Worms that Infect Pets

WORMS THAT INFECT PETS CAN INFECT PEOPLE, TOO

You may already have heard that worms often infect puppies and kittens as well as older pets. The most common types of these parasitic worms are roundworms and hookworms. They are both intestinal parasites. They live and grow inside the intestine of your pet.

Most pets show no sign of infection. However, some do. Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or severe weight loss. Heavy infections in young puppies and kittens may be fatal.

HOW DO PETS GET WORMS?

Dogs and cats of any age may get roundworms and hookworms, but they are most vulnerable when they are very young. In fact, it is not unusual for puppies of only 2-3 weeks of age to harbor a significant number of worms. That’s because these worms are often passed from a mother to her puppies before birth. Sometimes they are passed shortly after birth, through her milk.

CAN ROUNDWORMS AND HOOKWORMS INFECT PEOPLE?

Yes. These infections, like others acquired from animals, are called zoonotic infections.

Roundworms enter the body when ingested as eggs that soon hatch into larvae. These larvae travel through the liver, lungs, and other organs. In most cases, these “wandering worms” cause no symptoms or apparent damage. However, in some cases they produce a condition known as visceral larva migrans. The larvae may cause damage to tissue and sometimes affect the nerves or even lodge in the eye. In some cases, they may cause permanent nerve or eye damage, even blindness.

Hookworm larvae typically move about within the skin, causing inflammation in the affected skin. This is called cutaneous (skin) larva migrans. One type of hookworm can penetrate into deeper tissues and cause more serious damage to the intestine and other organs.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY PETS, MY FAMILY AND MYSELF AGAINST WORM INFECTIONS?

  • Have puppies and kittens dewormed by your vet at an early age.
  • Start or keep your pets on a preventative drug program that treats and controls intestinal worms. (Such as monthly Heartgard or Interceptor.)
  • Learn to recognize and avoid possibly contaminated soil, sand, plants, and other objects. Teach children to do the same.
  • Keep play areas, lawns, and gardens around you home free of animal waste.
  • Bag and dispose of pet feces.
  • Cover sandboxes when not in use.
  • Have a fecal sample from your pet checked annually.
  • Always wash your hands after handling your pet, especially before eating.
  • Obey leash laws.

PROTECTING PETS PROTECTS PEOPLE.

  • The same roundworms and hookworms that can infect your dog or cat may also infect you or your family.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 10,000 cases of human infection with roundworms in the US each year.
  • Dogs with roundworm and hookworm infections may increase the risk of human exposure, especially in children.
  • People may acquire these worms through contact. (Young children and elderly are most susceptible.)
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