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Pet Health: Roundworms and Hookworms in your pets – are they dangerous to humans too?


        People who are around pets need to know that humans can be affected with the canine or feline form of hookworm and roundworm disease.  These diseases are transmitted through the fecal matter of the animal.  This is why

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children tend to be particularly at risk because of the close proximity they often have with contaminated areas such as floors, playgrounds, and sandboxes.  The intestines can be affected, as well as other body areas.

            The common practice of walking around outside barefoot can cause someone to contract cutaneous larva migrans, or “creeping eruption.”  This is when a hookworm larva penetrates the skin and results in lesions of a linear nature erupting on the skin.  

            Infections caused by Roundworm often go unnoticed.  The worst case scenario, larvae can be transmitted to the eye, perhaps via the hand.  The larvae could then penetrate the eye, causing partial to complete blindness.  This condition is known as visceral larva migrans syndrome.

            It is quite common for Roundworm or Hookworm larvae to be transmitted to cat or dog fetus’ either in utero or through their mother’s milk.  This is why Hookworm and Roundworm infection is highly common in puppies and kittens.

            With half of all American households now owning pets, it’s no wonder we are experiencing widespread environmental contamination.  A national survey of animals in shelters recently found that 36% of the animals were infected with Roundworm, Hookworm or both.

            Prophylactic treatment of puppies and kittens with a regimen beginning shortly after birth is essential in keeping environmental contamination to a minimum.  It is a pet owner’s responsibility to follow their veterinarian’s recommendations to start their pets on a regular schedule of preventative treatment.

            Children who use play areas which are also used by animals should be taught good sanitary practices like washing with soap and water and using hand sanitizing solutions.  Cats, as well as some wild animals, like to use sandboxes as their own personal litter boxes.  Staying out of the box itself and using only hands would be a good habit to start.

            Yearly check-ups with the vet for your adult cat or dog should be performed to test fecal material for parasitic diseases.  Regular heartworm preventative health has also been found to inhibit infection with Roundworm and Hookworm.

            It is not known how many humans have been infected with Roundworm and Hookworm disease.  It is not found by most physicians, since they are not necessarily looking for this to happen.  It falls to veterinarians who are most aware of the situation to educate pet owners in the best possible way. Next time you visit your vet for any reason and he recommends that you have your pets feces checked, do give him the respect that he deserves, and have this simple and inexpensive test done.  Your health and the health of your pet companion is what veterinary medicine is there to protect.



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