You set out a package of raw bacon on the counter for breakfast but became distracted and turned your back for a few minutes. That quick, Fido jumped up and had his fill of your breakfast. Unfortunately for Fido, that breakfast treat may have introduced some troublesome little parasites into his system, resulting in canine trichinosis.
The cause of trichinosis is the roundworm parasite Trichinella spiralis, often found in raw or undercooked pork. The larvae of the worms live inside the muscles of pigs and can survive up to 10 years. Once ingested by another animal, the larvae hatch and infect the new host. Trichinosis is zoonotic, meaning it can infect various animal species. While your dog may contract trichinosis from that raw bacon, you can as well. In humans, trichinosis is severe and can be fatal.
Canine symptoms of trichinosis include stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle inflammation, pain and stiffness. Symptoms are often very subtle in dogs and do not normally cause concern. Diagnosis of trichinosis often occurs during routine checkups, and many owners never suspect there's anything wrong with their dog. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems often show symptoms that are more pronounced.
Trichinosis treatment focuses on the removal of the worms and larvae. Your veterinarian may administer medications, such as mebendazole, designed to treat roundworms. By following the prescribed dosage for your dog, removal of the parasites typically takes two weeks.
Trichinosis is easily preventable by regularly monitoring what you feed your dog. If you serve homemade food, cook all pork products to 160 degrees to kill any larvae present in the meat. If your dog is on a raw food diet, freezing the meat prior to serving is another option. Frozen temperatures over an extended period -- 20 days or more -- kill the larvae. If you trim pork cuts before cooking, throw any raw scraps into an outdoor trash disposal or other container where your dog does not have access.
While humans can contract trichinosis, the only method is through ingestion of infected pork or other meat. Dogs do not shed the larvae through feces so it's impossible to get trichinosis from contact with your infected dog.