A rare occurrence, gnathostomiasis can be found in Africa, Asia, Australia and in southern Europe.

Gnathostoma is able to affect the majority of domestic animals and pets, including dogs, cats and pigs. The particular species of the parasite in this article, G. Spinigerum, infects the digestive tract of dogs and cats. When a dog does become infected by this rare disease, fatalities can result. Peritonitis is also a result of infection, and this can also lead to death.

Gnathostoma spinigerum

This disease in cats and dogs is caused by a endo-parasite known as Gnathostoma spinigerum. Animals more susceptible to Gnathostom spinigerum are cats and dogs exposed to raw fish and other possible intermediate hosts, including the frogs, birds and snakes. Initially, contaminated faeces enter the habitat of the water flea Cyclops, that is to say water sources, and these intermediate hosts ingest the oocysts. The intermediate hosts then feed on these water fleas. Following this, cats and dogs ingest these raw materials and therefore become infected.  

Infected dogs may not show any symptoms. However, any signs or symptoms that are present include a high temperature, oedema, tissue damage, and pain. The parasite can infect humans albeit erratically, and so it is known to be zoonotic. This transmission may result from humans ingesting contaminated raw fish or domestic poultry, and the symptoms include eye, brain and skin damage.

Transmission and cause of Gnathostoma

Dogs act as definitive hosts of the disease. Transmission of the parasite occurs as a result of cats and dogs ingesting raw flesh, usually fish, contaminated with the Gnathostoma spinigerum. These fish and other animals such as ducks, frogs and snakes, become infected by feeding on contaminated water fleas. These water fleas are called Cyclops. The Cyclops becomes infected by ingesting contaminated faeces pass out by definitive hosts of the parasite. This generally occurs in areas where water is present. 

Signs and Symptoms of Gnathostoma

The signs and symptoms in dogs following infection differs in severity depending on the resultant tissue damage. A high temperature is found along with the observations of oedema under the skin. The infected dog will experience pain and in some cases there may even be vomiting. The animal may have an itch and there will be signs of redness.

In more severe cases, the dog’s central nervous system (CNS) is affected. Nodules sometimes emerge in the stomach and this can result in peritonitis, an occasionally fatal condition.

Treatment of Gnathostoma 

Since infection is relatively rare, there is little idea as to the best form of cure. It has been suggested that Albendazole medication can be used to treat an infection the gnathostoma disease. Other methods may actually involve surgery, where the parasites are physically removed from the infected animal by a veterinarian although this is not an easy procedure.

Prevention of Gnathostoma

Raw fish acts as a source of infection for the disease. Thus, removing this source will prevent the spread of gnathostoma. Overall, do not allow the dog to ingest any raw fish. Generally, it should be ensured that all food is thoroughly cooked to reduce any chance of infection.

Diagnosis of Gnathostoma

Initially the diagnosis consists of the clinical signs and symptoms being observed. Taking a medical history of the animal and the area is also a good method of coming to the conclusion of the disease’s cause, which is the diagnosis. Samples of the infected faeces are taken and the oocysts can then be identified and isolation, thus confirming the presence of the parasite.

Prognosis following Infection from Gnathostoma

The prognosis for the animal differs depending on which tissues are affected and damaged by the parasite. If the stomach becomes severely infected, fatalities can occur. 


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