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.
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.
Translocation of plerocercoids (Sparganum proliferum) 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
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 and peritonitis have been reported.
Routine anthelmintics such as praziquantel are effective at eliminating intestinal Spirometra when given at 5 mg/kg on a monthly basis.
- Uni of Pennsylvania
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