Veterinarians Warn of Deadly Dog Parasite in Colorado River

Veterinarians Alert: Lethal Parasite Threatening Dogs Along Colorado River

Dog owners, take note: a lethal parasite, previously unseen in the Colorado River in Southern California, has caught the attention of experts. Scientists from the University of California, Riverside, have recently confirmed the presence of Heterobilharzia americana, also known as the liver fluke, marking its first appearance so far west.

This discovery is significant. The liver fluke is a flatworm that poses a serious threat to dogs, potentially leading to fatal outcomes. Adler Dillman, a professor of nematology at UCR, emphasized the importance of raising awareness among the public. He highlighted the risk to pets swimming in the Colorado River, stressing that their health could be in jeopardy.

The parasite, which finds a host in snails, is responsible for canine schistosomiasis. This disease affects the liver and intestines of dogs and was previously thought to be confined to Texas and other Gulf states. However, UCR scientists have now found it in Southern California.

The urgency of the situation became apparent when reports of infected dogs in California reached the university. Dillman and his team ventured to the river, where they collected and examined 2,000 snails from its banks. Their findings revealed a broader presence of the parasite than initially thought.

The implications of this discovery are far-reaching, touching on public health, veterinary medicine, and biodiversity conservation. The researchers are focused on developing strategies to control the spread of this emerging infectious disease, aiming to protect both animal and human health.

Symptoms of infection in dogs begin subtly, with a loss of appetite, and can escalate to vomiting, diarrhea, significant weight loss, and liver disease signs. Emily Beeler, a veterinarian with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, advises dog owners to seek veterinary care if their pet shows any of these symptoms.

While the parasites present a significant threat to dogs, Dillman reassures that they do not pose a major health risk to humans. Nonetheless, the discovery underscores the need for vigilance among dog owners who frequent the Colorado River.