Can humans get worms from dogs?

April 13, 2012

A rough coat, a pot belly, diarrhea and sluggishness… these are manifestations that the dog is not its normal self. The health of the pet is of prime importance to a pet parent. A responsible dog owner would make sure that the pet is taken to the vet for complete inoculations to avert canine disease. Pet owners would surely be proud to have a healthy good looking pet. Not many pet owners though know that some canine diseases can be transmitted to humans. These zoonotic diseases include internal and external parasites.

External parasites are fleas and mites that can easily hop from to dog to humans. These pesky little critters would cause a lot of itching. Ticks may not directly jump from the dog to humans but just the same, this parasite can transmit Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever and Lyme disease to humans. Worms, on the other hand, can have more serious effects on humans. Canine internal parasites are not supposed to be on human bodies. The human body is not a normal host for canine roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms thus the disoriented worms would not stay on the intestine as it would in dogs. Through the bloodstream, the parasites in larval stage would migrate to the tissues and to the other organs. The human immune system would identify the foreigners and try to block the movements of these internal parasites but some would be able to get away and travel to the liver, lungs, heart, brain and eyes. This clinical condition is known as larva migrans.

How are canine internal parasites transmitted? Generally, puppies inherit worms from the mother. It is quite common for puppies to be born with ascrids as these worms are transmitted while the puppies are still in the uterus. Adult dogs can get infected by ingesting contaminated feces or worm infected prey. Parasite eggs will be excreted with the stool. These minute larvae can only be seen through the microscope. Humans will be infected by stepping on or handling contaminated dirt or soil. After a few days in the environment, the larvae will become infectious when they develop into young worms that are capable of penetrating the skin. When bare skin comes in contact with the microscopic worms, the parasite would eat into the skin leaving red and extremely itchy tracts. This clinical condition is known as cutaneous larva migrans.

There is another way by which canine intestinal parasite is transmitted to humans … through the mouth. Humans may inadvertently ingest food contaminated with dog poop. Humans may also put in their mouth objects with infectious eggs. Children are more susceptible to canine internal parasites as they have this habit of putting their fingers and other objects in their mouths. Once the larvae are ingested, it would hatch in the intestines and travel to the other organs through the bloodstream. This migration is known as visceral larva migrans. The larvae can migrate to the eyes and cause permanent loss of vision. This clinical condition is known as ocular larva migrans. Canine parasite though cannot complete its cycle in the human body. The larvae in the tissues will eventually die and form abscesses.

Fortunately, canine parasite infestation can be easily dealt with. Regular treatment of worm medications will not only ensure a parasite-free life for the pet. It will also lessen the risk of transmitting the parasite to the family members especially to the children. Puppies under three months old must be wormed every two weeks. Three month old pups would have to be wormed once a month until six months of age. Adult dogs must be given worm medications every three months. You may have taken measures to ensure that the pet is parasite free but other dogs and animals may be infected. Good hygiene is the best preventive measure. A most effective way is washing the hands thoroughly especially after removing the pet’s poop.

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