Owners can catch pets’ worms
I will discuss some type of worms and parasites that, when our pets are exposed to them, can also infect us.
One of these infections is called a zoonotic disease. Veterinarians seem to discuss the zoonotic risk with pet owners more so than do physicians. It is important to understand the route of transmission and how to avoid contracting parasites from our pets.
I have discussed giardia in a previous article. The disease is everywhere in our environment and we should be aware of it. To briefly touch on giardia, it is found in stagnant streams and ponds, contaminated water with infected human or animal feces, and of course, in the feces of infected animals and humans.
In its cystic form, it can survive in water for months and is therefore impossible to banish from the environment. Diagnosis is sometimes missed when examining the feces of affected pets and humans, so repeated samples should be obtained.
Treatment should be initiated if the symptoms ” mostly diarrhea ” are present and giardia is highly suspected.
Next are tapeworms, which are common in the environment. The adult worm in feces looks like a flat grain of rice. This is actually a segment of the adult worm.
My clients mention tapeworms when they see squirrels in the yard. Cats and dogs, who prey on small rodents that are infected with tapeworm, or eat the rodents’ feces, may contract the disease.
Tapeworms are commonly found in areas where fleas are prevalent. Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs and inject them into animals on which they feed.
I had a professor in veterinary school who ate some tapeworms to experience the symptoms. She lost weight, had abdominal cramps, and segments of the adult tapeworm were eliminated in her feces.
The adult large tapeworm lives in the stomach of affected individuals and sheds eggs and parts of itself in the feces. It is easy to treat the disease with medication. The eggs are easy to see in a fecal sample, but many pets who prey on rodents and rabbits should routinely be de-wormed.
Again, because the feces of animals may carry the eggs, it is important to watch little children walking barefoot or picking up feces with their hands and then putting their hands in their mouths. Sanitation is the key to staying healthy.
Roundworms can occur in people ingesting infected eggs. The disease in humans is called visceral larva migrans, which means that following ingestion of the eggs, the hatched larvae can penetrate the intestinal wall and migrate through the tissues in the body.
This can eventually lead to reactions involving the skin, lungs, central nervous system and eyes. Adult roundworms are long, white creatures that can reach 10 centimeters to 12 centimeters in length.
Hookworms can cause this same reaction if ingested, but this condition is rare in this neck of the woods.
Roundworms are commonly found in puppies and kittens and, therefore, younger pets are routinely given de-wormers. Sometimes, in higher risk puppies and kittens, de-wormer medication is given every two weeks from 4 week to 10 weeks of age.
It is not harmful to give the medication if roundworms are suspect but not seen in the fecal microscopic exam. Again this problem is easily treated and sanitation is the key for humans in avoiding the disease.
Worms are easily treated, but sometimes harder to detect. It is sometimes safer treat when a worm is suspected than to until absolute proof of infestation is seen.