November 15, 2018

Canine Echinococcosis Screening in Foxhound Hunts in England and Wales

By Luna04, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Cystic Echinococcosis is a parasitic disease caused by tiny tapeworms, which causes the development of cysts in the liver and lungs in humans, horses, dogs, and sheep. It is commonly referred to as Hydatid Disease. It is spread through contact with animal feces, contaminated food, water, and fur. For the most part, it has been eradicated, however it is still prevalent in many rural farming communities. Thus, English Foxhounds, working rural dogs, are more at risk of carrying and falling victim to this parasite.


It was previously hypothesized English Foxhounds are at higher risk when they are fed raw offal (animal innards,) as when offal was the primary food given to hounds, cystic echinococcosis was at an all time high of around 60% prevalence.


Since then, prevalence rates have declined, and offal has lost its favor as the primary food for working Foxhounds, however is still occasionally used. A study was recently done on 16 different hunts of English Foxhounds from all around England and Wales. Stool samples were collected from 8 of the hunts, along with a survey was sent to all of the kennelmen regarding feed, activity, and medicine given to the Foxhounds.  


Out of the 364 fecal samples that were collected, a quarter (25.6%) of the samples tested positive for having the antigens specific to Echinococcosis. Furthermore, 5 out of the 8 hunts stool samples were collected from had positive testing dogs, showing there is still a high prevalence of echinococcosis in these hunts.


Of the kennelmen surveyed, 50% of them reported they fed their hounds raw offal, although it was noted hounds could have come in contact with hydatid cysts while on a hunt or in the spring and summer months where some packs are disbanded. A correlation between of occurrence of Hydatid disease and offal as the primary food was shown through the results of the survey as indicating that wherever hounds were fed raw offal, there was at least one hound with the antigens specific to echinococcosis.


The survey also reported the use of certain antibiotics to prevent contraction of echinococcosis, however only antibiotics that make use of Praziquantel (a common deworming antibiotic) proved effective.


Thus, researchers recommended administering a Praziquantel-based dewormer at least four times per year, along with avoiding feeding the foxhounds raw offal.


Lett WS, Boufana B, Lahmar S, Bradshaw H, Walters TMH, Brouwer A, Fraser AR, Maskell D, Craig PS (2018). Canine echinococcosis screening in foxhound hunts in England and Wales using coproantigen ELISA and coproPCR. Parasitology Open 4, e17, 1–6.


Reviewed by Calvin Isley | Nov 15 2018