Common Zoonotic Worms
As much as we don’t want it to be true, our furry friends can give us worms. However, you don’t necessarily have worry about every single type of worm out there—only those that are classified as zoonotic, which can be passed from animals to humans and vice-versa. Read on to learn about the 3 most common zoonotic worms that cause infections in both pets and their owners, and how you can prevent yourself and your family from contracting them.
Roundworms can infect different species of animals, including dogs, cats, raccoons, and rats. Shed in the feces of infected animals, they’re normally found in the soil, but can easily stick to the paws of passing pets or shoes of an unsuspecting person and get carried to new locations.
If your dog or cat steps on contaminated soil, then grooms themselves, they can ingest roundworm eggs and become infected. When that happens, they can spread roundworms all over your home, especially in the areas where they usually do their “business”. Additionally, infected mother pets can pass the worms to their young in utero.
To prevent yourself and your family from getting roundworms, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your pet is and stays worm-free. If you have a puppy or a kitten, get them dewormed the moment they turn 2 weeks. For adult pets, talk to your veterinarian about putting them on a monthly worm preventative.
Next, if you do gardening, always wash your thoroughly before handling or preparing food, as well as touching your pet or other members of the household. Aside from your hands, make a point of washing fruits and vegetables, as well. Since roundworms are commonly present in the soil, all plants are potentially contaminated.
Lastly, if you have kids, it’s best to educate them about the dangers of playing in the soil and the importance of washing their hands before eating or touching their face and mouth.
Like roundworms, hookworms are also shed in the feces of infected animals and typically found in the soil. However, they’re also notorious for contaminating sandy areas in beaches, especially ones with pets or stray animals running around.
While there are hookworms that only affect humans, some species can affect animals, too. But the thing with hookworms in animals is that when it infects humans, it normally doesn’t reach the intestines. Seems like a good thing, right? No, it’s not.
Hookworms—specifically, hookworm larvae—can burrow into human skin and cause a skin infection known as larva migrans. It causes red, itchy, squiggly-looking raised patches of skin on the affected areas. You can develop this condition simply by stepping on contaminated sand while walking barefoot at the beach or gardening with unprotected hands.
To keep yourself from getting hookworms, always wear shoes when going outside or slippers when visiting the beach. Never forget to wear gloves when gardening, cleaning the yard, or doing any activity that involves handling soil.
Additionally, remove feces around your home area daily to prevent your pet from coming into contact with infected fecal matter. If you have a dog, keep a close eye on them during walks or their play sessions at the dog park and make sure that they don’t come near another animal’s feces.
Again, you can talk to your veterinarian about monthly preventatives. In addition to preventing worm infestations, they also repel various kinds parasites, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
Unlike roundworms and hookworms, tapeworms are spread through the ingestion of infected fleas—both in animals and humans. However, when a dog or cat scratches themselves, they may also accidentally squish a tapeworm-carrying flea and allow the parasite to come out onto their fur.
By petting an infected animal, a person could pick up and ingest tapeworm eggs and larvae if they eat without washing their hands. That’s why toddlers are at a higher risk of contracting the parasite—they have a tendency to put things or their fingers inside their mouths.
To prevent a tapeworm infestation in your home, make sure that your pet remains free of fleas. As we mentioned earlier, monthly worm preventatives don’t only repel worms but other parasites as well, including fleas. In addition, make thorough handwashing a regular routine both inside and outside the household, especially if you and your family love physically interacting with animals.
If you recently had a worm outbreak at home and you want to know the proper way to clean and disinfect the household, check out this article.