Pet Worms in Humans

Pet worms can cause problems for more than just dogs and cats. Some of them can be transmitted to humans, too, which can result in some serious consequences. Let's look at some common dog and cat worms that can affect people, and what steps can be taken to prevent problems from occurring.

Roundworms and Hookworms

Two common intestinal parasites that affect dogs and cats, roundworms and hookworms, can also affect people. Since children are most likely to come in contact with soil that has been contaminated with the worms, they are especially at risk.

Roundworms can cause two potentially serious conditions: ocular larval migrans or visceral larval migrans. The first condition results if roundworms get into a person's body and affect his or her eyes, while the second affects other internal organs. About 700 people suffer vision loss each year as a result of being affected by ocular larval migrans.

Hookworms cause their own sets of problems for people, including intestinal infestations or another condition with a name similar to those caused by roundworms. The hookworm-caused condition is called cutaneous larval migrans, and it results from the worms taking up residence under an infected person's skin and leaving red, itchy trails beneath it.

Ringworm Isn't Really a Worm

Although it has "worm" in its name, ringworm is actually a fungus that people can catch from their pets. Ringworm shows itself as a dry, scaly patch on an infected pet's skin, while infected people often have a raised red ring on their skin. Antifungal medication will help clear up the infection in both pets and people.

To help prevent ringworm from spreading, isolate infected animals from other pets in the home until the infection clears. Ringworm spores remain active even after they fall off an infected animal or person, so your house must then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected per your veterinarian's instructions to prevent ringworm recurrence.

Fleas Can Sometimes Lead to Worms

Fleas are a very common parasite for both cats and dogs, and fleas also contribute to the life cycle of the tapeworm, which is another worm that can affect people. Fleas eat tapeworm eggs, and the tapeworm begins its life inside the flea. Its life continues inside an animal or person when the flea is consumed. The tapeworm then migrates to the intestines.

How to Prevent Worm Infestations

A good hygiene program, including regular scrupulous hand-washing, thorough cleaning of raw vegetables and eliminating exposure to cat waste can all help prevent worm infection.

Discourage your children from eating dirt or from playing with dog and cat droppings. Screen their sandboxes to remove any pet wastes, and cover the boxes when they're not in use to prevent neighborhood cats from using the boxes as a litter box.

Having your pets routinely screened for internal parasites and promptly treating any worm outbreaks, along with maintaining a good flea control program, will also help reduce your chances of contracting these parasites from your pets.