Did you know that you can get parasites from your pet? It’s gross, but true. Parasites such as roundworms and hookworms are more common than you think, and can cause serious issues such as blindness, skin lesions, and gastrointestinal illness in the people they infect. Some parasites, like roundworms, transmit to people through the ingestion of the eggs from environmental contamination with feces. Others, like hookworms, can transmit through the skin. While children and the immunosuppressed are at the greatest risk of picking up these diseases, healthy adults can also be infected.
Parasites can also cause serious illness in the pets they infect, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and even death. However, many pets carrying parasites can look and act completely normal, all the while shedding parasite eggs into their environment. Unfortunately, just observing your pet’s stool for signs of infection isn’t enough — parasite eggs are too small to see with the naked eye. The best way to identify what parasites your pet may be carrying is through an intestinal parasite screening, which involves looking at a specially prepared stool sample under a microscope.
To protect your family and your pets from diseases caused by parasites, we recommend:
- Having intestinal parasites screens performed every 6-12 months on every pet. Even indoor cats can get parasites!
- Removing feces from the environment immediately and disposing of it appropriately. Once in the soil, parasite eggs can persist in the environment for years and serve as a source of infection for pets and people
- Encouraging frequent hand-washing, especially after gardening, playing in the yard, handling waste, and prior to eating/putting hands in the mouth. This is especially important for children
- Deworming your pets as recommended by your veterinarian. For dogs, heartworm preventatives, such as Sentinel also act as dewormers and can be excellent options for long-term control
- Avoiding sandboxes
- Contacting your physician if you are concerned about possible human infection with parasites