Worm Infection in Prairie Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Sep 14, 2010
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Roundworm and Tapeworm Infections in Prairie Dogs

Of all the gastrointestinal parasites affecting prairie dogs, infection with the roundworm Bayisascaris procyonis is considered to be one of the most serious, as it can infect human beings too. Prairie dogs, however, are not the original host for this parasite. They get the infection from raccoons by eating feed contaminated with raccoon droppings. In prairie dogs, the larvae of this parasite may migrate to the central nervous system; which could lead to paralysis and eventually, coma and death. Tapeworm infection is also another gastrointestinal parasite found in prairie dogs.

There is no effective treatment for Bayisascaris procyonis infection in prairie dogs and hence prevention by following appropriate husbandry and adequate sanitation practices is vital. Tapeworm infections, meanwhile, are often counteracted by using proper anthelminthic drugs and maintaining good hygiene.

Symptoms

  • Loss of coordination
  • Head tilting
  • Loss of balance
  • Inability to stand up
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Paralysis
  • Coma

Causes

Baylisascaris procyonis is a roundworm normally found in raccoons. Prairie dogs get it by eating feed contaminated with raccoon droppings containing the eggs of this roundworm. There are many different types of tapeworms, but the transmission of the parasite typically occurs through ingestion of contaminated water and feed.

Diagnosis

If your prairie dog is exhibiting unusual nervous system reactions, your veterinarian may suspect a roundworm infection. Confirmation of the diagnosis is then made by microscopically examining the animal’s fecal samples. Tapeworm infections are also diagnosed with fecal examinations.

Treatment

Unfortunately, it is not possible to treat Baylisascaris procyonis roundworm infection in prairie dogs. Supportive care and symptomatic treatment to help overcome some of the central nervous system symptoms may be advocated by your veterinarian to help ease your pet’s stress. Tapeworm infection, on the other hand, is easily treatable and several anthelminthic drugs are available specially formulated to kill tapeworms.

Living and Management

Exercise caution while handling the affected prairie dogs as you face the risk of contracting the infection from your pet prairie dog. Regularly clean and disinfect your pet’s living area and consider using rodenticides in your backyard if there are many wild rodents and raccoons in your area. In addition, separate worm-affected prairie dogs from other animals, as the parasite(s) may be contagious.

Prevention

Practicing appropriate husbandry and sanitation techniques, both inside your pet prairie dog’s cage as well as in your immediate environment, will help reduce the risk of worm infection.

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