Echinococcus granulosus (cystic echinococcosis) and Echnicoccus multilocularis (alveolar echinococcosis):

Increased travelling of pets has increased the risk of obtaining new animal diseases to our country. Especially virus diseases in dogs are under control thanks to efficient vaccinations, and bacterial diseases are not a major threat, excluding perhaps leptospirosis and brucellosis. A common fear among pet owners planning a trip abroad with their pet is the multitude of parasitic diseases. Cats and dogs exhibit tens of parasitic diseases that we do not have in Finland. Most of these parasites do not survive in Finland.

Asymptomatic for pets, lethal to humans

Echinococcosis is a parasitic disease that usually infects dogs, but is not unheard of cats either. The larvae of the parasite causes problems to the intermediate host, especially to humans. Cats and dogs get infected by eating either an infected rodent intermediate host (Echnicoccus multilocularis) or ineffective larvae from the system of a ruminant (Echinococcus granulosus). Humans get infected by eggs in the faeces of an infected fox, dog or cat. The most common sources of infection for humans are berries and mushrooms contaminated by an infected fox.

Echinococcus multilocularis in humans can cause a severe, even lethal liver disease. A parasitic cyst, consisting of multiple smaller vesicles, will form in the liver of the intermediate host, i.e. human, and each cyst contains several parasites in preliminary stages. In time, the cyst will destroy the liver. The cyst may also metastasise and spread to other parts of the body. Before, over 90 % of echinococcosis infections resulted in death in the next 10 years. Nowadays, the prognosis is better thanks to surgery (surgical removal of altered parts of the liver, liver transplants) and medication.

Prevention of echnicocus multilocularis in Finland

Echinococcosis does not have to be taken into account in routine parasite medication of pets in Finland.. However, imported dogs and cats must have medication against Echnicoccus multilocularis to be granted access to Finland. There is no Echnicoccus multilocularis in Finland, and the parasite should be kept outside the country’s borders. Like Sweden, Norway and Great Britain, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland enforces a parasite medication duress to all dogs coming to Finland from countries where Echnicoccus multilocularis does exist. It exists in Europe, northern America, Asia and some parts of North Africa. Echinococcosis infection of dogs and cats is treated with dewormer containing pranziquantel (Drontal®, Droncit®).

Vet certificate of echinococcosis vaccination

A vet gives the echinococcosis medication to the pet and the certificate of the vaccination must be presented upon arrival to Finland. Entering the country will not be possible, if the vaccination has not been given in the last 30 days before coming to Finland. The medication will disappear from body within 48 hours, after which a new infection is possible. If the trip lasts for more than two days, it is recommended that You administer the medication again 24-48 hours before coming to Finland. This is done to ensure that echinococcosis does not spread into Finland.

Echinococcus granulosus in reindeer

Echinococcus granulosus has not been seen in Finnish dogs or cats. Every year, there are findings in Finnish Lapland when the meat of slaughtered reindeer is checked. Feeding contaminated reindeer cuts to a dog may lead to an E. granulosus -flatworm infection. Therefore, feeding raw reindeer or elk meat to dogs should be avoided. If the risk of infection does exist, reindeer herding dogs and hunting dogs should be dewormed from time to time with a medicine effective against echinococcosis.

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