Owners can catch same worms as their pets | VailDaily.com

Owners can catch same worms as their pets

Nadine Lober

I will discuss in this column some type of worms that our pets can be infected with and whether we, their owners, are safe from these same parasites. One type of parasite we can contract from the animals is called a zoonotic disease. Veterinarians seem to discuss the zoonotic potentials with pet owners more so than their physicians do. It is important to understand the route of transmission and how to avoid contracting any parasites from our pets.I have discussed giardia in a previous article. It is everywhere in our environment and we should be aware of it. To briefly touch on giardia, it is found in streams and ponds, in water contaminated with infected human or animal feces, and in the feces of infected animals and humans. Giardia can survive in water for months and probably impossible to eradicate from the environment. Diagnosis, furthermore, 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 such as diarrhea are present and giardia is highly suspected.Upset stomachAnother parasite that can affect humans and their pets are tapeworms, which are commonly found in areas where fleas are present. Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs and inject it into animals.Pets can also catch the disease from the small rodents, such as squirrels, that cats and dogs like to chase and sometimes kill. I had a professor in veterinary school who ate some tapeworms to experience the symptoms – don’t ask me why. She lost weight and suffered had abdominal cramps. The large, adult tapeworm lives in the stomach of affected individuals and sheds eggs and parts of the worm in the feces. It is easy to treat the disease with medication and pets who prey on rodents and rabbits should routinely be de-wormed. Again, since 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.Easy preventionRoundworms can be contracted from 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 to 12 centimeters in length. Hookworms can cause this same reaction if ingested, but is rarely seen in this neck of the woods. Puppies and kittens, who commonly catch roundworms, are routinely given de-wormers. And higher risk puppies and kittens may be given medication every two weeks from 4 weeks to 10 weeks of age. It is not harmful to give the medication if roundworms are suspected but not seen in an exam. Again this problem is easily treated and sanitation is the key to humans avoiding the disease. This worm is not the parasite that affects pregnant women. That parasite is called toxoplasma gondii and I will discuss this in an upcoming column. Worms are easily treated, but harder to detect. It is sometimes safer to treat, therefore, than to wait until absolute proof of infestation.Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at Vail Valley Vet, 949-7972