Animals and public health

People in Yukon have a close relationship with animals, both wild and domestic. If animals or wildlife harvested for food are not properly cared for, there could be health or safety risks for humans.

Get information about:

Health risks from wildlife harvested for food

Wild game, fish, and birds are a source of food for many Yukoners. Wild food sources are healthy and highly nutritious.

Occasionally, hunters may find an abnormality in or on a harvested animal, such as areas of hair loss or parasite cysts in an internal organ like the liver. We encourage hunters to contact the Animal Health Unit about these findings so we can determine whether there might be any human health risk.

If possible, bring the abnormal animal or a sample of the abnormal tissue to the Animal Health Unit at 10 Burns Road in Whitehorse. Our veterinarians will attempt to determine the cause of the abnormality and whether there is any health risk to people.

If you’re unable to bring the sample in, please take several photos of the animal and the abnormal part. Our veterinarians can sometimes understand the cause of the abnormality from photos. Take lots of photos from different angles and distances, then contact the Animal Health Unit for advice.

The booklet Diseases You Can Get From Wildlife was produced by western provincial and territorial governments. This booklet describes some of the most common abnormalities in wildlife that can make people sick. It also has information on safe field dressing practices and how to protect yourself. Hard copies are available from Environment Yukon offices. The booklet is water-resistant and fits easily in a backpack.

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Hantavirus is spread to people from small rodents like deer mice. It is a rare but serious, life-threatening illness. It is caused by breathing in airborne particles of rodent urine, droppings or saliva that contain the virus.

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Rabies has not been found in Yukon animals since the 1970s. There has never been a reported human case in Yukon. The disease does occur in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and BC.

The rabies virus can infect any mammal including people, dogs and cats. Although any species of wildlife can be infected, rabies is usually spread by wild foxes and bats.

Veterinarians in the Animal Health Unit support the Chief Medical Officer of Health in investigating bites from wild and domestic animals and assessing the risk of rabies. They oversee testing of wildlife to determine if rabies is present in Yukon and are also responsible for controlling the disease in animals if it's detected.

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Dog parasites

There are several tapeworms that develop in both herbivores (like moose, caribou or rodents) and carnivores (like wolves or dogs). The cyst phase (larvae) is visible in the lungs, liver, or muscles of game animals. Usually the cysts are round and white, and may range from a few mm to several centimetres in diameter.

The larval stages in the herbivore host cannot infect people and do not pose a human health risk. However, if these infested tissues are fed raw to dogs, adult worms will develop in the gut of the dog, which may impact human health.

While tapeworms usually don’t cause much harm to most dogs, these worms can mature and pass eggs in the dog’s feces. People can be infected by consuming the eggs and can develop cysts in the lungs or liver. These cysts can cause severe damage, especially in children.

You can prevent this by giving a deworming medication to your dog that is specific for these tapeworms on a regular basis, and by cooking all wildlife tissues that are fed to dogs.

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Contact Animal Health Unit

Phone: 867-667-5600
Toll-free (in Yukon, NWT & Nunavut):
1-800-661-0408 ext. 5600
Fax: 867-393-6263

Email: animalhealth@gov.yk.ca
Address: Box 2703 (V-7) Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C6