Deadly Parasite Found in Colorado River Threatens Dogs

( – For the first time, a parasite known as Heterobilharzia americana, which has the potential to be fatal to dogs, has been found in the Colorado River.

Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, studied a location along the Colorado River in Blythe, California, after learning that dogs that had become infected with the parasite had previously swum in the river at the location. The parasite, a flatworm known as a liver fluke, was found in the water by researchers who tested 2,000 snails they gathered from the banks of the river.

Typically found in Texas and other states along the Gulf Coast, the parasite has spread west and has been discovered in states such as Tennessee, Utah, and Oklahoma. With researchers now finding the parasite has spread further and is in the Colorado River, there are new implications for veterinary medicine, public health, and biodiversity conservation as officials must attempt to develop ways to prevent the disease from spreading.

Officials now hope to raise awareness of the parasite and its potential to be fatal to dogs. UC Riverside nematology professor Adler Dillman said, “Your pets are in peril” if you swim in the Colorado River with them.

According to UC Riverside News, between 2018 and 2023, 11 dogs in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties were diagnosed with the disease, with one dog dying.

Dogs are not the only animals who can become infected with the parasite. It can affect other animals, such as horses, opossums, mountain lions, marsh rabbits, raccoons, and bobcats.

While it does not cause a fatal infection in humans, it can cause swimmer’s itch.

After entering through an animal’s skin, the parasite moves to the lungs, potentially causing hemorrhaging. Symptoms of the disease can progress over a period of months, and range from loss of appetite in the beginning to diarrhea, vomiting, signs of liver disease, and profound weight loss.

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