Dogs as Sources and Sentinels of Parasites in Humans and Wildlife, Northern Canada

Amanda L. Salb; Herman W. Barkema; Brett T. Elkin; R.C. Andrew Thompson; Douglas P. Whiteside; Sandra R. Black; J.P. Dubey; Susan J. Kutz


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2008;14(1):60-63. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


A minimum of 11 genera of parasites, including 7 known or suspected to cause zoonoses, were detected in dogs in 2 northern Canadian communities. Dogs in remote settlements receive minimal veterinary care and may serve as sources and sentinels for parasites in persons and wildlife, and as parasite bridges between wildlife and humans.


Throughout their long history of domestication, dogs have been sources of zoonotic parasites and have served as a link for parasite exchange among livestock, wildlife, and humans.[1] Globally, dogs remain an important source of emerging disease in humans (e.g., eosinophilic enteritis caused by Ancylostoma caninum), a bridge for reemerging infections (Echinococcus multilocularis), and a source of parasites for immunocompromised persons.[1]

Human disease and parasite infections in dogs in northern Canada have been recognized for some time.[2,3,4,5] Historically, attention was focused on rabies virus, parvovirus, and canine distemper virus. However, dogs were also recognized as sources of zoonotic parasites such as Echinococcus spp. and as a possible bridge for rabies between wildlife and humans.[4,5] Today, in many northern communities, veterinary services are absent or restricted, and disease surveillance programs and routine preventive health measures such as vaccination and parasite control are rare. These conditions have limited our understanding of disease interactions at the dog-human-wildlife interface and our ability to detect and respond to emerging diseases.

Northern environments and socioeconomic systems are changing rapidly and altering interactions among humans, animals, and their pathogens.[6,7] In this study, we examined parasite diversity among dogs in 2 northern Canadian communities and evaluated the role of dogs as sentinels and sources of zoonotic infections in this changing landscape.


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