It may not be pleasant to think about, but pets can expose their owners to parasites. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to protect your animals, yourself, and your family. Make sure your pet gets in for regular veterinary wellness exams and fecal tests. Many flea control and heartworm medications also offer protection against internal parasites, so speak with your vet about prevention.
Below are three types of worms that can be transmitted from animal to person:
Roundworms: These are large worms that take up residence in the small intestine. Roundworms produce at a high rate (up to 85,000 eggs a day), which ups the risk of infection for both pets and people.
Symptoms of roundworms in dogs and cats include diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. People will experience similar symptoms if infected and may also suffer from internal organ damage (called visceral larva migrans or VLM). In children, it’s not uncommon for larvae to migrate to the eye, causing inflammation and even blindness.
Tapeworms: These parasites are thin and can grow up to several feet in length. Tapeworms can be transmitted when pets or people inadvertently swallow infected fleas, although the infection rate in people is low. The first noticeable sign of a tapeworm infestation is segments in the stool.
Hookworms: Hookworms are small white or brown worms with a hook at the end. Hookworms infect dogs and cats through the skin, during lactation, or when swallowed. These dangerous parasites can cause skin, intestinal, and lung issues in dogs and cats. Puppies and kittens are also at risk for severe anemia.
Hookworm larvae can penetrate human skin, causing an itchy skin infection. Abdominal pain can be a symptom that hookworms have invaded a person’s intestines.