January 26, 2018 9:55 pm
Updated: January 27, 2018 4:52 pm

Calgary family forced to put canine down after contracting parasite

WATCH: A Calgary family was forced to put their dog down last month after it contracted a parasite that usually doesn't lead to death. Joel Senick explains what they believe other pet owners should be aware of.

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Just days before his fourth birthday, Gizmo, the Limongiello’s family dog, had to be put down last month, after contracting a parasite that proved to be deadly.

“He was one in a million, very handsome dog, we got compliments every time we walked him,” Lou Limongiello said Friday afternoon at his Calgary home.

“It was sad to see him go.”

Gizmo contracted Echinococcus multilocularis, a parasite that is usually found in wild animals, like coyotes and foxes. The tapeworm is usually harmless to dogs, except in very rare cases.

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“Just a few of them have lost the ability to fight back the parasite when they are [an] adult,” wildlife ecologist and University of Calgary adjunct professor Alessandro Massolo said.

“We don’t know why yet.”

READ MORE: Alberta scientists warn spread of deadly tapeworm found in coyotes

The parasite is usually passed to dogs through rodents. The rodents become infected by eating the feces of a wild animal that has the tapeworm.

Humans can also contract the parasite through food, however Massolo said that is also a very rare occurrence.

“If there are dogs, foxes, and coyotes that can have access to the vegetable garden, just wash it, wash it many times,” he said.

“Just take care of the basic hygiene of yourself and your dogs and your food.”

The City of Calgary is aware that the parasite exists in parks and other areas, according to urban conservation lead Chris Manderson. He said dog owners can keep their pets safe is by picking up after them and keeping them on leashes when it’s required.

Massolo also said keeping animals on a leash is one of the best ways to prevent them from contracting the parasite. He added that dog owners should seek out the appropriate de-worming procedures if they suspect their pet has come in contract with a rodent.

READ MORE: Northwest Calgary resident warns of wildlife danger after family dog killed in coyote attack

The Limongiellos believe Gizmo was exposed to the parasite at Nose Hill Park. Even though their situation is rare, the family said it’s important for other dog owners to be aware that the parasite is out there so they can take the appropriate precautions to avoid the heartache they’re experiencing.

“The house just doesn’t seem the same anymore, it’s sad,” Limongiello said.

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