Dogs and cats may transmit potentially dangerous worms to you and your family.
Worms – not a terribly popular topic, but one that could cause you and your pet a stay in the hospital. Veterinarians see the problem every day, but most dog and cat owners are unaware of the problems and risks, and do not know that hookworms and roundworms may transmit harmful diseases to family and friends.
“Many pet owners are unaware that intestinal roundworms and hookworms could pose a health threat to their pets and even family members,” said Dr. Peter Schantz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a veterinarian and specialist in parasites. “It is important for pet owners to learn about these potential dangers and why it is necessary to protect their dogs and cats from these infections.”
Interestingly, many puppies and kittens may actually be born with these worm infections contracted from their mothers and can easily acquire new infections from soil and other sources in the environment. The scary thing is that pets with worms can be a source of infection for humans.
Small children are especially vulnerable. They may be infected through contact with contaminated feces, soil, sand, plant life or other objects. Because children’s play habits bring them into closer contact with objects that may be contaminated by feces of pets, they are more likely to be infected than adults. These areas include sandboxes, playgrounds, patios and backyards.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 10,000 cases of toxocariasis (human infection with roundworms) occur every year in the United States. And the disease is not simple. Children infected by roundworms and hookworms can suffer from a serious condition called larva migrans, which may result in permanent visual or neurological damage.
Dogs infected with roundworms and hookworms can suffer from abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weight loss or even sudden death. Some dogs may be infected without showing any signs of illness.
Roundworm and hookworm infections are treatable, however, prevention is a much better strategy.
“The steps pet owners take now to protect their pets from roundworm and hookworm infections will greatly benefit the health and development of the pet as well as reduce the risk of transmission to people,” said Dr. Schantz. “Veterinarians can provide pet owners with de-worming and preventive medications that will help keep their dogs and cats healthy. Elimination and prevention of these infections in pets also is beneficial for the health of the human members of the family.”
Here are seven steps you can take to help prevent this problem and protect your family and your pets:
1. Talk with your veterinarian about de-worming your puppy or kitten at an early age and keep up a regular de-worming schedule to prevent another infection.
2. Give your pets a monthly preventive, which protects your dog against heartworms and treats and controls roundworms and hookworms.
3. Clean up properly after your pet, especially around your home and lawn. Use tools for clean up to avoid direct contact with your pets’ waste.
4. Wash your hands after handling your pets or their feces.
5. Limit all contact with unknown animals or environments. Learn to recognize potentially contaminated soil, sand, and other objects.
6. Maintain strict control of your pets when outside, preventing fecal ingestion or contact.
7. As children are particularly vulnerable to intestinal parasites, teach them about the dangers of ingesting or coming in contact with feces or potentially contaminated soil.
This is a perfect example of how you can work with your veterinarian to simply and inexpensively prevent a potentially serious disease. Once you do, then stop worrying and enjoy your four legged family members.