The Welsh Assembly has launched a new campaign to combat hydatid disease, which can kill humans who contract it from dogs.

Christianne Glossop, the chief veterinary officer for Wales, used the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s 2006 Smallholder Show at Builth Wells to urge all dog owners to use an effective wormer containing Praziquantel.

She also advised them to ensure that their dogs did not come into contact with the carcasses of sheep that could be infected with the Echinococcus granulosus tape worm. 

She warned that while infected cattle and sheep could be 5% less productive there were no significant clinical signs in livestock or domestic animals.

Humans picked up the infection from dogs by ingesting eggs through hand to mouth contact, or from soil, water or food contaminated by infected dog faeces.

The worm cysts could develop in the lungs, liver, brain or bone, and could be as large as a football.

No drugs were available to treat the condition in humans, and there was a risk of rupture when cysts were removed surgically, Dr Glossop said.

This could be life threatening and would release thousands of immature worms, causing extreme shock.

But experience in New Zealand, Tasmania and Iceland demonstrated that the disease could be eradicated. The same could be achieved in 10 to 20 years in Wales, where the condition is more common than in any other part of the UK.

But success depended on dog owners in other areas also using the right wormer.

The new dog worming campaign, which is part of the Assembly’s Animal Health and Welfare Strategy 2006-2007, will operate in conjunction with an existing one to educate children, farmers and dog owners in high risk areas like Powys.