasn’t performed properly, and so, allowed the parasite or its larvae to survive. Popular treats for dogs too include things like pigs’ ears and trotters, which can also carry the parasite, especially if given raw.

Even pork that has been frozen for many months may carry larvae, which can survive if improperly cooked and ingested by an animal or person.

The two main methods of transmission of Trichinosis to a dog, therefore, is either from eating pork that carried the parasite, or by contact with a person who carries it.

How would you know if your dog has Trichinosis?

The symptoms of Trichinosis in dogs are often generalised and subtle, and as such are often missed.

Some of the symptoms of a heavy infestation include:

  • Sickness and diarrhoea.
  • A slightly high temperature.
  • Aching muscles, not related to exercise or another health condition. This occurs because the larvae of the parasite attaches itself to the dog’s muscles.
  • Lethargy and an unwillingness to exercise or play as much as usual.
  • More pronounced symptoms in very young puppies or elderly dogs, or those with a compromised immune system.

In order to definitively identify or rule out Trichinosis, your vet would need to take some samples of your dog’s stools and possibly, blood or urine, and test them for the presence of parasites. Often, Trichinosis is only diagnosed as a secondary result in a panel test for another problem or condition!

Treating Trichinosis in dogs

Because Trichinosis is an intestinal worm from the roundworm family, Trichinosis can be eradicated with any good quality prescription wormer designed to treat roundworms.

This means that virtually any intestinal wormer that your vet recommends for your dog will deal with the problem. However, effective treatment depends on the correct dosage for the size and weight of your dog, and potentially, may require two or more treatments a couple of weeks apart in order to tackle stubborn or heavy infestations.

It is important to remember too that Trichinosis is a zoonotic condition, which means that if your dog has it, the chances are that you and other members of your family may well be carrying the parasite too! Obviously this is a rather unpleasant thought, but the parasite can be treated in humans too with a simple tablet wormer, which you may be able to buy over the counter from your local pharmacy, or alternatively, will need to ask your doctor for.

To prevent your dog and yourself reinfecting each other after treatment, it is important that both your dog and your family undergo treatment at the same time-and that you are carefully about how you store, cook and prepare pork in the future!


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