Echinococcosis is a widespread zoonotic parasitic disease which is caused by Echinococcus species. Echinococcus granulosus is one of the most problematic and often diagnosed parasitic infestations in dogs and cats in North America. Recent findings indicate that the Echinococcus species is expanding its range in the central region of the USA and Canada. In the United States, this range spreads from Alaska to the States of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
The transmission of this parasitic infestation is quite easy. Echinococcus granulosus, a tapeworm, is a parasite that, after being ingested by the host, inhabits in the small intestine of dogs and cats without specific or acute symptoms and causes cystic echinococcosis (CE). The other species is Echinococcus Multilocularis (EM). The lack of knowledge about this parasite might result in the misdiagnosis of cases and an underestimation of disease incidence. EM is transmitted via eggs and causes alveolar echinococcosis (AE), which is more serious than CE and can be fatal if not treated.
EM is recognized as an important emerging parasite in the northern hemisphere. AE was also recently ranked as the third most relevant food-borne parasitic zoonosis. In dogs, AE is typically diagnosed in the advanced stage of the disease when the parasitic mass has already caused abdominal distension. At that stage, complete resection of the parasitic mass is often impossible, leaving a guarded prognosis for the affected dogs. Due to the destruction of healthy tissues, untreated echinococcosis can be fatal. The availability of non-invasive diagnostic techniques might help to yield an earlier diagnosis of Ecinococcosis. In differential diagnostics, the discrimination between AE and CE are also very important.