Many dog lovers wonder if their four-legged friends can give them worms. It is a valid question, seeing as we treat our pet with varying pills and potions to ward off parasites, yet we do not take the same actions for ourselves. Are they not a problem for humans, or should we be concerned?
Canine parasites and diseases can make humans become infected
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. For instance, some of the worst diseases humanity has faced originated in animals, like AIDS, rabies, and even the plague. They are all virulent, deadly afflictions that jumped species.
But what about worms in dogs? Can these cause disease in humans as well? The uncomfortable answer is that yes, certain types of worms that infect dogs can transfer to us.
While being infected with worms is not as serious as contracting AIDS or dying from the plague, it is still a cause for concern. One major problem is that when the worms transfer from a canine host to a human one, they have nowhere to go. While this may seem like a good thing for us, the opposite is true. Since they are not accustomed to the human body, they will often head to places like the brain, eyes, liver, and lungs.
What types of worms can jump from dog to human?
Hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms are the three types of canine worms that can transfer to human hosts (1), with the latter being the rarest. Most people have heard that ringworm can move from canine to human, but it is important to note that this is not actually a worm; it is a fungal infection.
Hookworm eggs are excreted in a dog’s feces. The larvae hatch after about a week, and if they are able to come into contact with skin, usually acquired when walking barefoot on contaminated soil, they will latch onto it and use the unfortunate victim as their host. The most obvious sign of this occurring is an itchy rash at the site of penetration.
As uncomfortable as it sounds, the worm will eat a path through the skin, leaving winding red trails on the skin. Severe hookworm infection can cause anemia, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Roundworms often live in a dog’s intestines, and sometimes there are no outward signs of infection. However, like hookworms, their eggs will come out in the dog’s feces. From the feces, they may stick to a human’s feet or hands and will become infectious after two weeks. At this point, they can be problematic for humans.
Dogs and cats clean themselves, and the eggs of a roundworm can transfer to their mouths after they lick around their anus and genitals. While cats don’t often ‘kiss’ us, what dog lover hasn’t been privy to a few sloppy wet ones? Well, your cute pooch can transfer those eggs in his saliva.
Roundworm infection in a person’s eyes can cause blindness, while an infection in the lungs can result in a nasty cough. If enough intestinal worms take up residence, they can cause blockages. A severe roundworm infestation may be evident by seeing long, string-like worms in the dog poop, but often, there are no outward signs for minor ones.
The flea tapeworm is the type most commonly found in dogs. These parasites are made of segments that look like grains of rice. When the pet ingests an infected flea, they make their home. It is rare, but the infestation can occur if a human ingests one as well. There are usually no outward symptoms, but segments of the worm can sometimes show up in the stool.
This is another instance where if the infestation of intestinal worms is bad enough to cause symptoms, you will likely notice your pet is experiencing digestive issues. The pet may show signs of abdominal discomfort, have diarrhea or nausea, or lose weight.
Taenia and Echinococcus are two other tapeworms that are not as common but can cause issues. Usually contracted from eggs in the animal’s feces, these worms cause cysts to form in the liver or lungs.
If worms in dogs caused parasitic disease in humans, how is it treated?
When humans become infected with worms, the treatment is usually an oral medication. The anti-parasitic medication kills the worms, which then disintegrate or are expelled from the body through defecation. Patients can offset any nutritional deficiencies with supplements and diet changes.
However, in cases of significant infestation where a blockage is present, surgery may be necessary to remove them. Likewise, if there are hydatid cysts on the liver or lungs from the rarer worm species, they may need to be surgically removed.
Is there a way to prevent dog-to-human contamination?
The most straightforward way to ensure you do not contract worms from your pets is to make sure they don’t have them in the first place. Dog dewormer medications are available, and dog flea treatments further reduce the risk.
Having a clean yard helps, too. Keeping your grass reasonably short helps keep it from staying damp and deters mice and other parasite-carrying rodents. Mosquitos are known worm vectors, so taking care not to have standing water in the yard can help keep them at bay.
As good as it may feel, it is not wise to walk around your yard barefoot – particularly within the boundaries of your pet’s wireless dog fence. Children shouldn’t roll around in the grass, either. When cleaning up excrement, always wear gloves and try to use some sort of dog pooper scoop.
Dogs should not be allowed to kill and eat any other animals and should be kept away from carrion, as raw meat is another worm source. Any meat fed to your pet should be cooked.
Try to remember to wash your hands after dog playtime, and remind your children to do the same. Kids are at greater risk of dog-to-human worm transfer because they always put their hands near their faces and mouths. All these will help avoid any parasitic disease.
Can Humans Get Worms From Dogs FAQ
Can you get worms from your dog if they lick you?
Worms can transfer from pets to humans, and your dog licking you is one way for you to get infected.
How common is it for humans to get worms from dogs?
It is not extremely common for worms to transfer from pets to humans, but it does happen. The easiest way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to make sure your pet does not have them in the first place!
How do I know if I got worms from my dog?
If you become infected with worms from your dog, you may experience digestive discomfort like gas, bloating, nausea, or diarrhea. There is a chance you might see whole worms or pieces of them in your stool as well. If you suspect you have contracted a parasite from your animal, see your doctor.
What happens if a human gets worms from a dog?
Animals do not cause the types of disease in humans they once did, thanks to modern medicine. However, issues can arise if infections go unchecked. For instance, intestinal worms like roundworms can cause blockages. If they infect the eyes, blindness can occur. Tapeworms like Taenia and Echinococcus can cause cysts in the lungs and liver, which may require surgery.
In short, using preventative medicine on your dog and keeping them healthy, along with common sense and good personal hygiene, should do the trick when trying to avoid a worm infection. If you believe you or a loved one is unlucky enough to be infected with the parasites, see a doctor so they can prescribe an anti-parasitic medication before it becomes a serious condition.