People worry about themselves and their kids “getting worms” from their pets. Although unlikely, it is possible. There are several types of worms you can get from your dogs and cats. People usually become infected by one of the following ways:
1. Ingesting parasite eggs from the soil, your hands or objects contaminated by dog or cat feces (poop). Roundworms and certain tapeworms can be spread in this manner. Most cases involve children eating dirt contaminated with animal feces. Raccoon feces containing roundworm eggs is known to cause severe disease in children.
2. Direct skin contact with hookworm larvae by walking bare foot in contaminated soil or sand. If your pet has hookworms be sure to pick up the poop carefully. It is a good idea not to let the pet poop in your backyard until the worms are cleared. The eggs are very difficult to remove from the grass and soil once the yard has been contaminated.
3. Ingesting a flea containing the larvae of the dog and cat tapeworm. If your pet has fleas you must get rid of them before allowing your pet to sleep on the bed with you or your kids. Fleas can get into your mouth while you are sleeping.
Here are some simple steps to prevent infection with these pet associated worms.
1. Make certain your puppies and kittens are free from worms. Bring a fecal sample to the first office visit to check for worms and at least once or twice a year there after. The monthly heartworm preventative used at my clinic will prevent roundworms and hookworms. For this reason I recommend using the heartworm preventative all year long. Flea control is a must to avoid tapeworms as well as skin problems for your pets.
2. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Keep young children away from areas contaminated with animal poop. Encourage everyone to wash their hands after playing outside and before eating. Sandboxes should be covered while not in use. They are a favorite litter box for stray cats. This is also a very good way to avoid Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women or women looking to become pregnant.
3. PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG POOPS. Be a good citizen. Take measures to prevent pets from pooping in common areas. Dog runs can be a great source of fecal contamination. Worms as well as viruses can be passed on at the community dog run. Protect your pets with the proper preventitives for fleas, ticks, heartworm, intestinal parasites and virus diseases like Parvo and kennel cough.
4. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or seafood. Parasites can be transmitted if you are not careful with what you eat.
As always if you have any questions please call my office and we will allay your fears. Dr. Scott Luckow