General description 

  • Hydatids are the cystic stage of the dog tapeworm Echinococcusgranulosus. 

  • The tapeworm is tiny, only 3 - 6 mm long and lives in the intestines of dogs. 

  • Hydatids do not affect cattle health or production on farm. The major losses from hydatids is felt at the processing end where meat products are downgraded due to the hydatid cysts.  

  • Hydatid cysts can be fatal in humans. Tapeworm cysts can be found in the liver or lungs (the two most common sites), the brain, kidneys, spleen, heart or other parts of the body. A heavily infested organ may fail, or a cyst may rupture and cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. 


  • The larval cyst forms in intermediate host animals such as cattle. Affected cattle organs are condemned at slaughter.  

Clinical signs 

  • Clinical signs in live cattle are rare, unless the cyst is in the brain, when the animal’s movement may be affected. At slaughter, affected organs are condemned and infected carcases may be trimmed or condemned. 


  • Cysts cannot be detected in live animals but are readily seen by examining the animal at the abattoir. 

  • Cysts can occur on the brain, heart, lungs or liver. 


  • There is no effective treatment for cattle with hydatid cysts. 


  • Monthly worming of working and pet dogs (with a product that contains the active ingredient praziquantel), as well as restricting them access to offal, will also help prevent hydatids. 

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