Everybody’s pet has left a “pile” on public property at some time or another, but have you ever just walked away and left it? How many times have you not cleaned up after your pet in your own back yard? Did you know that cat and dog feces can carry parasitic worms that can infect humans?
You should always pick up after your pet, no matter where you are. Besides being courteous and hygienic, it will also help prevent parasites like roundworms and hookworms from entering the soil and, therefore, help keep humans safe from infections that these parasites can cause, too.
You should also have your pet on a regular worm preventive. These parasites, which can infect humans either by ingestion or skin contact, are very common in puppies and kittens.
Roundworms are able to spread to the puppy from their mother long before the puppy is born. The roundworm larvae can be dormant in the dogs bloodstream and then during pregnancy become activated and cross through the placenta to infect the unborn puppy.
Cats do not pass roundworms on to their kittens during pregnancy, but rather through their nursing milk, should it contain the larvae. If left untreated, the roundworm can migrate further into the body of your cat or dog and infect vital organs, which in turn can cause permanent damage or even be fatal.
Your adult dog or cat can ingest the roundworm eggs or larvae from within the environment. They may not show any signs of sickness, but the larvae will remain in the dormant form within their bodies.
The hookworm is another parasite that can be acquired through the cats milk or through direct ingestion. The hookworm larvae can also be absorbed through the skin, which can then cause skin lesions and go on to travel through the body to infect the intestines. If they are allowed to infect the intestinal tract, they will suck large amounts of blood, which can cause anemia in your pet.
If either the roundworm or hookworm infection is allowed to go untreated, not only will your puppy or kitten develop serious disease, but the environment will become contaminated with eggs that have been excreted with your dog or cat feces. Roundworm and hookworm can cause infections which are as serious in humans as they are for our pets.
A female roundworm can lay up to around 200,000 eggs per day. These eggs are very resilient and the only way to effectively destroy them is by flame or steam, since chemicals cannot destroy the eggs. Indoor kennels can be steam cleaned, but things like contaminated lawns can be a bit of a challenge, this is because the eggs can survive in the soil for many years. Roundworm eggs do not become infective until after 2 to 3 weeks from leaving the body through feces and only mature to this infective state if the environmental conditions are right.
The hookworm however, will become infective after only 2 days from leaving the body and thereby also cause contamination problems. Dogs, cats and humans can acquire roundworms via ingestion and can contract hookworm infection through ingestion or skin contact. Humans at higher risk of infection by these parasites are children, especially if they put sand or dirt into their mouths, humans who also come into contact and work with sand or soil maybe at risk of contamination.
An Ounce of Prevention
An effective way to prevent the roundworm or hookworm from reaching their infective stage and therefore prevent infection, is by keeping our environment clean. We must pick up after our dogs, whether it be your own back yard or in public places like the park, emptying your cats litter tray at least every other day.
In areas where hookworms may be a problem, minimize contact with contaminated sand and soil by wearing shoes, and sit on blankets when enjoying the outdoors. Always wash you hands after working or playing outside, especially before eating!
Deworming drugs are available for use on your puppy or kitten, and they should also be checked out by your veterinarian at their routine check up. The monthly drugs should be given orally or topically and will prevent roundworm and hookworm infections. By keeping your cat indoors or your dogs inside and in fenced yards will have also health benefits all round.