Owning a pet can have many positive effects on your health, both physically and mentally. However, there are diseases that your pet can pass on to you or your family, one of which is helminth infection. How can you stay safe while enjoying the benefits of pet ownership?
Roundworms and hookworms can infect your pets.
These parasitic worms can then be passed on to you and your family despite your pet not having any symptoms.
Proper hygiene and treatment of your pets by a veterinarian can reduce the risk of roundworm and hookworm transmission.
It is not recommended that you routinely take anthelmintic medications to prevent roundworm and hookworm infections.
What are helminth infections?
Helminths (parasitic worms) are a group of parasites that commonly include roundworms (ascarids) and hookworms. These worms can cause infections within the intestines of your pet. While sometimes your pet can exhibit symptoms of an infection such as weight loss, vomiting, and refusal to eat, many pets appear healthy.
How are helminth infections transmitted?
Eggs and larvae of these parasitic worms are passed in an infected pet’s feces (poop) and can survive for months to even years in the soil of parks, playgrounds, and yards.
Roundworm infections are caused by the accidental ingestion of eggs in contaminated soil, sand, or plants. Whereas, hookworm larvae penetrate the skin when people sit/lay down in contaminated areas or walk barefoot.
Overall, children are at a much higher risk of helminth infections because they are more likely to put contaminated objects in their mouths or eat dirt. Also, they often crawl and play in the dirt and sand increasing their risk in contaminated areas.
Should I take anthelmintic medications?
Anthelmintic medications are effective in treating and eradicating helminth infections. However, many of these commonly used drugs have significant side effects and should not be used routinely to prevent helminth infections.
These medications should only be used if you have been diagnosed with a roundworm or hookworm infection. In this case, your doctor will prescribe the medication right for you. Do not take an anthelmintic medication without discussing its use with your physician.
How do I protect myself and my family?
Getting your pets dewormed by a veterinarian is an essential first step. Young pets are at the highest risk of these infections and your veterinarian can help develop a schedule to test and treat your pets as needed.
Use preventative medications on your pets to prevent them from being infected and thus lowering the risk of transmission. Talk with your veterinarian to determine the best strategy and medication for your pet.
Clean up after your pet by disposing of feces in a bag. It is important to clean your yard at least once a week to reduce the risk of contamination.
Practice good personal hygiene and always wash your hands after playing outside or with your pet. This is especially important to do so before you eat.
Pay close attention to your children and pets when they are interacting with one another.
Although your pet can provide significant health benefits to you and your family. It is important to understand they also can pass along diseases, such as roundworms and hookworms. Therefore, practicing good hygiene, cleaning up after your pet, and following your veterinarian’s advice can help reduce the risk of these infections.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Roundworms & Hookworms.