Which worms are transmitted from pets to people?

Pet owners sometimes worry about “getting worms from pets”. It is possible, but the risk is extremely small if you make sure your pet receives proper health care. Furthermore, there are other ways people can become infected with intestinal parasites (worms). People can also “get worms” from other people and from eating undercooked meat or seafood.

Pet-associated worms

There are several different worms that can infect dogs and cats. In general, your veterinarian can easily detect their presence by doing a fecal exam (microscopic exam of a specially prepared sample of your pet’s feces). Once diagnosed, your veterinarian can prescribe the right medication to get rid of the particular type of worm involved.

People can become infected with pet-associated worms by:

  • Ingesting parasite eggs from soil, hands or objects contaminated by feces (from infected dogs or cats). Roundworms (Toxocara canis and cati) and tapeworms (Echinococcus spp.) can be spread in this manner.

  • Direct skin contact with hookworm larvae (Ancylostoma spp.) from soil contaminated by feces (from infected dogs or cats).

  • Ingesting a flea harboring larvae of the dog and cat tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). Spread of infection to human beings is rare.

To prevent human infection with pet-associated worms:

  • Deworm (under veterinary direction) pups and nursing bitches routinely at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks after the pups’ birth and kittens and dams at 3, 5, 7, and 9 weeks after the kittens’ birth.

  • Deworm (under veterinary direction) newly acquired pups that are 6 weeks old or older and kittens that are 7 weeks old or older at least twice, two weeks apart. Have your veterinarian check a stool sample from adult pets once a year, as part of an annual physical exam.

  • Cover sandboxes.

  • Prevent children from eating dirt.

People-to-people worms
There are many types of worms that are transmitted from people to other people. Poor sanitation is the primary reason they are spread. Most are uncommon in North America. A notable exception is pinworms.

Pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis) are the most common intestinal parasite infecting children in temperate climates. Prevalence of pinworms in the general childhood population is at least 20%. Pets are in no way involved in their occurrence. Infection results from ingesting pinworm eggs from contaminated hands or objects. Meticulous hand washing and house keeping have little effect on the control of pinworm infestation. Most people harboring pinworms have no symptoms. Physicians have treatments available.

Medical information

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