Scientists in Liverpool are sounding the warning alarm about parasites that attach themselves to dogs' eyes. This particular kind of eye worm is more common in Continental Europe, but new reports show it's quickly spreading in the UK.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have just published a report that shows three confirmed cases of parasitic eye worms in UK residents' dogs. All three of these dogs returned to the UK after a trip to Continental Europe.
The specific worm that was found in these three dogs' eyes is known as thelazia callipaeda. This parasite is usually spread by fruit fly and can also survive in the eyes of cats and humans.
John Graham-Brown, a PhD student at the University of Liverpool, was the lead author on this study. He encourages vets to include more thorough screenings for eye worms in regular check-ups to prevent them becoming an "epidemic in the UK."
Adult eye worms measure around 1 to 2 centimeters in length. Despite their rather large size, it's difficult to see these worms once they get into a dog's eyes. This is mainly because the worms are so good at hiding in the conjunctival fornix.
Other European nations are already having serious problems with parasitic eye worms infecting dogs and humans. A few countries that have many cases of eye worms in recent years include France, Croatia, Italy, and Spain. Study authors recommend anyone traveling to continental Europe with pets to keep a close eye on their pet's eye symptoms.
Early warning signs of a parasitic eye infection include excessive tears, redness, and conjunctivitis. If the case is severe, a person's pet could have full-blown corneal ulceration. Humans infected with thelazia callipaeda tend to have the same symptoms as pets.
Anyone traveling to mainland Europe with a pet should schedule an appointment with a registered veterinarian beforehand. It's important to find out just how high the incidence of eye worm is in your chosen destination and what the warning signs are for this infection. Also, figure out how the veterinary system works in your destination and locate the nearest vet office to your residence.
Although thelazia callipaeda is rare in humans, it's not impossible for the parasite to attach itself to the human eye. If left unchecked, this parasite can cause severe symptoms like vision loss and corneal ulcers.
Doctors have known about thelazia callipaeda ever since it was first discovered in China in the early 1900s. Today, there are hundreds of cases of this parasite attaching itself to canine, feline, and human hosts.
People who want to learn more about Dr. Graham-Brown's research should pick up a copy of the latest Veterinary Record. This study was published under the title "Three cases of imported eyeworm infection in dogs: a new threat for the United Kingdom."