Spirometra spp

From Dog
Eggs of S. mansonoides under light microscopy[1]
Adult S. mansonoides[1]

Spirometra are a parasitic zoonotic tapeworm of dogs and cats, found worldwide[2][3].

Spirometra are a pseudophyllidean tapeworm in the same family as Diphyllobothrium latum and are distinguished by lacking any rostral hooks. They attach to the intestine purely due to their broad segments filling the intestinal lumen. Spirometra species utilize copepods (mainly Cyclops), amphibians and reptiles as intermediate hosts where D. latum utilizes copepods and fish. Humans become infected from eating undercooked fish or raw tadpoles[4].

The natural intermediate host is the water snake, Natrix, with the normal definitive host being the bobcat Lynx rufus. Dogs become infected by eating snakes and amphibians, where adults mature in the small intestine and shed eggs[5].

Translocation of plerocercoids (Sparganum proliferum[6]) from the small intestine occurs in dogs, resulting in visceral, pleural and subcutaneous migrations (called sparganosis), sometimes leading to death.

Plerocercoids of Spirometra develop in any class of vertebrates except fish.

Species which have been reported in dogs include:

  • Spirometra mansonoides
  • Spirometra erinaceieuropaei[7]

Dogs are usually asymptomatically infected with this tapeworm, but proliferative sparganosis may occur in rare cases, resulting in severe symptoms depending on location of larval stages. In dogs with pleural sparganosis, fatal pneumothorax[8] and peritonitis[9] have been reported.

Routine anthelmintics such as praziquantel are effective at eliminating intestinal Spirometra when given at 5 mg/kg on a monthly basis.

Proliferative sparganosis, however, is difficult to treat and fatality rates are high[10]. Praziquantel, fenbendazole and nitazoxanide have been trialed in these cases with little success.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Uni of Pennsylvania
  2. Inpankaew T et al (2007) Canine parasitic zoonoses in Bangkok temples. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 38(2):247-255
  3. Manandhar S et al (2006) Occurrence of hydatidosis in slaughter buffaloes (Bos bubalis) and helminths in stray dogs in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr 119(7-8):308-311
  4. Lin XM et al (2010) Epidemiological investigation on sparganosis mansoni and animal experiments. Zhongguo Ji Sheng Chong Xue Yu Ji Sheng Chong Bing Za Zhi 28(2):132-134
  5. Bowman, DD (2009) Georgis' parasitology for veterinarians. 9th edn. Elsevier Saunders, Missouri. pp:136-138
  6. Drake DA et al (2008) Proliferative sparganosis in a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 233(11):1756-1760
  7. Okamoto M et al (2007) Intraspecific variation of Spirometra erinaceieuropaei and phylogenetic relationship between Spirometra and Diphyllobothrium inferred from mitochondrial CO1 gene sequences. Parasitol Int 56(3):235-238
  8. Simpson C et al (2012) Molecular diagnosis of sparganosis associated with pneumothorax in a dog. Mol Cell Probes 26(1):60-62
  9. Stief B & Enge A (2011) Proliferative peritonitis with larval and cystic parasitic stages in a dog. Vet Pathol 48(4):911-914
  10. Beveridge I et al (1998) Proliferative sparganosis in Australian dogs. Aust Vet J 76(11):757-759