Last week I was lecturing in Joliette, QC on gastro-intestinal parasites in breeding kennels. I truly think it is an important topic to discuss with canine breeders: indeed, when you breed dogs, you also inevitably breed these parasites at the same time! The concept of parasite-free dog is unfortunately a myth: these unwanted pathogens developed very efficient strategies (hypobiosis – parasites stay dormant in cyst-like structures where they are protected against the host immune system; eggs resistant in the outside environment, even to your rough Canadian winter!; transplacental and lacteal transmission…) that allowed them to perpetuate their species, despite all the medical advances that were made! Check the video below to have a better understanding of the cycle of the most famous canine parasite, Toxocara canis aka the canine ascaris !
Ok, GI parasites are tough. But more than that, they also represent a potential zoonotic threat(especially in kids, elder people and immunosuppressed persons)! In humans indeed, after the ingestion of Toxocara eggs, the larvae will start migrating – this is what we refer to as the “larva migrans” phenomenon- and can then be found in the liver, lungs, heart, eye and brain. Generally humans will exhibit no clinical signs, but on rare occasions, allergic reactions and even visual loss can be observed. At this point, one important thing: don’t panic! These cases are rare! But I think all canine professionals should be aware of this risk! If you want to dive deeper into this topic – which I truly recommend you to do!-, please read the following review article you can access here!
So what can be done to face this potential risk? Fortunately, very simple things! Here are the 5 key-points to focus on in a kennel environment:
1/Of paramount importance: properly deworm your dogs (especially puppies and pregnant bitches), that’s the best way to decrease the amount of parasites shed in the outside environment! Remember that puppies should be dewormed more frequently than adults, so discuss with your vet in order to set up the most adapted deworming protocol for your kennel.
2/Always collect the dogs’stools as soon as possible. Toxocara eggs need 10-15 days to become infective, so the quicker you remove them the better! Remember, in breeding kennels, proper cleaning/disinfecting of the facility should be done on a daily basis!
3/When cleaning the kennel, wear gloves. And wash your hands using a soap when you’re done! This is also a very simple measure that will definitely help you protecting yourself!
4/ After playing with/petting the dogs, again, wash your hands! Keep in mind that passive carriage of Toxocara eggs on the dog’s coat is something possible!
5/Specific precautions must be taken regarding immunosuppressed persons or children. One common way of transmission is indeed by eating contaminated soil. Remember, these parasite eggs are extremely resistant in the outside environment: therefore don’t let dogs defecate in playground areas and keep an eye on kids playing in sandboxes.