IMPORTANCE OF DEWORMING
Deworming your pets is important not only for their health but for the health of you and your family. Some of the worms that infect dogs, cats, and other pets can also infect humans, especially children, the elderly, the pregnant, and the immune-compromised (eg people living with HIV, chemotherapy, etc).
Roundworms (Toxocara canis, Toxocara cati, Toxascaris leonina)
Roundworms can infect puppies, kittens, dogs, cats, and rodents (puppies and kittens are more commonly infected) before birth, while suckling from their mother, from contaminated soil or other environmental sources (eg bedding), or other infected species (eg eating rodents). Sometimes infected puppies and kittens can have diarrhoea or vomiting or discomfort but roundworm infections often cause no signs so can go unnoticed. Animals pass the roundworm eggs in their faeces.
Humans (as well as our pets) can become infected with roundworm after swallowing the infective eggs (usually from contaminated soil in backyards, public parks, sandboxes, etc, anywhere animals may have defaecated), and not from directly handling pets. Often human infections are not severe, though two syndromes can occur:
Visceral larva migrans: a response to worm larvae migrating through the internal organs, this usually occurs in children and can result in fever, abdominal pain, coughing, and/or wheezing.
Occular larva migrans: a response to worm larvae entering the eye, this can occur at any age (usually 8 years+) and can cause blindness, decreased vision, and/or eye pain.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma tubaeforme, and other species)
Hookworms can infect puppies, kittens, dogs, cats, and rodents (puppies and kittens more commonly) while suckling from their mother, from contaminated soil or other environmental sources (either by swallowing the eggs or larvae or larvae penetrating the skin), or by eating other infected species (eg rodents). Infected puppies and kittens (and dogs and cats) can have diarrhoea and blood loss as hookworms feed on blood in the intestines, this blood loss can cause anaemia or even death in severe infections. Animals pass the hookworm eggs in their faeces.
Humans can be affected by hookworm when the larvae in soil or water (eg creeks) penetrate the skin (usually feet or lower legs) and cause cutaneous larva migrans, a response to worms migrating through the skin causing itchiness, redness, and blisters. Hookworms can also cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, and rectal bleeding in humans if infective eggs or larvae from the environment are swallowed.
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis)
Whipworms can infect puppies and dogs when they ingest infective eggs from the soil and other environmental sources. If the infection is severe, puppies and dogs get diarrhoea, lose their appetite, lose weight, have abdominal pain, and blood loss.
Tapeworms (many species, including Echinococcus granulosus and Dipylidium caninum)
Puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats (and other meat-eating animals, including humans) become infected with tapeworms when they eat contaminated meat, especially raw offal; humans can also be affected by tapeworms if they swallow the eggs that are passed in the faeces of puppies, kittens, dogs, cats, and other meat-eating animals. Immature hydatid (Echinococcus granulosus) worms can then form cysts (hydatid cysts) in human organs including the muscles, brain, liver, and lungs, this can result in a variety of symptoms and can be life-threatening.
Protecting your family from infection
Worm your pets regularly, vets can give specific advice on which worming products you can use and when to use them
Remove faeces regularly (every few days)
Practice good hygiene (wash hands after handling animals and removing faeces, especially before eating)
Restrict children’s access to potentially contaminated environments
Prevent your pets from hunting (especially cats)