Parasites In Raw Meat
Do you like your meat rare, cooked, or somewhere in the middle? What does your dog prefer? What you choose to eat and to feed your dog is entirely up to you, however, it is important to be informed and educated about the potential risks of consuming raw or under-cooked meat.
Trichinella, also known as Pork Roundworm, is a parasitic worm that is typically found living in raw or undercooked pork and other wild game. By eating raw or undercooked meat of animals infected with the Trichinella worm, it causes an infection called Trichinellosis or Trichinosis.
Trichinosis in Dogs
Some dogs prefer kibble, some like cooked meat, and some crave raw meat. If your dog likes to consume meat that is anything but well-done, he may be at risk for ingesting a parasitic worm.
If you do choose to feed your pup meat, try to avoid under-cooked pork or pork scraps that have been sitting out. Below you will find the symptoms of Trichinosis, how your pet will be diagnosed, and different treatment options if you believe your dog may be sick.
Typical clinical signs of the parasitic worm include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle inflammation, muscle pain, and muscle stiffness. Occasionally there are no signs of the parasitic worms, so keep a close eye out for unusual behavior.
If you do notice a change in your dog’s behavior, it may be a sign to evaluate your dog’s diet. During an exam, let your veterinarian know if you feed your pet raw or under-cooked meat.
If your veterinarian believes that your dog may have a parasite, the vet may perform routine laboratory tests including a complete blood cell count, a urinalysis, or a fecal examination. These specific parasites end up in the muscles, so a muscle biopsy may be performed as well.
In most cases, veterinarians will often prescribe anti-parasitic drugs in order to reduce the number of worms in the muscles. If any of the clinical symptoms are severe, your dog may be treated with anti-nausea pills, IV drips, and other pain medications.
The best way to prevent Trichinosis in dogs is to cook meat thoroughly. Always take precautions to prevent your dog from getting into the trash, as food scraps and dead animals can carry the worms as well.
Additionally, always assume that pork may be infected. According to Merck Manual Veterinary Manual, pork products should always be heated to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) for roasts, or 160°F (71°C) for ground meats.
Trichinosis in Humans
Humans are also at risk for ingesting a parasitic worm when consuming raw meat. The acid in the stomach dissolves the hard covering of the cysts which releases the worms. The worms then pass through the small intestines and mature in about 1-2 days.
After mating, adult female worms lay eggs that develop into immature worms that move through the arteries. After moving into the arteries, the worms are transported into the muscles.
Abdominal symptoms typically appear 1-2 days after infection. These include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain.
Additional symptoms may begin 2-8 weeks after eating contaminated meat. These include muscle pain, fever, swelling of the face and eyes, fatigue, chills, cough, itchy skin or rash, and headache.
The severity of the clinical symptoms will greatly depend on the number of worms that were consumed and the number that have mated.
If you believe you have contracted a worm after consuming raw meat, your doctor may run a blood test or a muscle biopsy. A blood test will indicate if there is an increase in white blood cells or if antibodies have begun forming against the parasite after a few weeks.
A muscle biopsy entails removing a small piece of muscle that is then examined under a microscope to look for Trichinella larvae.
Contraction of this parasite is not usually a serious condition, and it oftentimes can clear up on its own. If you have moderate to severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe anti-parasitic medication as the first line of defense.
You may also receive pain relievers for muscle aches and fatigue. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to control inflammation during larval migration. Trichinosis cannot be spread to other people, as infection can only occur by eating raw or under-cooked meats containing the worms.
If you do choose to feed your dog or yourself raw meat, we strongly recommend referring to the safety guidelines published by the FDA, CDC or AVMA. This can help prevent the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses.