Can Dog Worms Be Contagious to Humans?

Written by christine jonard
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Can Dog Worms Be Contagious to Humans?
Don't send your dog to the doghouse because of worms. (dog (boxer) image by inacio pires from Fotolia.com)

Many people believe that letting a dog lick you will cause you to get sick. Generally, this is not the case--most illnesses that dogs get are not contagious to humans or other animals. However, there are a few parasites, or worms, that are cause for extra precautions. These parasites are generally more common in puppies and young dogs.

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Ringworm

While ringworm sounds like it is caused from a worm, it is actually a fungus. The fungus causes a small, round lesion that might be irritated and red with scales in the centre. It can spread from a dog to a human, though, so if you suspect that your dog has ringworm, you should take him to the veterinarian immediately.

The veterinarian will look at the irritated skin under a special light to determine if it is, in fact, ringworm. If it is, he will recommend a course of treatment that will take care of the fungus--most likely a shampoo or topical ointment. You should wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when treating your dog to prevent the spread of ringworm to family members.

Hookworm

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that attach to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on the dog's blood. They cause blood loss, which can be particularly serious in small puppies. A dog can get hookworm from licking her paws after stepping on microscopic eggs, or the larvae can actually penetrate the skin and infect that dog that way.

Humans can get hookworm infections by walking barefoot in an area where an infected dog has defecated. The larvae burrow into the skin of the foot, and can cause itching at the entry site, as well as mild to severe pain.

Hookworm is easily treated in humans and dogs. If you think your dog might have an infection, you should take her to the veterinarian for medicine.

You can prevent spreading of the parasite by picking up faeces regularly.

Roundworm

Roundworms are a common infection in dogs--mostly puppies. They are parasites that live in the intestine, and the eggs are passed in the dog's faeces. Most of the time, you might not even know your pet has a roundworm infection, which is one reason a veterinarian checks your pet's stool every visit.

The parasites spread to people through the accidental ingestion of dirt or sand where eggs were shed. The eggs are resilient and can stay in the soil for years after the fecal matter is gone. Human roundworm infection generally does not cause any symptoms or apparent lasting effects. It can (very rarely) result in an illness called visceral larva migrans--where tissue or nerves are damaged by the worms.

Tapeworm

Tapeworms are also intestinal parasites. There are several different species of tapeworm that can infect dogs, but the most common in the United States is Dipylidium caninum. A dog is infected by tapeworm by swallowing a flea that is carrying D. caninum larvae.

Tapeworms rarely make a dog ill. If you dog has an infection, however, you might start finding little rice-like things around your dog's anus. These are worm segments that are carrying eggs. This is a sure sign that you need to get your dog into the vet for tapeworm--and flea--treatment.

Although there have been reports of D. caninum infections in humans, it is not common nor is it a significant disease. Infection occurs when a person accidentally ingests a flea, so keeping your pet flea-free is a great step in preventing this illness.

General Precautions

There are a few simple things that you can do to prevent you and your family (including your dog) from getting these intestinal parasites.

Because most of the worms are spread through contact with dog faeces, keeping your yard picked up will go a long way to prevent the spread of disease. By doing this you will be removing the parasite eggs before they can be spread to the environment.

Using good personal hygiene will also help prevent the spread. Get your pet checked regularly by a veterinarian to ensure he is healthy and parasite free.

Restrict access to high-traffic areas where other pet owners might have neglected to pick up after their pet.

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