Raccoon Roundworms in Dogs
Raccoon roundworms in dogs are something you may have never heard about; but the infections are increasing, and the results can be devastating to your dog. It is also a very threatening infection in people, especially children.
What also makes this infection so deadly is there is currently no known treatment for dogs or humans, and even if there was, this infection is so vicious that by the time it is discovered the damage is already done.
What exactly is Raccoon Roundworms?
Raccoon roundworms are known as the B. procyonis nematode and they actually do very little harm to a raccoon, but if dogs or humans come into contact with the infested larva, it invades several body organs, the central nervous system, as well as the eyes.
It has been estimated that over 50 percent of all raccoons have this roundworm infection and it is predominant in all of North America, but it is especially dangerous in the Midwest, where it is estimated that over 80 percent of the raccoon population is infected.
Infected raccoons will shed literally millions of eggs that have been infested by this nematode in their feces. Once they are released, these infested eggs will start to develop into an infective stage within two to four weeks. These eggs are so strong and so resilient to most any environmental challenge that if they have any type of moisture, they can survive for several years.
What make them so dangerous to dogs as well as humans are the dangers of easy contact. Cats are also subject, especially if they wander in wooden areas. Raccoons, because of more land developments, are now commonly found in both urban and rural areas.
Raccoons will create what is known as latrines. In a raccoon latrine, one raccoon will defecate and when other raccoons smell the scent they will find the same place and defecate there as well. There now will be literally billions of these infected eggs in the latrines. What is so scary about this infection is that you may never know that it is a latrine unless you understand what to look for.
These latrines are often found under or near decks in your back yard, sand boxes, sheds, or crawl spaces. However, they have also been found on roofs, wood piles by fences, as well as under trees. Several of these places could contain yard tools that you use as well as children's toys that can easily become contaminated; or they may just places that you or your dog would naturally come across.
How Raccoon Roundworms are spread:
These infected eggs are so small they are hard to detect. They are extremely sticky, and as such they will stick to the handles on garden tools such as racks or shovels, as well as children's toys. People can become infected, especially children, by coming into contact with the eggs and than placing there hands near the mouth or the eyes.
Dogs are subject to infection by eating an infected bird that may have been exposed to the eggs as well as exposure to the latrine. They are also infected simply by grooming their body once they have made contact as the eggs will stick to their fur coats.
These nematodes are so virulent that if not detected in your dog they will than hatch and start their migration process toward your pet's organs and the damage that they cause will be absolutely devastating to your pet.
Once these eggs are accidently ingested by your dog, or even worse, a human, they lay in wait until they hatch. Once hatched, they immediately start their migration process referred to as the larvae syndrome. As they migrate, they start to grow; and it is this growth that causes the horrific damages.
As their migration continues, a form of mechanical damage will start to surface in the form of very strong inflammatory reactions that will immediately start damaging the host's central nervous system. These symptoms will start to surface within two to three weeks of infection.
The symptoms will not be mild. It may start out as a loss of coordination, an enlarged liver, respiratory problems, and lethargy. If a large number of eggs have been ingested, the lethargy will soon lead to stupors that will rapidly result in comas and most likely death. This is a violent infection.
The eyes in several pets and some humans, especially children, may also become infected. The symptoms with the eyes will be a very sudden sensitivity to light and in most cases a loss of vision.
Diagnosis and treatment:
The only viable method of diagnosing this vicious infection will be through the eye as the infection will show up in an ophthalmologic exam. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to test for other than the clinical signs.
There is no treatment at this time. What is extremely threatening with this infection is that the damage that has been done by the migration process is permanent; even if a treatment is found the only protection may come in prevention.
The best preventive measure is to protect yourself and your pet from raccoons. Keeping a raccoon as a pet is inviting serious trouble. Raccoons exist in almost every type of neighborhood; you just may not see them as they will roam at night. Keeping garbage locked and secured will prevent them from invading, but not always.
It is important to understand that these eggs poise no threat at all unless they have had time to become active in the environment which is three to four weeks. Fresh raccoon feces are not yet infected, and if you suspect raccoon activity you will need to clean it daily as that will help to prevent them from building latrines.
Raccoon feces are very easy to identify. They are tubular in shape and will have blunt ends and will be about the size of a dime or nickel and will almost always be dark in color. You may also see small seeds in the feces. As it ages, it will decompose and look like bark or dried leaves.
If you suspect large contaminated areas, the only way to sterilize it and totally kill the entire larva will be with a potable propane torch. The only real defense against raccoon roundworms in dogs is by preventing it.