Guidance

Echinococcus multilocularis: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot Echinococcus multilocularis, what to do if you suspect it and how to prevent its spread.

Echinococcus multilocularis is a tapeworm that can infect foxes and other canids, including domestic dogs.

The disease can also cause serious illness in humans.

There have been no known domestically acquired cases of Echinococcus multilocularis in the UK.

Echinococcus multilocularis is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it, you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

How to spot Echinococcus multilocularis

Animals (dogs, foxes and other canids) do not usually show any clinical signs of infection but will have the eggs of Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm in their faeces. Eggs are only seen when a faecal sample is examined under a microscope.

In very rare circumstances, canids can ingest the eggs by accident. They may develop alveolar cysts in the liver, brain or other parts of the body and show clinical signs that resemble tumours and include:

  • bowel pain
  • fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • weight loss
  • jaundice

How Echinococcus multilocularis spreads

The life cycle of the tapeworm involves an adult stage in canids, eggs in the environment where faeces are present and an immature, larval stage in rodents.

Canids are infected by eating infected rodents. Rodents are infected from eating eggs in the environment. Humans and other mammals become accidentally infected after consuming the eggs from contaminated environments and act as dead-end hosts, sometimes developing alveolar hydatidosis.

Preventing and controlling Echinococcus multilocularis

If you import animals, you must follow the rules to make sure they are free from disease and fit to travel.

We recommend that domestic dogs are treated with a worming treatment that contains praziquantel or an equivalent proven to be effective against the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm. Your vet can provide advice on treatment and other health risks.

Taking your dog abroad

Dogs must have a tapeworm treatment if you want to bring them back into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). The only exceptions are dogs travelling from Northern Ireland, Norway or EU Member States that are recognised as being tapeworm-free.

Read about tapeworm treatment for dogs.

Legislation

The main legislation relating to the control of Echinococcus multilocularis:

Published 14 March 2019
Last updated 27 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated the taking your dog abroad section to make it clear that dogs do not need tapeworm treatment when returning to Great Britain from Northern Ireland, Norway or EU member states that are recognised as being tapeworm-free.

  2. First published.